Alongside the Enlightenment, a mature understanding of the individual emerged. Freedom as a right of the sovereign individual became a pillar to understand how states ought to work. Individuals consented to be governed by a vote.
This basic liberal idea might be captured by John Locke’s affirmation of the individual’s right to life, liberty, and property; or in the USA’s declaration of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
As a nation founded on liberty or as the anthem notes, being “the land of free,” the USA basically is a liberal nation. Whether that means liberal right (republican) or liberal left (Democrats), both sides affirm the freedom of the individual, a government by the consent of the people, a basic principle of non-intervention of government except when needed (both major parties disagree where on the scale the line is to intervene), and so on.
Now Canada has not escaped this liberal foundation—how could it? We too have basic freedoms set out in our charter: “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice” (§7).
In any case, almost nobody disagrees on the right of liberty, but then we might ask: was there liberty before the 17th century? The answer is of course.
Even Martin Luther could write on the Freedom of Christian in the 16th century. Freedom does not require the Modern West, but rather an idea that individuals or the polis can freely associate and obligate itself.
Thomas Cranmer (d. 1556), one of my heroes of the faith, lived as a subject of the crown. Loyalists from the Colonies came up to Canada due to a certain set of loyalties to the crown, one which did not deny every sense of freedom.
The 1669 Bill of Rights, for example, founded itself about even earlier ancient rights. In this sense, it conserved ancient ideas and applied them to a new situation.
What I am driving at here is that our fear of loss of freedom at this very moment seems to overlook this entire history of rights and liberties under all sorts of governments whether crowns, princes, parliament, or whatever else.
The fear as I see it expressed by many a Christian and many a voter rightly sees potential for loss of liberty; but the actions in light of that fear seem to betray a sort of anxiety that is unbecoming of a person of faith in the One who knows and controls all, the Lord of all the Earth, the judge of the living and the dead.
This anxious fear has led to many to betray their Christian duty of love, joy, and peace in place of anger, fear, and loathing.
Christ said that people would hate us for his name’s sake. He did not say the world would hate us for our behaviour. That is, Paul tells the Thessalonians that they ought to have good reputation among outsiders. He tells Timothy that elders must too.
Christian ethics are good and people know they are good. They are offended at the cross, not necessarily because of our good works. (But that does not mean no one will be offended because of our good works). We should show, as Paul says, perfect courtesy to all people (Titus 3:1–2).
But the fear of loss, of loss of liberty, has created a Christian ethic of fear and anger, of battle and bickering. It is not Christian, simply put. Neither is the fear of death due to the virus since that very fear is what Christ conquered by his Incarnation (Heb 2:14–15).
There are two doors that lead to ruin here. Fear of virus and fear of loss. God is our inheritance, however, despite what may happen.
Nothing here means we give up natural goods like government or freedom. That’s not the point at all. But everything depends on us remaining Christian during this time. Everything depends on the Spirit’s indwelling us and our love and good deeds.
To lose that and gain freedom is to become a slave to sin and lose everything.