I recently finished reading Defending the Free Market by Father Robert Sirico, a man whom I have greatly admired since two years ago, when I did an internship at the Acton Institute, a think tank he founded. Father Sirico’s penetrating insight on a wide variety of topics delivered in a clear, courageous yet friendly and often funny manner have made him one of my favorite speakers. As the title suggests, his book deals mostly with economic issues. However, his final chapter provides an explanation of the theological basis for his ideas. One comment that I found particularly intriguing was as follows:
“[F]reedom, despite the natural human yearning for it, is not a goal or virtue in itself. We have freedom for something. … Ultimately, the aim of freedom must be the truth, and the Truth. What else would be worthy of filling the void?”
We live in a culture that exalts freedom as almost the greatest good that exists. This seems to be one of the only things liberals and conservatives agree on. Granted, they focus on different kinds of freedom – conservatives tend to emphasize religious and economic freedom, while liberals speak more about freedom from oppression in various forms. But both groups share a longing for liberty.
But what is the point of being free? One might reply: to be able to make choices and perform actions that seem best to us. But is that always a good thing? What if the choices that seem best to us lead us to hurt others? What if they lead us to hurt ourselves? Our free decisions are truly good only if they enable us to pursue a goal that is truly good. That goal, then is the aim of freedom.
Sirico posits that this ultimate goal is “the truth, and the Truth.” The truth is an understanding of the world as it really is. It is necessary if we are to make the best possible choices, choices that bring real benefits in the real world. And if we pursue truth, we will find the Truth in the person of Jesus Christ.
This is where much of American culture has gone wrong. We praise freedom, but we scoff at truth, calling it bigoted, irrelevant or impossible to find. We treasure freedom and fight to the death to protect it, but we toss its goal aside and trample it underfoot.
Freedom is a good and beautiful thing, and we must do all we can to defend it. But at the same time, we must encourage each other to find the truth, the only thing that enables us to make free choices that are truly good. Only when we seek the truth will our freedom become complete, because we will receive the full, satisfying life that all free creatures strive for.