"Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, Send these, the homeless, tempest tossed, I lift my lamp beside the golden door." Freedom's lamp still shines beside that golden door. However, that light is being diminished by counterfeit notions of freedom which fail to recognize its source, comprehend its promise, accept its obligations or believe in its potential to build a better future. I propose that we call Election Day 2012 Freedom Appreciation Day and mobilize for freedom. Freedom is not about the fact that we can choose but about how and what we do choose. This is what truly matters. Authentic Human Freedom will never be found in decisions that are made against God and against the Natural Law.
WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - On Wednesday, August 1, 2012, something extraordinary happened. Ordinary Americans went to Chick-Fil-A restaurants around the Nation because they had had enough. Enough of the threats to freedom and the bullying of people like the owners of that restaurant chain, precisely because they had the courage to voice their convictions in the public square.
Because they defended marriage as what it is, they were literally threatened, not only by the strident cultural revolutionaries who seek to enforce a new cultural order upon us all, but by Mayors of major cities who were willing to enforce that new cultural order at the expense of true freedom.
We see threats to freedom gathering everywhere around us like storm clouds. Recently, thousands around the United States gathered to Stand up for what this Nation has properly called the First Freedom, Religious Freedom.
The Catholic Bishops of the United States called for a Fortnight (14 days) of Prayer for Freedom and people gathered all over this Nation which has long spoken of itself as the land of the free and the home of the brave.
There is no word which echoes more passionately within the heart of Americans than that word freedom - or evokes a deeper response. This Nation was founded by men and women who experienced threats to freedom's promise and potential - and responded to them with heroism.
It has beckoned from its birth to all who hear freedom's invitation to come and see what true Freedom means.
These compelling words written by Emma Lazarus are engraved on the pedestal of the Lady Liberty in New York's Ellis Island: "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, Send these, the homeless, tempest tossed, I lift my lamp beside the golden door."
Freedom's lamp still shines beside that golden door. However, that light is being diminished by counterfeit notions of freedom which fail to recognize its source, comprehend its promise, accept its obligations or believe in its potential to build a better future.
One of the architects of the freedom undertaking which brought down the Berlin Wall at the end of the last century, Blessed John Paul II wrote, "Human freedom belongs to us as creatures; it is a freedom which is given as a gift, one to be received like a seed and to be cultivated responsibly. It is an essential part of that creaturely image which is the basis of the dignity of the person."
The struggle of our age is being waged over the meaning of freedom. It is a contest with extraordinary implications. Almost every contemporary concern that we face can be positioned within this struggle. How one defines human freedom will influence the way that he or she views almost everything.
Freedom has consequences. Our choices have the capacity to not only change the world around us, but they make us to be the kinds of persons we become. The capacity to make choices is what makes us human persons. What we choose either humanizes us further or leads us, ultimately, into slavery. The capacity to choose reflects the "Imago Dei", the Image of God, present within every human person.
As the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council in the Catholic Church wrote in their document on the Mission of the Church in the Modern World, "Authentic freedom is an outstanding manifestation of the divine image within man." (Gaudium et Spes, "Joy and Hope", 17)
We should listen closely to the contemporary voices mouthing the word "freedom". What do they mean when they speak the word? We need to heed the voices of authentic freedom and reject the counterfeits.
Pope Benedict XVI warned of a "dictatorship of relativism" at work in the secularist age. Relativism is a philosophy which denies the existence of objective truths upon which we can build our life together. When there are no truths there can be no freedom.
The antidote to what ails us is a robust return to truth - and leaders unafraid to call us to it again. We need to reach down to the foundation stones upon which this experiment in ordered liberty called the United States of America was built and strengthen freedoms infrastructure by asserting again that "We Hold These Truths to be Self Evident" as proclaimed in the Nations Birth Certificate, the Declaration of Independence.
We need leaders who are unashamed to insist that there is such a thing as truth, which can be known through the exercise of reason. Freedom must be exercised in relationship to that truth. Otherwise, it is illusory and will lead to new forms of slavery and anarchy.
The men and women of this age are asking the fundamental questions men and women of every age have asked. They hunger for truth and they yearn to be free. They will never be satisfied without God, who is the source, author and way to freedom because he is the source of all that is true and good.
The contemporary age has become intoxicated on the wine of a false notion of freedom as a raw power over others who are weaker. An example of the sophistry which accompanies all of this is the illusory claim of a "right" to do whatever one wills, including taking the lives of our first neighbors in the womb and calling it a "choice".
On May 8, 2005 Pope Benedict opined concerning legal abortion and creeping euthanasia: "The freedom to kill is not true freedom, but a tyranny that reduces the human being to slavery." The new slavery of this age is its treatment of human persons as property to be used and disposed of at will.
By calling what is always wrong a "right", contemporary men and women are being bound by the chains of their own self delusion, materialism and nihilism; imprisoned by the lie of what Pope Benedict once properly called "anarchic freedom." It leads to anarchy and not ordered liberty.
Freedom is not about the fact that we can choose but about how and what we do choose. This is what truly matters. Authentic Human Freedom will never be found in decisions that are made against God and against the Natural Law.
The struggle of this age is between anarchic freedom and authentic freedom. The future of the West hangs in the balance.
I suggest that what occurred on August 1, 2012 around the United States holds great promise for the coming National election. The real people of America, the salt of the earth, have had 'ENOUGH!" "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day" was not started by the owners of the restaurant chain.
Former Governor Mike Huckabee first mentioned it, former Senator Rick Santorum picked up on it and then it took on a life of its own. It was propelled by real people who still believe that the values which informed the American experiment in ordered liberty are still the path to a future of freedom.
As I received my chicken on August 1, 2012 I said to the smiling assistant at the window "Who would have ever thought this would happen"? She responded with a smile "it gives me hope for America".
It was right there, at a drive thru Chick-Fil-A window that the idea hit me.
If people went to Chick-Fil-A to make this kind of statement they most will certainly go to the voting booth on November 6, 2012. There, they can cast their vote to Affirm Freedom and to promote the core values which will ensure that America's greatest days are still ahead of us.
That is why I propose that we call Election Day 2012 Freedom Appreciation Day and mobilize for freedom.
The American founders carried a vision of human freedom which they received from the treasury of the Jewish and Christian vision of the human person, marriage and the family founded upon it, and the existence of normative, fundamental moral truths which bind us all together.
With those building blocks Western civilization was built. From that foundation we derived the core conviction that we all possess fundamental human rights which were endowed upon us by this God who created us. These rights are not given by any Civil Government; they are, in the words of the American founders, inalienable.
These truths we hold are revealed by the Natural Law and knowable through the exercise of right reason. They have ensured our survival against totalitarianism of every ilk and political persuasion. They have fueled our economy, inspired our national sacrifices when called upon to reach out beyond our borders and give us the principles needed to properly govern our life together.
They provide the materials from which we have built a free society. However, freedom is a "good" of the human person - not some ethereal disconnected concept. Freedom also brings along with its promise, obligations to use it rightly, to do what is right and true.
I will be writing much more about Freedom Appreciation day. I have reached out to some leaders around the Nation and am proposing we form an Alliance to promote this grass roots effort. Please, let me know your thoughts.
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