License masquerading as freedom | WORLD
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License masquerading as freedom

The poisonous rhetoric of the Roe regime

A pro-abortion protester outside the Mississippi Capitol in Jackson, Miss., in late June Associated Press/Photo by Rogelio V. Solis (file)

License masquerading as freedom
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Here’s one reason among many to offer thanksgiving to God for the fall of Roe v. Wade: It chips away at society’s poisonous and counterfeit view of freedom. All this comes to light in the current panic on the left about abortion. The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent reversal of Roe also brought down the argument that the supreme moral good is a woman’s freedom of “choice.”

The rhetoric of the pro-abortion argument is familiar by now: Overturning Roe is terrible for women’s reproductive freedom, bodily autonomy, or freedom of choice. Now, that’s a whole lot of freedom talk. Sometimes the rhetoric uses the corollary language of “rights” instead, but the substance is the same.

But what is freedom properly understood? Is it simply the freedom to do whatever we want?

That has never been the orthodox Christian understanding of freedom. Rather, Christianity sees freedom as the use of our free will to choose the good, which we can know through reason and revelation. True freedom is always oriented toward good and never toward evil. The habitual choosing of the good with our freedom shapes our habits, which in turn shapes our character. The habitual choice of the bad leads to vice, but the opposite leads to virtue toward the flourishing of the human person, toward the fulfillment of who we are created to be.

This kind of righteous choosing requires guardrails for us fallen creatures. For example, one can understand the Torah as the ultimate free Being, God Himself, teaching His formerly enslaved people how to be free. Law is a tutor. It is fit for a certain type of creature—not robots lacking free will but sons. Thus revealed Screwtape to Wormwood of the Enemy’s intentions: “He wants servants who can finally become sons.”

Killing the babe in the womb in the name of freedom is as grotesque a twisting of the definition of freedom as we can imagine.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. We see God’s heart and purpose for us when we ponder and heed His commandment to choose to obey Him. Jesus told us, “If you love me, keep My commandments.” We love Him because He first loved us. But His love wills our good and our choosing with our free will to obey His commandments—all of which are for our good—is our proper creaturely response to His love. C.S. Lewis (again) explained it as such: “In obeying, a rational creature consciously enacts its creaturely role, reverses the act by which we fell, treads Adam’s dance backward and returns.”

Killing the babe in the womb in the name of freedom is as grotesque a twisting of the definition of freedom as we can imagine. In our day, this poisonous idea of freedom is endemic. Modern people claim to be free to redefine marriage into whatever they want it to be, free to construct their “gender” distinct from sex. Such freedom is, at heart, an attempt to manufacture the good as they define it apart from the good in the created order—God’s created order, which is reality. That is a form of idolatry. That kind of counterfeit freedom is ultimately anti-reality, for there is simply no good apart from God.

Thomas Aquinas defined law as “an ordinance of reason for the common good, made by him who has care of the community, and promulgated.” Law should always be for the common good, and the good is, of course, built into the common good. When our nation’s laws are faithful to what law should be—when they are of the true and focal meaning of the word “law”—it is a good thing. It is a cause for rejoicing.

Roe was, it goes without saying, not for the good and the common good. Any “freedom” it manufactured was a lie from the pit of hell. When people talk of freedom as the freedom to do whatever they want with their bodies and the little ones in their wombs (for that is what a “fetus” is, literally meaning “offspring”), they speak better than they know. That’s nothing but license masquerading as freedom.

Our job is to confront modern culture, infatuated with a false view of freedom, with something infinitely better: the Christian understanding of true freedom.

Adeline A. Allen

Adeline A. Allen is an associate professor of law at Trinity Law School and an associate fellow at The Center for Bioethics & Human Dignity.

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