Saturday, August 7, 2010

Christian "Freedom" is really just Democratic Slavery

Wow, it has been way to long since I have posted – aka two days, but for all my readers who diligently come back every day, I truly am sorry. Especially since I stated on Tuesday that I would be discussing this posts topic on either Wednesday or Thursday.

Today, I would like to address the concept of freedom. Many times we in our democratic society throw around this word, yet we don’t truly know what it means. Yes, I could get into the concept of positive freedom and liberties vs. negative freedom and liberty, but this post will not be about those differences. Instead, I will be discussing the difference between a Christian Fundamentalist concept of freedom and a democratic pluralistic concept of freedom. Please as always, do not think that I am disparaging Christianity as a whole, but instead rest assured that I am only critiquing an extremist interpretation of Christian Dogma – I would do the same with Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, or any other religion in the world.

When the Christian fundamentalist – hereby only referred to as the fundamentalist – refers to the concept of freedom I don’t believe that they refer to “freedom” as it is commonly understood; to do what you want, as long does not hurt others. That freedom, mostly found in democratic societies, is a concept developed extensively by the Utilitarian political philosopher John Stuart Mill. In what is known as the “Harm Principle”, Mill asserts that man should be able to do what he wants, as long as it does not harm others. Though this principle has been debated extensively, for what might we mean by “harm”, the general principle can and does apply in governmental policy making. For example, murder – since you are harming another person – is punishable by the government; yet smoking – since you are only harming yourself – is legal. A good political party that ascribes to Mill’s Harm Principle would actually be the libertarian party; government should not get involved in regulating something that does not affect others. If they do, they violate your personal freedom. As stated above, though this principle does not “always” hold true, the vast majority of democratic pluralistic legal systems are built upon a modified understanding of it.

Now, how does the fundamentalist define freedom? Before you read any further, I would suggest reading this post on fundamentalism and truth, as it provides the basis for my logic. To the fundamentalist, freedom is not an understanding of the “Harm Principle” or even a modified understanding of it. Instead, the fundamentalist believes within Christianity that they have found true freedom. This freedom is found, as many of you know, in “accepting” Jesus Christ as your personal savior. After having done so, because you have been “saved” from you former self, you are now “free” from said self. But, as all Christians know, the old self keeps popping up, causing you to sin. Well, in fundamentalist theology, sin is not freedom, it is bondage, so in order to not sin, you must “obey” the moral commandments contained in the Bible. I put obey in quotation marks, because fundamentalists don’t use that word, instead they claim that they “want” to abide by the moral codes and not sin, because they are showing their appreciation to Jesus for saving them. Irregardless of this fact, in order to have true “freedom” in the fundamentalist ideal, and not bondage, you must obey the admonitions and moral codes found within the Bible.

Now that I have given you a brief Bible lesson, how does this apply to the concept of freedom within a political society? It is because when a fundamentalist says freedom and liberty vs. when a democratic pluralist says those words, they mean two different things. This is why, when gay rights activist claim to want the “freedom” to marry or the liberty to order their lives as they will, choose a partner of the same sex etc. the fundamentalist claims that they are actually not being free. When a society condones something that the fundamentalist has labeled “sin”, society is actually condoning bondage and slavery. Thus, in order for society to be truly “free” and have the ultimate “freedom” it must come under the moral code of the fundamentalist. This leads to why the fundamentalist must take control of the government, and also why fundamentalist regimes are not compatable with a democratic society. For as I stated in the Truth post, when a fundamentalist is providing true “freedom” – according to their standards – all dissent is not allowed, for it would lead people back into bondage.

So in conclusion, to a democratic pluralist, freedom is abiding by the harm principle, and thus the pluralist will fight for allowing people to do what they want with their lives, even if the pluralist does not necessarily think that it is right. The fundamentalist on the other hand, sees freedom as obedience to a higher moral code and any actions that do not line up with this code are in fact bondage. Thus the fundamentalist has no problem “legislating morality” because in his mind, he is bringing true “freedom” to the world.
As always I welcome your thoughts.

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