Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Religious Freedom

The Catholic Bishops in the US are making a big stand over the current administration requiring hospitals and schools (even religious ones) to offer contraceptive coverage to employees. This has become a rallying cry for the right (including many who have no moral opposition to contraception) on the grounds of "religious freedom."

I don't have an issue arguing or debating this policy. I'm not sure this move best serves the public good. One thing I do know, this issue has nothing to do with religion freedom, at least not from a Christian perspective.

You see the freedom we're promised in Christ is a guttural, visceral freedom. It's a freedom bestowed by the Creator and cannot be infringed upon by anyone or anything. Sure, a government, an army, a church, or a guy down the street can make it more difficult to exercise that freedom in Christ - but they can never take it away. It is the freedom we see in the Roman arena, where Christians were roasted alive and torn to shreds by animals. Are you really going to tell me they were not free?

In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe - Aslan, the Christ figure is killed to pay the penalty of someone else's sin. He does this to appease the Deep Magic - sort of the overarching system under with Narnia operates. The beneficiary of this sacrifice was the White Witch, who used this Deep Magic to seize control. The only problem was, there was a deeper magic from before the dawn of time. It superseded the deepest magic of the world. It is through this deeper magic that Aslan returns to life and sets the world right.

So often the Church gets stuck operating under the Deep Magic of the world in which we live. That the authority structures around us actually control our freedom. We also get this mistaken idea that freedom equals ease. If all of our whims and desires are as easy as possible, then we're most free.

There is a deeper magic, from before the dawn of time - a way the world works which supersedes the way it seems to work. This way provides true freedom. And true freedom requires something of us - something quite costly: our very lives. Freedom in Christ is true freedom because our lives are already lost. There is nothing left on which to hold. No matter how difficult someone else makes my life, they can't ever take my freedom.

That's why the Christians who exercised true freedom were almost always killed. Being unafraid of death is dangerous for those in power. Death is the only weapon they have to keep people in line; it is the Deep Magic. The gospel, the Good News, is of a deeper magic, one in which the weapon of power is rendered powerless. It's not easy, but it is the only way to satisfy the longing deep within us.

True Freedom.


Mark said...


I agree with your idea here about freedom in Christ, but that isn't what the Catholic priest argument is about. To your point, no one can take the freedom in Christ. The freedom in question is religious freedom provided for us under the Constitution. The question is do we sit idly by or "turn the other cheek" while those freedoms are infringed upon knowing that we have freedom in Christ? I truthfully don't know and do struggle with this idea. I think we take confidence in our ultimate freedom, but I think that trying to make the exercise of that freedom as painless as possible is not such a bad thing. So I think it is worth fighting to extend some of the moral values of Christianity to allow us that freedom (which should also extend to other religions as well) so that we have the best of both worlds so to say.

Ryan said...

I don't disagree, it's absolutely a valid issue for debate as a constitutional or practical question - that's not how it's being framed. It's being framed as if somehow this infringes on the freedom of religious groups to practice their religion. That's why all the evangelicals are jumping on board, even when they have no dog in the fight.

If it were being framed as a practical issue, it would make more sense. The government is merely stating that if you're going to participate in civic society in this way (through medicine or education) there is a prescribed way to do it.

I personally think the best way for the Bishops to respond is simply to ignore the ruling. Let the government start shutting down Catholic schools and hospitals. There's no way the voting public stands for that; it's political suicide. I just think the current course of action from the Bishops is hurting their case.

I also think the burden of responsibility ultimately lies with the institutions themselves anyway. If they real care so strongly about their employees not using birth control, they should stop hiring employees who want to use birth control. My family's health insurance provides coverage for abortion; we're not going to use it - so it's a moot point.

There's a lot of things wrong with this particular situation, but I'm most upset with the way it's being framed around "religious freedom." No one can infringe on your religious freedom; it's impossible. If you believe it is possible, you never had the freedom to begin with.