Catholics: Make America Truly Free

On the subject of freedom, the Christian cannot agree with the vision presented by the world, and we should not be tricked into compromising.


July 4, 2024

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What does it mean to be free? Our political understanding of freedom is changing in ways that are sometimes subtle. Catholics run the risk of accepting at face value a narrow view of “political freedom” and sacrificing what it means truly to be free.

Bill Maher now has more in common with an average Catholic voter than we might have predicted. He recognizes that abortion is killing (though he thinks this killing of defenseless human beings is laudable). He argues against the rabid identity politics of the Left and calls them on their excesses, especially in their curtailing of individual freedom. Laughing at Maher’s amusing takedowns of the new Democratic sacred cows, Catholics might be lulled into a false sense of fellowship with someone who has a flawed and limited understanding of the human person.

Maher would not, of course, describe himself as conservative. But if being a “conservative” means preserving traditions and values, is Maher not conserving liberalism from when he came of age? 

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The eccentric futurist and cultural commentator Robert Anton Wilson observed, “It only takes 20 years for a liberal to become a conservative without changing a single idea.” Catholics should keep this in mind as cultural conservatism welcomes into the fold an expanding cast of characters. Especially on the subject of freedom, the Christian cannot agree with the vision presented by the world, and we should not be tricked into compromising.

Political philosophers far more astute than I can offer historical and legal arguments for various forms of government. That is not what we are concerned with here. If we accept that the role of legitimate government is to protect the God-given freedoms of individuals, what is the freedom that individuals possess? The new “conservative” vision of freedom can be summed up in a word: power. 

Let’s start with a goofy but illustrative example. JP Sears is a hilarious California hippie turned Texas comedian. He’s very “pro-freedom,” but he is fairly limited in his explanation of what freedom entails. In marketing for his CBD company, he states “You’re only as free as your health is strong.”  

We could dismiss this as merely CBD marketing, but the statement can legitimately cause us to evaluate what is missing in his worldview. If he believes what he says, what he means by freedom is merely license. With this vision of “freedom,” a person who is sick or otherwise weakened has his freedom diminished. If a person is oppressed, he loses freedom, not merely the ability to exercise it. 

Other examples are rife within the “manosphere,” the cultural affinity group that advocates for masculine dominance. The manosphere equates masculinity with rule by the strongest. The so-called “high-value man” in the manosphere is one who is physically strong and financially successful. Marriage is often outright discouraged because it is seen as impinging on a man’s freedom, which he maintains through libertine shows of dominance. For a growing number of “men’s advocates,” freedom is nothing other than the strength to do whatever you want.

In the Christian worldview, the Cross—a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles—is the means of our salvation. What, then, is the freedom that Christ offers? Freedom for the Christian is not found in self-sufficiency but in our weakness

The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that freedom can only be found in choosing the good. Paragraph 1733 elaborates, “The more one does what is good, the freer one becomes.” There is not necessarily an exterior, material indication of that freedom that comes through uniting oneself to the good. In fact, the person who chooses the good—exercising God-given freedom—may reduce his standing in the world by doing so. We have only to look at the lives of many of the saints for proof of this.

Freedom to do what is good, even when it comes at great personal cost, is not merely one form of freedom; this is the only true freedom that exists. Paragraph 1733 continues, “There is no true freedom except in the service of what is good and just. The choice to disobey and do evil is an abuse of freedom and leads to ‘the slavery of sin.’”  Freedom to do what is good, even when it comes at great personal cost, is not merely one form of freedom; this is the only true freedom that exists. Tweet This

Some of the increasingly “conservative” advocates in our society not only do not understand what freedom is but, through their warped understanding of freedom as mere license, enslave themselves to their own desires. Only when, through virtue, we align our desires ever more closely with the good can we learn to exercise freedom for our eternal good, not merely immediate, material gain.

Because it remains true that the enemy of my enemy is my friend, we should collaborate with people who support political “freedom” when it is convenient. Even if these newfound conservatives can only conceive of freedom as mere license, as political actors in a democratic republic, they are legitimate allies on some issues. The tyrannically inclined seek to stifle individual choice in all its forms. However, Catholics should realize how shallow freedom as the world sees it is and offer an example of interior freedom that can encompass human suffering and weakness.

[Image Credit: Shutterstock]


  • Anna Reynolds

    Anna Kaladish Reynolds attended the University of Dallas and received an MA in Theology from Ave Maria University. She is a wife and mother, who lives in the great state of Texas, and she writes at

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