For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another.
G.K. Chesterton once remarked that he found it funny, but not ultimately strange, that when he was coming to America for a visit, he was asked to fill out forms stating he was not an anarchist, did not advocate the overthrow of the American government by force, and was not a polygamist. It was funny because he thought of all those honest anarchists, bomb-throwers and polygamists all dutifully giving true replies on this form on their way to destroy American civilization. But it was not strange because, as he said, “America is a nation with the soul of a church.” That is, it is the only country in the world founded on a creed rather than ethnicity. Seen in this light, those questions make sense because they are the sort of questions one asks when attempting sort out those who hold to a Jeffersonian democratic creed from those who reject it. In order to make America work as this melting pot for the world it is necessary that the melting pot not melt. And that means something like a creed. America copies this idea from a much older creed: the Catholic creed which is much less subject to melting and capable of domesticating an even wilder variety of humans. In a time when the America that Chesterton knew is much closer to melting its melting pot in the abuse of freedom and notion that “my personal truth of the moment” justifies everything from incest to abortion to euthanasia, it is good to remember that our freedom is given, not so we can do whatever we like, but so that we can love God and each other in word and in truth.
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