As nations of the world attempt to deal with our current pandemic, and its accompanying quarantine, there has developed a renewed battle over the question of freedom. In listening to the civil discourse (and civil is used here with reservation), it appears there are many questions surrounding the nature of freedom, its spiritual dynamism, and the conditions under which it can (or should) be restricted.
Freedom asserts the dangerous belief that people know how to govern themselves and how to live in a way that enriches their lives and that of the common good. As such, there is a danger to freedom, since people are fallen. Freedom can be exaggerated or abused. It can be used to cause hurt, harm, or negligence.
People can cite freedom to injure their own bodies, dismiss civic laws and policies, and cause threats to public health. Such possible abuses of freedom are popularly cited, as if they are contemporary deviations peculiar to our present circumstances. But such abuses have always occurred whenever freedom has been attempted.
Such licentiousness and exaggerations of freedom have consistently been found within the interior logic of freedom itself. Freedom, as freedom, has always been uncontrollable and possibly dangerous.
Such possible danger is denounced by the fictional character of the Grand Inquisitor in the Russian novel, The Brothers Karamazov. In the disturbing account of the inquisitor, Jesus Christ returns to the earth, works miracles, and gives hope to people. But he is quickly arrested and scrutinized by the inquisitor. The examiner tells Christ that he is no longer needed. He mocks the freedom that Christ has given to humanity, and tells the Savior that he misjudged human nature.
The inquisitor argues that people dont want to be free and cannot be trusted with freedom. He declares that people simply want (and need) benign rulers. He argues that humanity should not be given freedom. Its too dangerous, too unreliable, and too uncertain. The inquisitor believes that freedom must be restricted. People should be controlled by fear and led by harsh rulers.
The creed of the Grand Inquisitor is unsettling. Its the end of freedom. And yet, his voice whispers into the ears of leaders and societies, sometimes in veiled and nuanced ways and at other times with boldness and without apology. Freedom cannot be trusted, we are told. People must be controlled.
The fluidity of freedom, and its possible dangers, do not always justify its restriction. Human persons were created to be free. We are at our best when we are free. And as good spiritual wisdom teaches us, an abuse of a good does not negate its use. Simply because freedom could be dangerous does not, by itself, justify muzzling it by authority.
In fact, it is precisely the dangerous nature of freedom that makes it such a dynamic source of creativity, ingenuity, and renewal. It is bold, risky, and unpredictable. And that is why freedom has always been feared by raw power in whatever form its exercised. Its also why freedom has always been the impetus for civil disobedience, the birth of new ideas, and the flourishing of culture.
A sober observation of human history reveals that freedom gives a person the power to do what is right and good. This is why in order for freedom to grow, it needs education, lived experience, virtue, and seasoned guidance. This is the where the real work of authority should be found. The task of leadership is to be a teacher, not an inquisitor.
This is why freedom loses its bearings, implodes, and becomes codependent on civic authority when it is repressed, overly regulated, and sequestered in its ingenuity. Freedom is crippled by Grand Inquisitors, just as it flourishes under Good Shepherds and Good Teachers.
With the turbulent nature of freedom in mind, however, there are times when the teaching by civic authority must exercise discipline and establish perimeters to freedom. At times, there are justifiable reasons to give prudential boundaries to the exercise of freedom, especially when it involves the common good. Such measures, however, should always be approached with keen discernment, caution, and serious oversight. They should always be given with the intention of nourishing freedom itself and eventually outrunning their course.
Freedom is an exercise of the our souls and, as such, it needs itself without needless chains to develop, auto-correct, and aspire to greater goods.
For those in the civil discourse, therefore, and those who hold authority over the common good, freedom is to be seen as a sacred trust. It is not the province of government. Freedom belongs to the people. Its protection is entrusted to civic authority by the people.
As such, public servants should avoid the alluring whispers of the Grand Inquisitor. In all its decisions, civic leadership is called to believe in freedom, and to use its authority hesitantly in the delicate balance of protecting both the common good and individual freedom itself.
Follow Father Jeffrey Kirby on Twitter: @fatherkirby
See more here:
- For 1st time, Freedom Conference to be held outside Steamboat; organizer blames local COVID-19 restrictions - Steamboat Pilot and Today - July 13th, 2020
- Current crises give cause to consider the meaning of 'freedom' in 2020 - Iowa City Press-Citizen - July 13th, 2020
- Freedom is the cure? - Post Register - July 13th, 2020
- Kahle: Freedom is our brand - Opinion - The Register-Guard - July 13th, 2020
- Kristiine Silinja: "I love exploration, adventures, and freedom. All that comes with a six-string bass" - Guitar World - July 13th, 2020
- Don't let them take our freedom | Letters To The Editor - Uniontown Herald Standard - July 13th, 2020
- The Novels of Tension Between Freedom and Disaster - The New York Review of Books - July 13th, 2020
- 'Optimism of the Will': Palestinian Freedom is Possible Now - Middle East Monitor - July 13th, 2020
- What American freedom means to a refugee from Iraq at a time of protests and pandemic - Chicago Sun-Times - July 13th, 2020
- Suicide of Egyptian activist Sarah Hegazi exposes the 'freedom and violence' of LGBTQ Muslims in exile - The Conversation US - July 13th, 2020
- A Black Alabama hero fights for America and freedom in new novel - AL.com - July 13th, 2020
- The joys of Czech tramping: Hiking with friendship, freedom and fun - The Guardian - July 13th, 2020
- With app bans, is Internet freedom being sacrificed for national security? | The Hindu Parley podcast - The Hindu - July 13th, 2020
- Citizens hold 'freedom drive' in place of parade - Silver City Daily Press and Independent - July 13th, 2020
- Rangila, the ''dancing bear'' rescued from Nepal, celebrates two years of freedom - Outlook India - July 13th, 2020
- Letter to the editor: Freedom comes with responsibilities, so wear a mask - TribLIVE - July 13th, 2020
- Statement in support of OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media - PEN America - July 12th, 2020
- Celebrate the sounds of freedom | News, Sports, Jobs - Alpena News - July 12th, 2020
- Azerbaijan and Tajikistan block renewal of OSCE media freedom representative - The Shift News - July 12th, 2020
- Opinion: Freedom comes with the burden of responsibility - easternnewmexiconews.com - July 12th, 2020
- Oprah Winfrey and BFF Gayle King Reunite for "Freedom Dinner" After Negative Coronavirus Tests - E! NEWS - July 12th, 2020
- 'Give Me Freedom or Give Me Death': 13 Years Without Trial at Guantanamo, My Hunger Strike Is All I Have Left - Common Dreams - July 12th, 2020
- Congress' decision seen as a slap to freedom of press - The Star Online - July 12th, 2020
- Post-lockdown camping: 'It's a taste of freedom' - The Guardian - July 12th, 2020
- Freedom in Ukraine: Moving in the right direction? - The Ukrainian Weekly - July 12th, 2020
- Healing, Justice, and Freedom, as Defined by #BlackLivesMatter - Greatist - July 12th, 2020
- Survival of Americas experiment depends on how we use freedom - Crux: Covering all things Catholic - July 12th, 2020
- Massive protests in Argentina demand justice and freedom; president Fernandez pledges to end the serial haters - MercoPress - July 12th, 2020
- MLS is officially back and more: Freedom Kicks for 9 July 2020 - Black And Red United - July 12th, 2020
- And When He Came to Himself (Luke 15:17) - July 11th, 2020
- MINISTER'S MOMENT / By REV. WILL WILSON | A Christian perspective on freedom - Kilgore News Herald - July 11th, 2020
- The impact of the health crisis on freedom of expression and media freedom - Report by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Marija Pejinovi... - July 11th, 2020
- Suicide of Egyptian activist Sarah Hegazi exposes the 'freedom and violence' of LGBTQ Muslims in exile - The Ridgefield Press - July 11th, 2020
- Freedom Day Bailouts Get Several Men Behind Bars Out Before Father's Day | 90.1 FM WABE - WABE 90.1 FM - June 22nd, 2020
- This Week in Technology + Press Freedom: June 21, 2020 - Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press - June 22nd, 2020
- The Juneteenth flag is full of symbols. Here's what they mean - CNN - June 22nd, 2020
- We Have to Talk About Liberating Minds: Angela Davis' Quotes on Freedom - AnOther Magazine - June 22nd, 2020
- Journalism Instructor Leading Online Freedom of Information Event - Ole Miss News - June 22nd, 2020
- Dozens gather for freedom march and rally in downtown Columbus - 10TV - June 22nd, 2020
- Justice Thomas concludes that the "freedom of speech" is a Privilege or Immunity under the 14th Amendment - Reason - June 22nd, 2020
- Freedom launches Pilot to simplify teleoperation on third-party robots - TechCrunch - June 22nd, 2020
- Gov. Stitt says Trump rally attendees 'have freedom to stay home' if concerned about contracting COVID-19 - Tulsa World - June 22nd, 2020
- Opinion: The freedom to take a knee - Houston Chronicle - June 22nd, 2020
- Politicized COVID-19 Response Imperils Both Freedom and Safety, States Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons - GlobeNewswire - June 22nd, 2020
- Julian Assange's fianc calls on the Australian government to secure his freedom - World Socialist Web Site - June 22nd, 2020
- 5th Annual Tybee Island Wade-In commemorates fight for freedom - WSAV-TV - June 22nd, 2020
- Pence to visit Texas for 'Freedom' event at megachurch - Monitor - June 22nd, 2020
- COVID-19: Freedom Means That We Can Do Stupid Things, Not That We Have To - Anchorage Press - June 22nd, 2020
- No restrictions on using firearms: India gives soldiers freedom along LAC in extraordinary times - Hindustan Times - June 22nd, 2020
- Aim to Achieve Financial Freedom in the Stock Market With This $30 Bundle - CT Post - June 22nd, 2020
- Freedom is never defined as mob rule | Opinion - nj.com - May 19th, 2020
- American freedom was tug-of-war from the start - York Dispatch - May 19th, 2020
- Finding the balance between safety and freedom in the shadow of COVID-19 - VentureBeat - May 19th, 2020
- Freedom Does Not Mean Being on the Loose - Psychiatric Times - May 19th, 2020
- The van gives me such freedom: Custom conversion gives Eugene woman wheels on which to roam - The Register-Guard - May 19th, 2020
- Freedom is Never Free - The Hudson Reporter - May 19th, 2020
- Germany's flag burning ban is a threat to freedom of expression - Spectator.co.uk - May 19th, 2020
- What will we do with the new freedom to shop and dine? - cleveland.com - May 19th, 2020
- What does freedom mean in this moment? - The Irish Times - May 19th, 2020
- Event captures memories of Freedom Riders' heroic journey between Anniston and Birmingham - Bham Now - May 19th, 2020
- Are Contact Tracing Apps the Key to Lockdown Freedom? - Redbrick - May 19th, 2020
- Hundreds expected to gather for local Faith & Freedom Rally - KDRV - May 19th, 2020
- Freedom of information laws 'have failed to keep pace with public services' - Aberdeen Evening Express - May 19th, 2020
- Captain Tom Moore receives Freedom award during City of London's first 'virtual' ceremony - FE News - May 11th, 2020
- Boris Johnson's roadmap to ease lockdown will start with more freedom to exercise and back-to-work moves from Wednesday - Telegraph.co.uk - May 11th, 2020
- God alone is the source of liberty and freedom - Akron Beacon Journal - May 11th, 2020
- 'Deadly Dictatorship': How Rodrigo Duterte Has Attacked Freedom of the Media in Latest Closure of Main Broadcaster - The National Interest - May 11th, 2020
- Conjure Women is a tale of slavery and its aftermath - The Economist - May 11th, 2020
- Freedom Haven Emergency Shelter and Transitional Living Home - - KUSI - May 11th, 2020
- Freedom Festival events postponed to 2021, firework show will be held - Deseret News - May 11th, 2020
- Granite State confined at home find freedom and calm in the garden - The Union Leader - May 11th, 2020
- MSNBC contributor: Americans 'freedom-obsessed' to point 'we're blind to other types of threats' | TheHill - The Hill - May 11th, 2020
- Faith and freedom of choice are key ingredients for parenting - The New Indian Express - May 11th, 2020
- Just after Elon Musk denounced coronavirus lockdowns as infringements of freedom, research shows Britons are too scared to leave their homes anyway -... - May 11th, 2020
- Another Freedom Square resident has died of COVID-19 in Pinellas - Tampa Bay Times - May 11th, 2020
- Celebrating freedom in the same garden 75 years on - Jersey Evening Post - May 11th, 2020
- Freedom Is An Issue That Stirs Voters - America's 1st Freedom - May 11th, 2020
- How You Can Advance the Cause of Reason and Freedom - New Ideal - May 11th, 2020
- As Spaniards got their first real taste of freedom this weekend, hundreds of them got arrested and thousands were fined - MarketWatch - May 11th, 2020
- Lockdown phase one freedoms in Spains holiday island Mallorca - Euro Weekly News - May 11th, 2020