Archive for Augustine

Freedom Without the Flag or Violence

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on May 22, 2009 by christopher11


     Freedom, along with “rights” and “choices,” are American (for that matter, modern/enlightenment) buzz words.  The verbiage of freedom is vital to the manifestations of liberal democracy in the US (both Republican and Democratic).  The enlightenment, seeking to “liberate” humanity from the bondage of “tradition and superstition” undertook to define freedom negatively.  Modern political freedom is not something in-and-of-itself, but freedom from something.  In this game freedom is simply the ability to arbitrarily choose one thing/person/idea over another.  Modern/negative freedom finds its source in military action.  The service of brave women and men is essential to allowing the citizens of the US to be able to practice whichever version of American life they so choose (as long as it does not impinge on the freedom of other citizens).

     However, the freedom found in Christ and the Church does not arise from military action and freedom as it is defined by modernity cannot be accepted.  Freedom has distinct theological important for the worshipping community that are incommensurable with freedom’s modern conception.  Augustine serves as a helpful guide for understanding freedom.  For Augustine the human condition is one of slavery to an indomitable desire (the libido dominandi), a desire that dominates us and seeks to dominate others.  Human beings, are, as it were, carried along by a ranging current that leaves little opportunity to do the good we desire to perform.  Humanity is, in Augustine’s mind, unavoidably captive. 

     It is only within the Church that the manifest grace of Christ frees humanity.  However, contra national freedom, this freedom which is mediated to the Church is not contentless.  Christ is the image and granter of freedom, which is manifest in the divine giving of the self for the sake of the world.  Within the bonds of Christ-existing-as-community, freedom demands conformati Christi.  Freedom is demonstrated by and given through the concrete life lived by Christ, which continues its thrust through the Church.  Freedom for the baseness of the sinful disordering of humanity evidences itself through the praising Christ by loving the world and giving the self for the sake of reconciliation.  Freedom as embodied in the Church is not about what one has the “right” or the “choice” to perform.  Instead, Christ (and the Church in Christ) interrupt cycles of violence and nationalistic ego, and open possibilities to serve each living being as neighbors and bearers of the imago dei

     While the Church can appreciate negative freedom it jeopardizes it service to Christ by celebrating this freedom as its telos.  The Church unquestionably pollutes its witness by celebrating freedom that comes via violent means.  The freedom the Church celebrates is not national freedom nor can it be earned via warfare and continuing death.  Christ died so that others need no longer die.  Christ’s death unmasks and unarms the power [1]of violence as a false intrusion into God’s work.  The freedom of love in the death of Christ unarms the power of violence.  As the image of its peaceful Lord the Church cannot serve violence. The Church cheapens its distinctive Christian language-game with its corresponding practice by confusing the freedom guaranteed only in Christ with mere negative/national freedom.  To celebrate any other freedom within the midst of gathered worship is to imperil one’s allegiance and witness to Christ as Lord.

[1] Here violence is being treated as one of the principalities and powers that Paul asserts dominates pre-Christic reality.