Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
September 24, 2007
Honour God's law and society prospers
One of the main sources of the political controversies of our era is the tension between freedom and morality. In fact, this is only an apparent tension for no true freedom is found outside of adherence to universal moral norms.
Nevertheless, the modern or postmodern person denies the existence of such norms, proclaiming that happiness is found through the freedom to decide for oneself what is right and what is wrong. This, however, is not the path to happiness, but rather the way to the whirlwind.
Dorothy Sayers, a 20th century culture critic and playwright, once wrote, "Defy the commandments of the natural law, and the race will perish in a few generations; cooperate with them, and the race will flourish for ages to come."
From the standpoint of natural law, humanity is currently more on the path of perishing than it is on the way of flourishing. It will remain that way until we lose our illusions about the "freedom to choose" having anything to do with human progress.
Fourteen years ago, Pope John Paul II issued his encyclical, The Splendour of Truth. John Paul wrote that human freedom is not a freedom to create values or arbitrarily determine what is right or wrong. Moral freedom means the acceptance of moral law, not its rejection. Freedom is fidelity to a law received from the Creator.
When moral law is ignored, we end up not with freedom but slavery. Instead of being liberated from outdated moral traditions, we become possessed by those passions over which we should be ruling - greed, lust, self-will.
The denial of moral law leads to nothing short of the dissolution of the self. We become alienated from our true selves by denying the existence of a universal natural law.
Bishop Fulton Sheen, nearly 60 years ago, long before current controversies arose, said the human soul turned away from God is like "a radio that is tuned into several stations; instead of getting anyone clearly, it receives only an annoying static." The soul becomes less a personality than "a battlefield where a civil war rages between a thousand and one conflicting loyalties" (Peace of Soul, p. 8).
The soul that denies the moral law is not only alienated from itself but also from others, Sheen continued. "World wars are nothing but macrocosmic signs of the psychic wars waging inside microcosmic muddled souls. . . . Once a man ceases to be of service to his neighbour, he begins to be a burden to him."
Third, this soul is estranged from God. "No man hates God without first hating himself. . . . Never able to make sense of its own life, it universalizes its own inner discord and sees the world as a kind of chaos."
Ultimately, the denial of universal moral norms is a form of self-loathing that leads to militant atheism. Rather than liberation, it leads to a society of broken souls, lost and directionless, who bring division and disruption into the social sphere.
The way out of this morass is not so much to live morally as to live for God. A good moral life will be one by-product of a life given over to the Creator.
St. Paul's counsel to the Colossians describes law and freedom united through faith: "Let your thoughts be on heavenly things, not on the things that are on the earth. . . . You have stripped off your old behaviour with your old self, and you have put on a new self which will progress towards true knowledge the more it is renewed in the image of its Creator" (3:2, 9-10).
Sayers' neat dichotomy between obeying and disobeying the natural law may seem too simplistic. It isn't. A society that loves God and honours his law will prosper - spiritually, emotionally and socially, even if not financially. A society that isolates individual freedom from adherence to moral law will find itself in deep trouble. We ought to choose the way that leads to life.
- Glen Argan
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