Becoming What We Choose
(C) Third Millennium, LLC
By Deacon Keith Fournier Founder/President, "Common Good"
The "right to choose" has been subverted causing a new bondage in the lives of countless millions.
"Mortal sin is a radical possibility of human freedom, as is love itself"
Catholic Catechism, Paragraph 1861
"Now, human life is always subject to change: it needs to be born ever anew...but here birth does not come about by a foreign intervention, as is the case with bodily beings, it is the result of a free choice. Thus we are in a certain way our own parents, creating ourselves as we will, by our decisions."
St. Gregory of Nyssa
It seems no matter where you turn these days someone is demanding a "right to choose."
There are the new libertines who mistake "freedom" with the right to do anything that "feels good." Then, there are the self-deluded champions of new "rights"-which are not rights at all-such as requiring that consensual prolonged sexual acts between practicing homosexuals (or unmarried heterosexuals) be afforded the same treatment as a marriage by the State.
The clamor for these mistaken notions of "choice", and others, grows louder every day.
What does all of this tell us about ourselves? What are we choosing, and who are we becoming in the process?
Tragically, we are all too often making the wrong choices and becoming corrupted, individually and collectively, in the process. Why? Because we have lost the foundational philosophical and moral understanding of the true obligations which authentic freedom entails and the effect of the "reflexive" nature of our choices on who we become, both as individuals and as a nation.
Like the Biblical son of Isaac, Esau, we have sold our birthright for a bowl of stew.
This story is told in the first book of the Bible, Genesis (see Genesis 25:29-34). Esau came in from hunting one day famished. Unable to control his own appetites, he, the firstborn who stood to inherit his fathers' estate, sold that birthright for a bowl of red stew made from wild game.
He made a wrong choice.
That was why he would later be called Edom, which means "red". That choice defined him and literally changed his "name", which in biblical terms entails character and identity. His wrong choice not only lost him a future but also changed his very identity.
As a nation, America was birthed in an understanding of freedom that implied both a "freedom from" intrusive government but also a "freedom for" responsible and virtuous living. Our founders understood the obligations of social solidarity.
Birthed from the Western tradition, the American idea of "ordered liberty" contained within it the deeper understanding of the person as a responsible agent whose choices defined his or her character. Additionally, the framework our founders structured for national self-government was dependent upon- and subordinated to- the existence of self-government on a personal, family and local level.
Though not explicitly uttered by the American founders, the following insight is implied in many of the enabling documents of the experiment in "ordered liberty" which they authored:
"we may be 'free to choose' but we are not free to make the objects of our choice good or evil, right or wrong."
That is God's prerogative.
In a real sense our choices make us--- we actually become what we choose! In other words our choices not only affect the "outside" world but the "inside" world as well. In the very act of choosing we change ourselves-we become what we choose!
That's right- we become what we choose! Think about it. There is a self- determining character to our exercise of free choice.
The ancient Christian Father, Gregory of Nyssa expressed this so well in reminding us "... we are in a certain way our own parents, creating ourselves as we will, by our own decisions."
Our own American literature is laced with the truth concerning the reflexive nature of human choice. Most children, at some point in their formal education, read the "Portrait of Dorian Gray." The story revolves around a young artist who is painting a self-portrait. He keeps it hidden away and works on it throughout his life.
As his life proceeds he "pays his money and he makes his choices"-- most of which proceed from his narcissistic worldview. To the onlooker, he is living the life of sensual and professional "success"-but he knows what the portrait reveals when he is home alone.
When the artist is eventually found dead, his self-portrait is also found. It revealed the interior truth of what his life choices had made him to become on the inside. The figure on the canvas is hideous, corrupt and lecherous.
It is interesting to note that the author of the book, Oscar Wilde, was for much of his life, a practicing homosexual. He later converted to Catholicism and died in a state of grace. The choices we make determine not only our character but also pave the road to our eternal destiny.
Many other biblical narratives capture this poignant insight about human choice.
The Eden story of the fall is all about the errant exercise of freedom, the making of a wrong choice, at that tree in the garden. An invitation to love from a God who cherishes our capacity for freedom was rebuffed and the whole human race, collectively, through our first parents, chose a counterfeit notion of freedom as a raw power to do as we choose, regardless of truth, over an invitation into an ongoing relationship with God.
That choice gets repeated throughout our personal and collective histories to this very hour!
The Sacred texts of the New Testament are also filled with the insight. We "become" adulterers when we look at a woman with lust (Mt. 5:28); what comes out of our "heart" (The "heart" is the biblical center where freedom is exercised, human choices are made and character formed) is what makes us "unclean" (Mk 7:14-23).
There is a self-determining character to our exercise of choice. In that sense, freedom is not free... it always costs. Our wrong choices corrupt us.
In this age in which we have collectively chosen to worship the golden calf of unencumbered "choice" we should stop and ask ourselves some very serious questions. Who are we making ourselves to be---as individuals and as a nation--in the choices we are making?
We choose to discard "unwanted" children who are not even allowed the freedom to be born; we choose to kill those who have killed, when bloodless means of punishment and protection of the common good are available, for vengeance; we choose to denigrate women (and now men) as sexual objects and defame the beauty of sexual intimacy; we choose to ignore the cry of the widow, the orphan, the poor and the oppressed while we chase the golden ring of consumerism and self-ism--- and we call of these choices "rights" and an exercise of our "freedom"?
On the national level, we are making ourselves a nation of killers, harlots, and gluttons. That imprinted character, which we have painted on our national self portrait, can only be changed when we make a contrary choice to hear the cry of the poor, respect again every human life from conception to natural death, and rededicate ourselves to a true understanding of equal justice.
On the personal level we are dangerously close to the fate of the young artist of American novel or the first born in the biblical account. There is a real choice to be made by everyone of us... and we will make ourselves in making it-- it is the choice to truly love.
Those of us who are Christians understand the heart of that choice because Love became a Person and made the ultimate choice on the second tree where He emptied Himself so that we might live (see Phil 2:5-11). Because of that we have a higher obligation to continue His choice through our poured out lives.
Now it is our turn to choose to become what He has invited the whole human race to become. In that choice we also choose to conform our lives, and our choices, to His.
Then we can help to reverse the downward cultural spiral and set the captives of this age of "choice" and counterfeit freedom truly free- by inviting them back to a relationship with the God who made them.
That choice is the path to true freedom.
Rev. Mr. Keith A Fournier, the founder and president of "Common Good", is a constitutional lawyer. Long active in political participation, Fournier was a founder of Catholic Alliance and served as its first President. He is a pro-life and pro-family lobbyist. He was the first Executive Director of the ACLJ (American Center for Law and Justice). He also served as an advisor to the presidential campaign of Steve Forbes. Fournier holds a Bachelors degree (B.A.) from Franciscan University of Steubenville in Philosophy and Theology, a Masters Degree (M.T.S.) in Sacred Theology from the John Paul II Institute of the Lateran University, a Juris Doctor (J.D.) from the University of Pittsburgh and an Honorary Doctor of Laws (L.L.D.) from St. Thomas University. Fournier is the author of seven books on issues concerning life, faith, evangelization, ecumenism, family, political participation, public policy and cultural issues. He is a features editor for Catholic Online and the Co-Director of "Your Catholic Voice"
http://www.commongoodonline.com VA, US
Deacon Keith Fournier - Founder/President, 757 546-9580
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