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Commentary

Published on February 28th, 2012 | by Adam Bennett

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Freedom is ever deceiving, never turning out to be what it seems


Having enjoyed the Pax Americana, we have come to associate our right of belief with the right to demand that others bend their wills to ours; that freedom only exists within our own particular ideological and cultural hegemonies. Our insistence on the primacy of the grasping self, dismissing the inherent rights and dignity of others; the declaration of the rights of the self without regard for the rights of the other by which the rights of the self are defined make it readily apparent that we have a fundamental problem as a people when it comes to seeing beyond our own navel. And this is true of many groups, certainty becomes a blindfold that prevents any sort of dialogic appropriation, causing us to forget that our freedom is inextricably bound up with the freedom of others.

In particular for the purpose of this discussion, segments of Christian America have become enamored with this misguided notion that we live in a legislative theocracy. That with a vision and a whim Constantine can declare the faith of a nation, exchanging the Stars and Stripes for the Hammer and Sickle. That regardless of history showing us that Christendom is a failed project, that somehow this time it will be different, that we are invested with the divine right and authority to subjugate others to our way of thinking. But belief is not license to engage in despotism, nor the justification of the enfilade of dissenting voices.

And we need to get this right, that we, as Christians, are not authorized not compelled to legislate the convictions and basic beliefs of individuals, let alone that of a compound, integrated, diverse cultural mechanism. We cannot afford to bypass the forum of ideals, the village green where our wares may be displayed and our voices heard in peaceable assembly. And we mustn’t fear the dialectic of discourse, but embrace it. Because Christianity is not validated nor obviated by the tally of a ballot box; truth does require belief in order to maintain fundamental, normative nature.

Consequently, the freedoms that the Church wants from the State are not those which allow for the inquisition and criminalization of free thought, but rather, those which protect them so that they themselves may be free of oppression and the deprivation of the fundamental rights of humanity. In other words, the State has no more right to dictate theological interpretation and to cause the violation of its people’s conscience than they have the right to define deviancy and intrude into the homes of its citizens in order to observe and regulate the sexual practice of two people, regardless of gender.¬†Because we are not afforded the luxury of turning a blind eye to the raping and pillaging of human rights because ours are presently secure. If we want to declare our love and devotion to the constitution we must defend the rights of everyone lest our words ring hollow, because if we don’t, there will be no one left to shield us from our own tyranny.

Next time I’ll discuss why I think that Proposition 8 and the defense of marriage act really aren’t about marriage at all.

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