The [Continuing] Story of Freedom

The spot in Canterbury Cathedral where St. Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, was martyred

Lord Acton was correct, “The love of power corrupts, and the love of absolute power corrupts, absolutely.”

The last week or so has not been a comfortable one, for anyone who loves freedom, as we have watched several governors usurp the power reserved to the people to set rules in place which clearly contradict the Constitution and both precedent and law. Many of us, in both England and America, have also felt that our churches have developed a reluctance to stand for what Christianity has always meant. In fact, in England, the last time the churches were closed was during the reign of King John, when the king was excommunicated and England placed under interdict. and was in direct line with the barons forcing his signature on Magna Charta. The resulting Great Charter, first of what has come to be called, in America, the Charters of Freedom. American churches have never been forced to close before this spring. And yet all the churches have complied with barely a murmur. I think they have in large measure forgotten something that is basic to Christianity.

Mind that I think most of us thought that it might be justified for a short time till we knew more. Well, we now know more. We know that at worst this is slightly more dangerous than other flus that pass pretty much unnoticed, and yet here we are.

And yet, other than a few brave clergy who have taken the lesson of St Augustine (and Martin Luther as well as Martin Luther King Jr.) to heart, and realize that ‘an unjust law is no law at all’, they both in our parishes and the hierarchs as well have tamely submitted.

One of the things I do when I get in this spot is to go back to our earlier posts, usually Jessica’s. She had a way of making things clear, no matter how much mud was spattered about, and it is one of the things I miss most about her. Some of her basic goodness comes through in those posts, and they help me, and I hope they help your morale as well. In her post from December 30, 2012, she reminds us that our freedom has a long history which is intertwined in British and American history. Here she takes us back to show us that the original resistance to secular tyranny came from none other than the Church, in our case through the Archbishop of Canterbury St Thomas Becket and thence to another Archbishop of Canterbury, Stephen Langton, who stood up to King John of infamous memory. But let her tell it, she tells it much better than I do. Here’s my dearest friend, Jessica.

The story of Becket reminds us of the eternal conflict between the Church and the State. It is the natural wish of the latter, whether in the guise of a king, an aristocracy or ‘the people’ to encompass as much power to itself as it can. There is only one culture where this has been challenged successfully, and it is that of the Latin West. For all the atheists’ charge that the Church has been some sort of dictator, it never has been; indeed it has been the bridle on that happening in our societies.

I mentioned Stephen Langton yesterday, the Archbishop of Canterbury whom King John had refused to accept, and who sided with the Barons in their fight against the King’s tyranny. That does not mean, of course, that the Church has not had times when it has cooperated with tyranny, but it does mean that it has stood out, always, against the State controlling everything. Indeed, it was this example which gave courage to those who came to see the Church itself as a spiritually tyranny, corrupt and refusing to mend its ways. We can argue over the results of that, but what is unarguable is that it is from the deepest part of Christianity that the belief in freedom under God comes.

That qualification matters. Our forefathers did not mistake freedom for license. They knew they would stand one day before God to account for their time here on earth. They knew their sinful ways, they did not blame ‘society’, they knew that sin was an act of will on their part – of sinful rebellion against God. But they also knew that only through freedom could man be truly himself. Like God Himself, they believed in free will. Man was not free when he was in chains – literal and metaphorical ones. The black slaves were in literal chains, their owners in metaphorical ones.

Freedom has a price. Part of that is that we have to bridle ourselves. The excesses of our species when left to itself show why. Made in the image of God, we are capable of deeds of utmost evil, and we can also rise to heights of altruism and love – as the lives of the Saints show us.

We Christians are strangers in this world. We are meant to be the leaven; but too often we are the salt that has lost its savour. America is the one country in the world founded on a vision of how things could be. From its beginning it has taken the hard road of trying to rule itself without kings or aristocracies. It has found itself in some dark places, not least during its Civil War. But it has always valued freedom – and always acknowledged that there is a price to be paid.

There is a long and continuous thread leading from Magna Carta to now. We forget at our peril how unique that story is. You won’t find it elsewhere  – do we cherish it as we should?

And so, now, as in the 1770’s we see the yeoman of the Great Republic or a sizable percentage of them gathering to protest the tyranny of those given to govern. These are amongst the most peaceful demonstrations, with due regard for health considerations, but unless I’m badly mistaken, if this goes on long, especially with the damage it is doing to western civilization, they may not stay peaceful. We have long since tried to forget that the American Revolution saw some of the most deadly partisan warfare (not quite definable as terrorism because they were directed at selected targets).  It can happen again.

And strangely, if it does come, that revolution, like the English Civil War, like the American Revolution, and like the American Civil War, it will be another ‘cousin’s war’ fought to reinstate ‘the good old law’. Just as happened in The Anarchy, during the civil war between King Stephen and Empress Matilda in the 12th century.

About Neo
Lineman, Electrician, Industrial Control technician, Staking Engineer, Inspector, Quality Assurance Manager, Chief Operations Officer

9 Responses to The [Continuing] Story of Freedom

  1. audremyers says:

    Excellent article; thanks so much.

    Liked by 2 people

    • NEO says:

      Very welcome.

      Edited to add: Interesting that yesterday, I saw two articles on the Cato family. One on Cato the Younger’s supposed stoicism that argued that he was actually a patriot of the Roman Republic, and one on Cato the Elder, which reworked his famous “Carthage delenda est” (Carthage must be destroyed, which it was) to “Globalism delenda est”. Marcus Porcius Cato was no fool.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. the unit says:

    Freedom: To be continued…, not the Porky Pig ending. “Tha-tha-that’s all Folks.” 🙂

    Like

  3. NEO says:

    Kids without memory. It really comes from the serial preceding the movies back in the 20s and 30s. But never the Porky Pig ending. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Nicholas says:

    I love the common law tradition, I lovegood old England. I love my country.

    Liked by 2 people

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