September 7, 2006
Five years ago, or even one year ago, debates about freedom, foreign policy, and world religions were, for most of us, just intellectual fodder. When we felt like philosophizing, we could dip into the cookie jar of controversy and enjoy a harmless round of debate, pulling out whenever things got too complicated, too hot, or when we simply had our fill. There were no costly ramifications, after all, for getting it wrong.
Or so we thought. Those days are gone. Globalization and terror have ushered in a sense of urgency about truth and ideology. What was theoretical is now practical. What was far away is at our doorstep. What was just for fun is now serious stuff.
That’s why we are talking here about freedom. It matters. President Bush says terrorists are motivated by hatred of our freedom. Many of your responses to Part I of this series confirmed my hunch: this battle cry to defeat enemies of freedom means different things to different people, and rings hollow to many.
Today I want to separate and define three types of freedom. I think it is a necessary step to clarify, in our own minds, what we are defending.
1) Freedom of Choice
Freedom of choice is the capacity to choose or elect one thing over another. This rational process is a defining characteristic of who we are. There is no need to defend freedom of choice, as such. We can’t lose it, and nobody can take it away.
2) Interior Freedom
Interior freedom comes from doing good and rejecting evil. The more we choose the good, the freer we become. Environment, education, and our own past decisions all affect the degree of our interior freedom. Like freedom of choice, nobody can take away our interior freedom. We can, however, lose it on our own...through bad decisions that enslave us.
3) Political Freedom
Political freedom is respect for the role and limits of social organization. In a free society, authorities are at the service of the development of the human person, and not the other way around. The defense of human rights is the litmus test of political freedom. This type of freedom, as we know all too well, can be taken away. We must defend it.
If terrorists hate freedom, what kind do they hate? Do they hate freedom of choice? Of course not. They glorify it when they choose to die for their cause.
Do they hate our political freedom? They say so, but this is not what they are about. The rank and file soldiers of terror who strap on the bombs and fly airplanes into buildings don’t do so to make political statements. No, they don’t hate the West for democracy, as such.
Islamic terrorists hate our interior freedom. They can’t accept that we can find happiness in loving our enemies, treating women as equals, and respecting diversity of opinion. They hate the fact we can be happy and not Muslim.
In this respect, I think President Bush is right; they are enemies of freedom, the interior kind that comes from a well-ordered soul.
God bless, Father Jonathan
P.S. On Monday’s blog I’ll post some of your comments and try to answer a few of the questions you send my way.