Friday, June 24, 2011

The Freedom Trap

If God is all-good and all-powerful then why do bad things happen? The answer is human freedom. God proposes His goodness to man. He does not impose it. So he allows a great deal of evil to happen. Then He also allows the suffering that flows from that evil. Then He allows more suffering to make restitution for evil. It pains Him greatly but He lets it happen because He respects the dignity of man.

But God is not the only one caught in this freedom trap. Everyone who is trying to transform humanity and make the world a better place has to deal with it. What if people just don't agree with your plan? Even if you can win the support of the majority and get a hold of the levers of power. Should you force that unconvinced minority to do what you are sure is best for everyone? Do you respect a person's right to be wrong? Even if it causes much suffering not only for that group but for many others as well?

This is the test that Robert George sees many liberals facing. They own the government. They own the media. They own the courts. They own the schools. But how much freedom should those pesky social conservatives be allowed to have? Will liberals drift into what he calls authoritarianism?

This is the trap that killed Marxism. In order for their system to work they needed everyone to support it. They could not find space for human freedom. They tried indoctrination but no matter how intensely they argued for the virtues of their system there were still some remaining unconvinced. They were sent to prisons or labor camps. The way those people were treated became the thing that defined Marxism.

Pope Benedict speaks about this in Spe Salvi, his encyclical on hope.Section 21:
Together with the victory of the revolution, though, Marx's fundamental error also became evident. He showed precisely how to overthrow the existing order, but he did not say how matters should proceed thereafter. He simply presumed that with the expropriation of the ruling class, with the fall of political power and the socialization of means of production, the new Jerusalem would be realized. Then, indeed, all contradictions would be resolved, man and the world would finally sort themselves out. Then everything would be able to proceed by itself along the right path, because everything would belong to everyone and all would desire the best for one another. Thus, having accomplished the revolution, Lenin must have realized that the writings of the master gave no indication as to how to proceed. True, Marx had spoken of the interim phase of the dictatorship of the proletariat as a necessity which in time would automatically become redundant. This “intermediate phase” we know all too well, and we also know how it then developed, not ushering in a perfect world, but leaving behind a trail of appalling destruction. Marx not only omitted to work out how this new world would be organized—which should, of course, have been unnecessary. His silence on this matter follows logically from his chosen approach. His error lay deeper. He forgot that man always remains man. He forgot man and he forgot man's freedom. He forgot that freedom always remains also freedom for evil. He thought that once the economy had been put right, everything would automatically be put right. His real error is materialism: man, in fact, is not merely the product of economic conditions, and it is not possible to redeem him purely from the outside by creating a favourable economic environment.
Now we have modern liberalism. It has taken Marx and refined him. Trying to get rid of economic injustice. A good goal to be sure. Then it has added Freud to that. Embracing his idea that sexual repression disguised as morality is at the root of many human problems. Added to that is Darwin. The notion that progress is constant. That what is old must die and be replaced by new and better orders. So we roll that up into one thing and we have a significant attempt to bring about utopia through human effort.

But what about freedom? Are they going to get caught in the same trap Marxism got caught in? Crushing the few for the good of the many. But as time goes on the few becomes quite a few getting crushed. The good of the many fails to materialize as governments become more focused on crushing dissent.

As Christians we will always know that any attempt to bring about salvation by human effort is going to have limited success. Sin is the root problem. No amount of political, psychological, and scientific knowledge is going to free us from sin. Only the cross of Christ will do that. But that is the one thing this new order does not want to discuss.

Secular government's willingness to crush dissent makes me marvel at God's patience with sinners. He puts up with so much. He does not even mandate that education be done His way. He commands but rarely enforces. So much so that people wonder if He even exists. That kind of respect for human freedom is amazing.

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