May 22, 2015

Be Our Guest / Darlene Davis

Columns remind reader that freedom in today’s world must not be misused

My heart was greatly moved by two features in the May 1 edition of The Criterion.

First Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin’s weekly column was very thought provoking. To hear that it is easier to live one’s Christian faith in a Soviet gulag (concentration camp) than in our “free society” was startling! But it was completely understandable.

The column emphasizes that we have mistaken license for freedom. The author that Archbishop Tobin quotes had his freedom removed because of his Christian faith. And it focused his faith completely on God.

In our “free society,” which is also affluent by world standards even in our poor, our “necessary things” distract us and take up most of our time.

These “necessary things” tempt us away from prayer and the spiritual life.

Advertising for these “necessary things” is a constant distraction, and often a near occasion for temptation. Our stuff makes us forgetful of the fact that we have them at the pleasure of God, and that our things (money, houses, cars, cell phones, computers, etc.) are not God.

We are a culture addicted to our things! When one is caught in addiction, it becomes a complete distraction and reduces freedom exponentially. We, who are rich in the eyes of the world, are then much less free than the Christian in the Russian gulag! What a paradox! Thank you, Archbishop Tobin, for your very insightful column.

The other piece that caught my attention and made me cheer a loud “yes!” was the “Faith, Hope and Charity” column by David Siler, executive director of the archdiocesan Secretariat for Catholic Charities and Family Ministries.

How true and thought provoking was his perspective on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) rhetoric. When debate degenerates into name calling and other nastiness, it does not serve the dignity of either side. But our culture seems to have adopted this strategy across the board.

In the recent reporting on the tragedy in Baltimore, this was so evident that the common street language could not even be bleeped out quickly enough by reporters on the scene.

We are like the proverbial frog in the pot of slowly heated water. The water has been getting hotter, but we have not taken notice of it. Now that it is at the boiling point and we want out, there seems no place to jump to. It’s hot everywhere! And the hot water is only intensified by the vitriol on both sides of any debate.

Both of these columns together in the same issue of The Criterion illustrate the point of Archbishop Tobin’s column: “Left untended, freedom too easily becomes confused with license, the notion that we can do whatever we want without suffering any consequences. We mistake freedom for a sense of entitlement … .” Then we are not free, but rather we become enslaved!
 

(Darlene Davis is a member of St. Michael Parish in Greenfield.)

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