In light of the Supreme Court’s recent declaration regarding Hobby Lobby, and in commemoration of our country’s celebration of freedom on July 4th, the question and essence of freedom is worth reflection.
A striking chapter in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s book, The Brothers Karamazov, presents a poem written by Ivan, a young man in jail for patricide.
The setting of his poem is sixteenth century Seville. Jesus comes to visit his people; some recognize him and call out to him for help and healing. Then on the steps of the Cathedral, Jesus encounters the bier of a young girl of seven being carried out for burial. The crowd begs him to raise her, and he does. Watching from the other side of the street is the Cardinal, the Grand Inquisitor, a tall ascetic man of ninety years who finally orders Jesus’ arrest.
That night, the Inquisitor visits Jesus in jail and describes Jesus’ error in presuming that human beings want to be free. He illustrates this mistake by pointing to the temptation in the desert when Jesus refuses the devil’s solicitations to multiply bread, hurl himself off the temple parapet, and finally reverence Satan himself. The Inquisitor and those in league with him consider themselves martyrs and heroes for taking upon themselves the “burden” of freedom and relieving human beings of this awful challenge. He argues that humans do not want to be free: they want to be safe. Finally the Inquisitor, having finished his charges against Jesus, opens the cell door. Jesus rises and, still without a word, kisses him and leaves.
The recent Hobby Lobby victory directly challenges the Grand Inquisitor’s position of valuing safety over freedom by appealing to, ultimately, the person of Jesus Christ. In Him is freedom from slavery, sin, and death. In Him is the yoke of individualism lifted. And in Him is the freedom to truly live. Our country’s freedom is a reflection of the freedom that comes from receiving Truth, Jesus Christ. May we turn our hearts to Him in a special way this July 4th to receive the only Truth that sets us free.