Friday, July 4, 2014

True Freedom

As I add this post, it is July 4 and I wish all of you a blessed Independence Day. It is First Friday as well, our monthly renewal of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

This past Monday we had an important decision made by the US Supreme Court. It has ruled on the case brought up by Hobby Lobby and other companies against the Affordable Healthcare Act known as Obamacare. The company owners objected to supplying employee insurance which includes coverage of abortion and certain types of contraception. Many see it as a ruling about whether companies can claim religious rights in this country in the same way as individuals.

As you may know, the court decided that closely-held companies, such as those with family ownership, are not bound to supply their employees with benefits to items which the leaders of the company find morally objectionable. However, the Hobby Lobby ownership is not opposed to contraception as long as it has no possibility of aborting a newly formed embryo.

This seems reasonable but things are not always as simple as they seem. I don’t know much about business law, and I just read an interesting perspective from Fox News Latino by Raul Reyes which I link here. He claims Hobby Lobby sells many items made by China, a country with enforced limits in the number of children a family may have. He brings up other interesting facts and links to Latina organizations who seek to maintain the coverage for contraceptives in order to help against poverty (and this includes millions of Catholic women).

A “yea” for the decision was also found at Fox News by Robert Jeffress, a prominent pastor. The link is here. He cites other cases and mentions the pertinent fact that Americans should not be forced into supporting abortions if it is against their religious beliefs.

Many objections to this ruling tend toward the question of women’s rights more than religious rights. Much as I support women’s equality, there seems to be a disregard for whether the embryo is killed or not. A better answer is needed and at the least women need contraceptive products that will not cause abortion. But until then there are barrier contraceptives which are fairly cheap and though not as convenient as pills, a lot better in that sense than Natural Family Planning endorsed by Catholic leadership. Barrier contraception keeps the sperm from fertilizing the egg and therefore no abortion is involved.

When we evaluate political priorities, religious freedom in our country is one of them. It is how that works out for the best that is not always clear. Yet there is another even more important religious freedom, available to all individuals. Jesus Christ frees our bonds from the slavery to sin. Some may think that sounds strange, but those who have had this experience know exactly what I am talking about. Our humanity is imperfect, and though we can desire good things such as harmonious relationships, we also want many of the wrong things. We often seek to fulfill our desires to the detriment of others, want more than our share of money, and spend it on the things that purposely attract the envy of others. But when we surrender to Christ, we are released from these desires, and therefore feel the weight of needing these things fall away. Now, I am talking in general terms, and not all alcoholics are instantly released from their desire for alcohol (although I have heard that some are). People can become Christians and still have many faults. But some things do change right away, and I can tell you from experience it is plenty sufficient to notice the internal difference.

If, instead of turning to Christ, we persist in holding on to our personal shortcomings, we move on to the level of group failure when trying to work with other people of the same sort. This leads to never-ending strife. We start to wonder how we can find not only a common answer to each question but the right answer. Since Jesus Christ frees individuals from the bonds of sin when they repent, accept Him as their Savior, and give themselves to Him, does He also free human groups from collective sinfulness? I believe it is perhaps possible at some level, because the right answer is God’s answer. His is the true wisdom. This answer would be a spiritual one, though the political scene would certainly benefit. It would be enlightenment for loving our neighbors and enmeshing our various unique gifts for the benefit of all.

I have had experiences where I’ve sought His answer and things happen that are not only clear but ingenious and joyful. It is hard to describe but the way forward is opened up, at least until the next challenge arrives, where I again seek His wisdom. 

Remember the verse:
“…if then my people, upon whom my name has been pronounced, humble themselves and pray, and seek my face and turn from their evil ways, I will hear them from heaven and pardon their sins and heal their land.
2 Chronicles, 7:14, NABRE.
Like political freedom, spiritual freedom isn’t always easy, for individuals and groups as well. It is a long journey to get to the right place and we can be on the right road for a while but sometimes take dead-end detours. If we seek Jesus, He gets us on track. Though Church leaders and members are sinners, with Christ our whole outlook and our very being can change. Individual inner freedom is a glorious thing. It would be great for all Christians to get together and seek it for the collective body.

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