Sunday, May 07, 2006

Popular Notion of Freedom

“Behind this identification of freedom with autonomous spontaneity lies the notion of a self-defined and free-floating person. Strip down all the influences of time and place, abstract from culture and nurture, and then you’ll come to your authentic core. This core is who you truly are, the thinking goes – unique, unshaped, unconstrained.” (Volf, Free of Charge, 2005, p. 65).

This is the myth of freedom that Miroslav Volf so powerfully exposes. The lie of the autonomous spontaneous self is not the vision of freedom God has for humanity. Yet this lie is at the heart of the American Dream, a dream that saturates all of North American culture. The dream that supplants God’s place at the centre of ‘our own’ universe. It says we are good enough, smart enough and gosh darn it people like us enough to do anything we put our minds to. We are guaranteed success, whatever that means, on our own individual merits and abilities. This is a powerful myth and regularly destroys the lives of those unsuccess stories we chose to ignore. We love the success stories and we applaud the human spirit. But we close our doors to the struggle of the masses around us. This isn’t hope. There is no hope in such a corrupt vision of freedom. There is only death, competition, corruption and violence – sounds exactly like what we’ve reaped.



Paul W said...

I don't know what to say exactly in response, but I thought I'd leave a comment all the same. After doing five years of sociology, being a compulsive observer of human interaction and now working for the NZ Govt's Children, Youth and Families Service, I think the "popular notion of freedom" you and Volf describe is a complete myth too. Yet I wonder what notion of freedom does Volf (or yourself) propose instead. Please keep blogging about this topic.

One of Freedom said...

I am hoping to continue in this train of thought a bit. As someone who uses the word freedom quite a bit I think it is important that I define freedom. I have often used a concept of Freedom that is really intimately tied to God's heart or desires for an individual. Therefore, thinking of freedom as the result of relationship and set within the boundaries established by God (Creator). I think Volf does a great job of showing why autonomous spontaneous freedom is really a twisted vision of human freedom, which is where I want to go first. But definitely I want to see where his vision of freedom and my own connect.