So I was honored and pleased to have attended Dr. Fulginiti’s Institute for Human Flourishing’s dinner event last Saturday evening in Oviedo, Florida. Our group conversation centered on the question of whether America is a Christian nation. At the discussion I shared my own examination of the historical period surrounding the penning of the Magna Carta and my speculation that this document, having been moderated by the then Archbishop of Canterbury, definitely bore signs of Cristian influence which subsequently passed on to America. Such influence being the Magna Carta’s helping to inspire the very spirit of liberalism’s belief in the value of the individual, after the pattern of the supremely valuable individual, Jesus Christ. To see more of this argument, stay tuned for my upcoming book “Next Generation Rising: A Heart to Heart to Young Adults.” These points are in Chapter 1 titled “American Child.”
Our conversation then evolved into an exploration of Christianity’s place in our present American liberal evolution. I introduced my New American Spring Vision of an American society characterized by a state of maximal liberty. That is, a society in which every individual will be at liberty to be and do whatsoever he or she pleases, so long as everyone collectively agrees to one and only one constraint—that no individual harms or hinders any other in the free exercise of his and her liberty. See John Stuart Mill’s essay titled “On Liberty” for a fuller understanding of this principle. I emphasized that this one constraint to liberty is of course essential in order to have a social environment itself, since otherwise, individuals will be at each other’s throats, leading to anarchy and the breakdown of the very social condition. I also stressed that a social state of maximal liberty will require two other essential values if it will avoid anarchical disintegration. The first is that of embracing diversity, or seeing the individuality of one another as a good thing rather than as a threat. And the second is that of tolerant dialogue, from which process individuals can influence one another toward a healthier state of social convergence. For truly tolerant dialogue will not fail to result in a new and shared social consciousness, a natural “morality” which will then be the basis of a truer social cohesion. Let’s optimistically call this new social state our Coming Social Convergence.
The pushback that I encountered against my premises centered on what I understand as the pessimistic spirit about human nature. Christianity, for one, holds that human beings are hopelessly sinful and corrupt. Our long line of historical experience, moreover, only shows a human race that is basically selfish, self-centered, violent and destructive. So the natural question arises: why do I feel that a state of maximal liberty of individuals will not only not result in anarchy, but might ultimately evolve into a new, social cohesion through dialogue? I pointed, in response, to the very conversation our group was having. I asked: were we not having some influence on one another through mere conversation? And if this happened in the same cooperative spirit, nationwide, might peoples not naturally converge in healthier ways?
I’m writing this little article, at any rate, to summarize what New American Spring stands for, from a Christian point of view. Firstly, I am Christian myself. So it would seem very unusual indeed that I might advocate for a society of maximal liberty. For a society in which individuals do whatsoever they please, even if constrained by the mandate not to discriminate or harm any other (which “discrimination” or “harm” is determined socially through dialogue), would certainly result in actions which are presently understood as “sinful.” We even had a person of Middle Eastern dissent in the group who went so far as to say that individuals can still be evil in such a social context, and I followed up by asking her what makes an individual evil if he or she does not hurt anyone else, since evil, in my mind, is determined through its hurtful and destructive effects? Such questions which confront one another’s assumptions are often the fruitful consequences of dialogue, even if they lead to moments of silence and contemplation, as I seemed to observe mine doing.
Returning to my mission, however, of answering this question of Christianity verses Sin in maximal liberty, I had to clarify to my group the definition of three essential concepts: Free Will, Freedom, and Liberty. Free Will, as I hold it, is the individual’s ability to either accept or reject God or the Creator. As a Christian I hold that God gave us this ability to either accept or reject him for the greater purpose of Love, since one cannot love a person whom one is unable to reject. Freedom, secondly, is the individual’s state of health and well-being following the choice to accept his or her Creator, as a robot might be considered healthy if it complied with its original programing and design from its engineer. And Liberty is the mere ability to do whatsoever one pleases in society and the world, regardless of whether such choices align with a state of accepting ones Creator (Freedom) or rejecting one’s creator (Sin). Now we are able to see the exact way in which a state of maximal liberty can involve occasions of sinfulness. We can also understand how Christians can argue that a state of maximal liberty is not “Free” in the Christian sense if it occasions sinful choices among individuals, resulting in self-destruction. Choices of life contrary to God’s original design.
Why then, as a Christian man, do I advocate for a state of maximal liberty and why do I accept the resulting social convergence, good or bad, which might result in the best case scenario from such a liberal evolution? Simply because I feel that this evolution is inevitable and cannot be avoided, so that the best thing I can do as person concerned about the well-being of my human family is to enable its development in the healthiest way possible. Liberalism will have to be tempered with tolerance and dialogue which require humility and a form of operational social love if it will not result in chaos and destruction. Therefore my Christian Charity tells me that in a society which will inevitably take this liberal direction, I must do my best to assist in its safe passage.
There is a second reason why I actually want to participate in the growing liberalization of America, however, besides keeping my society from running off the rails. I often think that our Christian tradition entertains certain principles, concepts and ideas about right and wrong which I’m not sure, in my own heart, actually comes from God. One wife one husband, for instance, while human nature might be quite capable of multi-amorous relationships, moderated by a mature rationality. One physical life and after that the judgment, as another example. While it is quite possible that the soul goes through many incarnations in a karmic tangle, Christ being the way out of the web of reincarnation, which might be the true meaning of salvation. A third example of Christianity’s artificial restrictions might be its limitation of various sexualities, while humanity might be quite naturally diverse in sexual expression–if only society evolved into its full and natural potential, etc. I feel that there might be a benefit for human self-understanding by allowing for a society that is at liberty to radically experiment with traditional value systems. A society that breaks down all traditional assumption and put humanity to the test for what it really is, accepting only the constraints mentioned above for the sake of social cohesion. Part of me wants to see what the human race actually has inside itself when allowed to express itself in the greatest possible way through liberating its smallest unit, the individual.
At the very least I might be accused of toying with Pandora’s Box. What would it mean to open up the previously unopened chamber (from the perspective of this socially radical way) of the human heart? Am I toying with ultimate destruction, or am I the prophet of a new awakening? While I don’t know the answer myself, I can only repeat that this is the direction liberalism is taking anyway, so why not help moderate the journey to be as safe as possible? One thing I will however take immediate comfort in is that in this new society of maximal liberty, I should be most at liberty to be my Christian self. If God puts in my heart that I should live in such and such ways which might be self-constraining in the mind of another individual, would I not thereby be an example onto him or her? And if God did indeed speak to me in such instances, would I not thereby be a light? If God really courts the human family and invites all individuals to Love, would not a maximally liberal society really bring home to individuals the emptiness of living contrary to the intentions of God via the empty wages of Sin? I dare say, a maximally liberal society would be a perfect place for God’s light to shine, for God’s true children to influence their fellow human beings. And if Christianity happens to be wrong, then humanity will finally have an opportunity to free itself from self-hating because self-limiting traditions.
This willingness to allow for such a radical test of our human race should not dissuade anyone on the side of truth, as I feel I am as a Christian. It should not dissuade the sincere Christian. One who is not a “Christian” only because it makes one feel better than others (self-righteous). Or one who is not a “Christian” because it brings social privileges in a Christian-value-system society (hypocrite). Or one who is not a “Christian” because it gives one an arbitrary (because merely born into it) sense of meaning in an otherwise meaningless world (existential coward). A true Christian would welcome a state of maximal liberty and not be afraid, for truth fears nothing.