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True liberalism is found rooted in the teachings of Christianity

James Bundy argues that the philosophy of liberalism has lost its way in the 21st century.

I recently have been reading works by some of the saints and noticed they all had something in common: the promotion of liberty. At first I was confused as much of political liberalism today would stand in opposition to Catholic social teaching. But then it clicked. When the saints talk about the promotion of liberty, they are talking about the liberty of the soul. When this became apparent, it opened up my eyes to the wonder of their works.

When we talk about liberty, or liberalism, in the 21st century, we talk about the liberty of the body. That is why we associate liberalism with abortion, gay marriage, euthanasia and the testing of embryos. This, however, is a misunderstanding of the notion of liberalism.

Origins

The origins of this misunderstanding is clear: as a society we lost the concept of the afterlife, and particularly hell. The reasons for this are wide and varied so will not be discussed in this article, but a short summary would be the prominence of science and lack of belief. The important aspect, however, is that people stopped fearing hell, and therefore, stopped fearing eternal damnation.

A rejection of the teaching of hell is a rejection of the soul. If one does not have a soul, then when one’s body dies, one would be fully dead. If one does have a soul, however, one’s life continues after one’s Earthly death. The acknowledgment of the soul transforms how one views the world, and therefore, transforms how one views the notion of liberty.

By advocating that we all have a soul, Christianity makes clear that earth is not our final destination. A greater destiny awaits, and it is our responsibility to follow the will of God to get there.

Temptation

Earthly temptations, however, halt us on our tracks. Liberty in a Christian sense, therefore, is the ability to overcome earthly temptations preventing us from following God’s will. As God is love, truth, and the creator, this can only be a message of hope.

If one does not have a soul, it is impossible to liberate a soul. The only thing you can liberate is the body. The 21st century sadly does not have the soul as a prominent thought and that is why liberalism is associated with the liberation of the body.

There is a sense of irony here. Lust, pride and greed can be described as bodily temptations. The will to enjoy pleasure without responsibility. The desire to judge others while not criticising yourself. Wanting to become rich in material goods for the sake of being rich. All of these temptations, if acted upon, lead you away from God.

Path to God

Liberalism of the 21st century, therefore, gives authority to the very actions that leads us away from God. It adds fuel to the fire of temptation, burning the path to God. God, however, is a greater source of authority and will always build us new paths to lead us to him. It is our responsibility to put out the fire of temptation within us to spark the flame of the Holy Spirit in the soul.

Liberty of the soul, therefore, requires discipline of the body. It requires the commitment to stop indulging in lust, pride and greed. We must seek true love, treat others how we want to be treated, and give to the poor—both materially and spiritually. Furthermore, this cannot be simply intellectual acknowledgment. This commitment must be placed in the centre of our hearts and acted upon in our everyday lives.

There is another clear distinction between liberating the body and the soul. The culture of liberating the body has resulted in a liberal group think: you must act and think in the same way as mainstream thought or you are excluded from the group. This fails to uphold liberalism as liberalism is supposed to make you freer to express yourself.

Liberation

Liberating the soul, however, is an expression of yourself. The best visualisation I can provide is Dante’s Divine Comedy. Using the teachings of our Lord and his Church, we can critique our own life to see where we have gone wrong (Hell). We then set out to uphold the teachings and change our lives accordingly (Purgatory). And if successfully achieved, we can enter Paradise (Heaven).

As you can see from Dante, the liberty of the soul requires a spiritual journey within yourself.

The difference between liberating the body and the soul can be best described by St Augustine when he said: “I was looking for you outside myself and I did not find the God of my own heart.” Liberating the body is trying to find truth and love in earthly materials. Liberating the soul is trying to find truth through God.

Greater good

All Catholics must promote the liberation of the soul. We must explain clearly that we do not follow strict rules in our conduct because we like following strict rules, but because we see that there is a greater good to be achieved.

And in that journey towards the greater good, we learn much more about ourselves. We will see our flaws and shortcomings. We will learn ways to try and limit the impact that these have on our lives, and sometimes we find ways to overcome them. By finding the God of your own heart, you will find yourself on the path of salvation.

This is why, simply put, Christianity represents true liberalism.

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