23 Jun Wednesday June 22
I would like to explore the idea and practice of freedom, especially as it was understood in the classical and hellenistic world. The Greek word for freedom (eleutheria and eleutheros) probably means when broken down “an unbound (loosened) person”, in other words, not a bound slave. The ancient polis of the Mediterranean world granted a person in one’s citizenship three things: “Plutos, paideia, Eleuthera” or “wealth, a cultural identity education, and freedom.” Because a person received this citizenship from the state with its three grants that come from and belong to the state, there was an understood and presupposed sense that the state taxed, controlled education, and established the parameters of one’s freedom.
Paul belongs to this Hellenistic world view, and it is this freedom which he is talking about. Note in his initial definition, it is the Christ of the reign of God (the new polity) who grants this freedom, In the same way, the wealth of the reign of God is grace and its education is discipleship enculturating us to live according to the reign of God, the city of God in Revelations or St. Augustine. Because this freedom is from Christ, the expectation is that we freely choose Christ and live in the Spirit, no longer citizens of this world of the flesh. The function is much more than any mere reciprocity, but a sort of deep friendship.
Our current culture is the United States, leaning as it is toward fascism, has forgotten or lost altogether an authentic meaning of our freedom as Paul would have it. It is a freedom for service to the idea of the common good. Bound by the world/flesh, we are not free to serve authentically, and so we have a culture of entitlement, privilege, and narcissism. Boasting of our so-called freedom, we in this country are the least of all really free people. Of course, all this will be very hard to understand, largely because Americans have the attention span of a white fly gnat, and were one to wade out into their souls one would not get wet feet.
An example of this today, is our love of guns and violence; we’ve because inextricably bound by them, and so we are not free, but rather dead in the flesh. Our national idolization of guns is an abomination before God. Note the episcopal silence on this issue who are so bound, that all they can do is offer words and prayers. Pious nosegays.