David Brooks is turning out to be a moral hero for me. Odd, because I am emphatically not a Republican and not politically conservative, yet he keeps speaking to and for me. His column yesterday about the way that marriage (including gay marriage) limits “freedom”should ring all sorts of bells for those of us who are Augustinian in theology. Augustine’s teaching about “free will,” so poorly understood by American Christians, arose out of his growing understanding of his bondage to his own desires. Making the shift from “the devices and desires of our own hearts” to God’s desires for us requires accepting limits on our vaunted freedom-which-is-not-really-freedom. Hence Augustine’s teaching that “to serve is to reign as a king,” more memorably paraphrased by the Book of Common Prayer as “whose service is perfect freedom.” The paradox here can be heightened by reference to Paul’s discussion of slavery to sin in Romans 7:14-25. John 8:34-36 makes exactly the same point. The contrast between slavery and freedom is more striking than that between service and freedom, though in essence they are the same.
Enacting “the freedom we have in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 2:4) in earthly life does indeed lead us to make binding commitments to others, in all sorts of ways, not only in marriage–but the imagery most often employed in Scripture, from Hosea to Ephesians 5:32, of God’s unconditional commitment to us is that of marriage.
Here is Brook’s column:
Here’s an Internet response from “Paul in Lower Manhattan” to Brook’s column which neatly expands the thought to suggest the way that restrictions on freedom can actually enhance freedom: