If I could say anything of your “mere” Christianity, it is this: you have dispensed with the indispensable.
I’ve never been one for freedom, save the moments when it’s free. Have you noticed it never is? Freedom at a price, that’s the human way of things—so ingrained we’re bitter to the core. But come the day when freedom is ours to dispense freely, it is suddenly indispensable—unless, of course, the pay is good enough.
But I think we have it wrong, and I think you would agree. What we give away at a price is simply the illusion of freedom; truth be told, it’s there all along. We confuse permission for freedom itself, unlocked from its cage, liberated into the atmosphere. If freedom were that soft-hearted thing which once gave us leave to become from nothingness, then how are we able to box it up? We say to each other: don’t go there, don’t do that, don’t say those things, don’t think that way. But if, in fact, the freedom to do or not do those things were absent, we simply wouldn’t have the capacity to do (or not do) them in the first place.
And so it strikes me as odd that the very individuals who “gather the sheep” into the flock of Christ for the sake of the church, recognizing the individual’s choice to unite with such a community, also bark dos and don’ts with impunity. If the question of true faith must be accepted by one’s deepest heart and vulnerable soul, so, too, do the actions which proceed from that faith. It is hardly logical to say you have the freedom to choose beforehand, but, thereafter being Christian, you may no longer choose your actions by your own freedom. Suddenly, the spiritual economy of value trumps individual discernment and we have an institution playing puppeteer to a mass of faithful. How’s that for the freedom of Christianity?
No, freedom isn’t in giving or having, but in being. For if we are, we are as we were meant to be. And it stands to reasos that sinful human beings will always be sinful by nature and therefore are not in any place to redeem themselves. It’s not as though a freedom is given in the act of penance or contrition which enables us freely to ensure our own salvation. Nonsense. It makes plain sense than a God who had a hand in our making wouldn’t abandon us even if we are insufferable human beings from birth until death—no more than a human father who loves his children would altogether give up on a son or daughter simply because they keep making mistakes.
Freedom, then? To be; to recognize what we have and what we are in our given context and act upon it as gift and grace would dictate. That is to say, we have our faculties and our unique skills and these are ours to put to use. Ours is the freedom not to qualify them or ourselves by them, but to use them as opportunity allows. To be free to live according to who we are, and not who we might be or should be.
And so, caged up myself, I rap on the bars for someone to let me out. It seems to me I put myself here, jailed because it seems safer behind bars. But what good am I locked up? What is the benefit of my giftedness encaged? I spend, therefore, these later years calling on friends and loved ones to let me out, that I may walk this world who I am with the light of God, being free to be. And that is, and shall be, all the difference.