Abusing Freedom

“Freedom is destroyed not only by its retraction; it is also devastated by its abuse.” —Ravi Zacharias

Our culture is changing fast. Things that would have seemed absurd to most people’s moral intuitions are now championed. Even some things that still seem odd are accepted because our culture accepted a definition of freedom some time ago that is playing out. 

Radical moral relativism, the view that individuals can define their own morality, has led to radical relativism in general. People think freedom means they can define their own reality. There’s no objective moral standard. And now there’s no objective standard at all that should be imposed on an individual to restrict their freedom of choice. Every individual defines themselves. 

So Bruce Jenner becomes Caitlyn Jenner. A white woman claims she’s black because that’s how she feels. People champion transableism and transspeciesism because they feel inside that they are disabled or cat or rabbit. One feminist said that freedom means the doctor has no right to declare the sex of a baby at birth, despite the body parts that are obvious, because that child should define that for themselves.

There’s nothing objective to constrain us. This has become established in U.S. law already, and it has serious implications. The Declaration of Independence, which is fundamental to all U.S. law including the Constitution, states that our rights are established by God. Because human rights are objective, governments must respect them and cannot violate them. But if there is nothing objective to constrain our freedom, then there’s nothing objective to constrain the government. Our rights become whatever we declare them to be and whatever the government at any time and place declares them to be, changing with the fashions of the day.

This is where we are in our culture now. It’s a very dangerous place to be in. As quickly as the court can bestow a new right, it can be taken away.

It reminds me of Sir Thomas More’s response to his pupil Roper: “And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you — where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast — man's laws, not God's — and if you cut them down — and you're just the man to do it — d'you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then?” It’s naïve and short-sighted to change the law unmoored from any objective standard because it can be changed in any way possible then. 

The astounding thing about a very few documents in history is that government power was limited because citizens had rights above the government. But when societies no longer recognize this, the governments are back in the position of defining the rights of citizens. As Os Guinness has said, “When the fashionable new ‘right’ trumps the traditional rights, then rights merely arise from power.”

The tragedy of our culture celebrating the new definition of individual freedom is that it has also destroyed what has protected us from tyranny. As Ravi Zacharias pointed out, we’ve abused our freedom and we’ve destroyed it.

Melinda Penner

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