November 14, 2010

Freedom and Responsibility

Giles Fraser has penned an as usual thoughtful essay concerning the dynamic tension between freedom and the restraint to freedom brought about by being in relationship with others.This tension is well characterized in that evocative phrase, bonds of affection. Giles wisely observes the distinctions needed:

Freedom is not about having no restrictions — that is something empty and weightless — freedom is about having some sort of say in the restrictions that apply to you.
It is that "having some sort of say" that is crucial. A forced marriage is no marriage — indeed, consent is the crucial element in marriage. It also strikes me that this "having some sort of say" is what distinguishes the paschal mystery from the Girardian scape-goating conceived by Caiaphas: Christ was not simply the passive victim trapped in circumstances beyond his control, but one who offered himself to save others in the way a hero throws himself on a grenade. This free act of giving up all control was and is a cosmic undermining of the urge to self-sufficiency and ego-satisfaction that lies at the root of human sinfulness — the hunger for self-determination at whatever cost to others, even, ironically and in the end to oneself.

It is well to remember, as I have reminded us all before, that the motto of the Anglican Communion is "The Truth Shall Free You." This is, as Canon Fraser suggests, not an untethered freedom to do anything at all, a freedom so free that, as Witkacy observed in The Shoemakers, "it comes loose." The freedom to which Jesus (in John) refers is freedom in the old sense the ancients would have understood completely: freedom from slavery. Perhaps we would best translate ἐλευθερώσει as "emancipate" to remind ourselves what this freedom is freedom from, and what it is freedom for. Those to whom Jesus spoke understood, for they protested they were never slaves to anyone, little knowing what bonds of slavery they had long since submitted to.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

1 comment:

Fred Schwartz said...

See Real Anglicans as a contrapoint to this.