Andrew P. Napolitano
– Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)
When American settlers were oppressed by British governance, the word most often used in brochures, editorials, and sermons was not “security” or “taxes”; it was “freedom”. Yet two intolerable acts of Parliament so violated personal freedom that they irreparably severed ties with the motherland.
The first was the Stamp Act of 1765, which required settlers to have government stamps on all documents in each household. It was applied by British soldiers who used general warrants, issued by a secret court in London, to search settler possessions, apparently looking for stamps.
These general warrants, like those dealt with today by the Foreign Intelligence Review Court in Washington, DC, did not specifically describe the location to be searched or the person or thing to be seized. Rather, they allowed the keeper to search wherever he wanted and seize anything he found – as FISA warrants currently do, in direct violation of the Constitution.
The second intolerable act was the Revenue Act of 1767, the proceeds of which used to pay the salaries of colonial officials and the king’s clergy, thus ensuring their loyalty.
The stamp law attacked the right to be left alone at home, and the income law forced settlers to pay for a religious establishment. These two British laws made many settlers realize that they needed to separate from Britain and form a new country, in which the government would protect freedom, not attack it. Fifteen years later, they won the American Revolution.
Today, the loss of freedom takes many forms.
Sometimes it’s straightforward, like when Congress dictates how to get health insurance and imposes taxes on those who don’t comply.
Sometimes it’s subtle, like when the government borrows $ 3 trillion a year and as a result our money and assets lose much of their value and our descendants will be heavily taxed to pay off the loans.
Sometimes it is secret, such as when the government reads emails and texts and tracks cell phone movements, all without a search warrant. And when it uses drones to kill people, the government either hates it or fears it, without a declaration of war or due process.
Freedom is the ability of each person to make personal choices without government authorization – to exercise free will. Free will is the natural characteristic that we share with God. He created us in his image and likeness. As He is perfectly free, so are we.
When the government takes away freedom – whether by decree, legislation or referendum – it steals a gift we have received from God, it violates natural law and the Constitution, and it prevents us from seeking the truth. Freedom is the essence of humanity. No one can achieve potential, happiness, or truth without it.
We know from the events of 2,000 years ago this week – in the police state of the Roman Empire of Judea – that freedom is also the essential means of uniting with truth. For Catholics, the personification, the incarnation and the perfect manifestation of the truth is Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Son of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
On the first Maundy Thursday, Jesus attended a traditional Jewish Passover Seder. Catholics believe that in this Last Supper Jesus performed two miracles so that we could remain united with him. He transformed ordinary bread and wine into his own body, blood, soul, and divinity, and he empowered his disciples and their ordained successors to do the same. This Jewish Seder was the first Catholic Mass.
The next day – the first Good Friday – the Roman government crucified Jesus because they feared that by claiming to be the Son of God, he was instigating a political revolution. He fomented a revolution, but it was in the hearts and minds and souls of men and women.
Jesus had the freedom to reject his horrific death, but he exercised his agency to accept it so that we could know the truth. The truth is that He – and we who have faith and hope – would rise from the dead.
At Easter, that “distant divine event”, Jesus rose from the dead. By doing this, He has shown us that by living we can free our souls from the bondage of sin and our agency from the oppression of government because after death we of faith, hope and good with him.
The resurrection of Jesus is the linchpin of human existence, as Tennyson wrote, “towards which all creation moves”. With it, life is worth living, regardless of its painful costs or losses. Without it, life has no meaning, whatever its fleeting joys or triumphs. Easter has a meaning that is both incomprehensible and simple. It is incomprehensible that a human being had the freedom to rise from the dead. It’s simple because this human being was and is God.
What does Easter mean? Easter means there is hope for the dead. If there is hope for the dead, then there is hope for the living. But like the settlers who fought against the king’s oppression, we the living can only realize our hopes if we have freedom. And that requires a government that protects freedom, not a government that attacks it.
America today is bleak and frightening. The government is waging unnecessary wars abroad and is putting us in a health madness at home. But faith in the resurrection of Jesus – which is also a hope for our own – inspires the souls of the faithful and full of hope with joy.