A Case for Freedom

True freedom was personified by Jesus, who became truth, which was designed to set us free. This brand of freedom has no political affiliation or agenda as it spoke of the position of the heart and of relationship with God. But the object for limited government was defined not by the 2nd Adam per se, but for the first Adam in the Garden of Eden.

CREATION

The first governing principles the world has ever seen were applied to the first man the world has ever seen, the crowning achievement of a literal, seven-day saga that saw the earth and everything that comprised it birthed from a ‘formless void.’ Adam’s directives were simple: (although there is an alternative account of creation within Genesis, the same action occurs)

Jan Van Kessel’s “The Garden of Eden”

1. Work – “till and keep the garden” and “fill the earth and subdue it”
2. Be fruitful and multiply
3. Name every living creature
4. Do not eat from the ‘tree of the knowledge of good and evil’

Divinely decreed to follow four statutes by the Governor… Sure, things are a bit more complex today. To begin with, there are more than two people in the world! But have we deviated from the simplest, purest template for limited government ordained by God, or are we headed west away from the eastern gardens of Eden? The model for freedom was inherent to man’s origin, and God saw and recognized that it was “good.” So how is it that men and women acting in the ‘better interests’ of other men and women are exercising dominion over other people instead of over the earth, its creatures, and its vegetation? Pilate felt that he was entitled to such authority when discussing the essence of truth with Jesus before he was taken away to be crucified, but his assumption was corrected when Jesus spoke: “You would have no such authority over me unless given from above…” (John 19:11)

THE TENDENCY OF HISTORY TO COME FULL CIRCLE

As a lover of history, I marvel at the ascent and descent, over time, of the world’s empires, with which Rome is a glaring example (see Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire for a detailed account of Rome’s forfeiture). Although I can’t say that it’s inevitable for ‘history to repeat itself,’ because that would be contrary to anything resembling hope, I can say that we’ve proven to be utterly deficient at learning from it in addition to many societies before us. In the scope of sustained peace and prosperity, a trend, without exception, has occurred in the history of governments. When the ‘power’ of a people shifts from the people to ‘something else,’ we (humans) are literally “0-for.” Rome, the latter colonial states of France/Spain/Portugal, fascist Germany, and communist Russia and China. The list could go on, and on, and on. Centralization of power, corruption, and modern concepts of socialism, communism, and Marxism very simply equaled economic depression, wars, and an excess of human casualties. These ideas of governing, the brainchildren of deceived men like Karl Marx, are very basically the opposite of freedom. The freedom to choose and the freedom to select one’s own destiny. To be profitable and to prosper. A danger that I see is the repeating of these despotic philosophies and fates in our current political condition.

DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA

In 1835 Frenchmen Alexis de Tocqueville published a great chronicle of the thriving early United States Republic, Democracy in America. Most of his work, as simply an observer, was devoted to contrasting the U.S. with his native France, which was reeling from failed attempts at ‘modern’ democracy. Tocqueville enlists an air of ‘equality’ and the ‘habits of the mind’ representative of America’s fathers (most evident in the U.S. Constitution) as the deciding disparities between France and America. Failure and success.  Although Tocqueville spends most of his account praising the world’s new model for just government, he inserts a convicting warning. He is able to see, within this flawless and bustling republic, an imminent danger: a possible phenomenon that no words in his time could properly define, so he coined a new one. ‘Soft’ despotism. From the original Greek, despotes, which means “master” or “one with power,” Tocqueville issued his own prefix of ‘soft,’ which would come to mean ‘voluntary.’  As opposed to what would become ‘hard’ despotism, this version spoke to the obliviousness a governed people could have while being ‘ruled.’  Ironically despotes in its original context often characterized the tyrannical pharaohs of biblical times. According to Tocqueville, his ‘soft’ despotism is the idea that a country could be overwhelmed by a “network of small, complicated rules.” Soft despotism presents the facade that the people are in control, while in fact, they have very little influence with goings-on in the governmental realm (a thought very contrary to a republican democracy). Soft despotism, in Tocqueville’s eyes, would be a harbinger of fear, uncertainty, and doubt with the American populace. This trend could only be avoided by a strong foundation for leadership, expressed through the ‘habits of the mind’ of early American leaders.

Dr. Samuel Gregg, of the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, made these observations in an article entitled, Old Europe’s New Despotism:

“In Democracy in America, Tocqueville suggested that democracy was capable of breeding its own form of despotism, albeit one without the edges of Jacobin or Bonapartist dictatorship with which Europeans were all too familiar. The book spoke of ‘an immense protective power’ which took all responsibility for everyone’s happiness-just so long as this power remained ‘sole agent and judge of it.’ This power, Tocqueville wrote, would ‘resemble parental authority’ but would try to keep people ‘in perpetual childhood’ by relieving people ‘from all the trouble of thinking and all the cares of living.’

Such circumstances might arise, Tocqueville noted, if democracy’s progress was accompanied by demands for a leveling of social conditions. The danger was that an obsession with equality was very compatible with increasingly centralized state-power. Leveling social conditions, Tocqueville observed, usually involved using the state to subvert those intermediate associations that reflected social differences, but also limited government-power.

Tocqueville’s vision of ‘soft-despotism’ is thus an arrangement of mutually corrupt citizens and the democratic state. Citizens vote for those politicians who promise to use the state to give them whatever they want. The political-class delivers, so long as citizens do whatever it says is necessary to provide for everyone’s desires. The ‘softness’ of this despotism consists of people’s voluntary surrender of their liberty and their tendency to look habitually to the state for their needs.”  –Dr. Samuel Gregg

Gregg’s interpretation of this 19th century prophecy is striking. It’s amazing too that Tocqueville could see something this specific as a peril to future American societies. Has it come true? I think in many ways it has and in many ways is currently unfolding before our eyes. The only antidote to tyranny and control is freedom, whether the overreach is political or not. Our role is to represent freedom in all areas of society with the motivation of setting captives free, not proving them wrong. May the Holy Spirit guide our society into truth, may the presence of Jesus redefine our way of living, and may the Governor of the world, God the Father, truly set us free.

Joe D’Orsie – Communications & Spiritual Life Counsel jdorsie@livewithpurposecoaching.com