I've just returned—with 11 other Columbians—from the Love and Fidelity Network's annual conference. We were reminded, exhorted, and inspired with talks ranging from an analysis of US demographic trends—did you know that the fertility rate among college-educated whites is only 1.6?—to an exposé on the sordid links between pornography and sex trafficking. In between we had an update on the next wave of judicial challenges to marriage and a reflection on friendship as love of the highest dignity.
One of the great themes of the conference—and one of the great misunderstandings of the human person in the Sexual Revolution—has to do with freedom. Are we most free when we are most autonomous? There's an extent to which singleness is a time of real freedom to meaningfully invest one's life in ways that married people have a harder time doing. But the freedom of virtue is worlds away from the "free," no-commitment voyeurism of pornography.
This week I get to read two of the great epics of the Western poetic tradition, Paradise Lost and the Song of Roland. When Abidiel, a loyal angel, reprimands Satan for his rebellion, he warns him that freedom without obedience to God is delusional:
This is servitude,
To serve th' unwise, or him who hath rebelled
Against his worthier, as thine now serve thee
Thyself not free, but to thyself enthralled (VI. 178-81)
We can, and do, enthrall ourselves to ourselves, wrapping ourselves up in the most twisted and petty desires of our perennially selfish hearts. Only faithful, committed love of neighbor, friend, family, and God can break us free.