This is a fascinating interview with Patrick Deneen at the ever-worthwhile Comment magazine (subscribe now for $30/year!)

Liberalism ends in slavery because its notion of freedom involves the pursuit of desires that can never be sated, that can never be fulfilled. A liberal arts education understood that, and part of what made you free was your ability to control and not to give rein to those desires. And broadly speaking, this education was realized, for the mass of humanity (many of whom didn’t have access to education), through culture. That culture was the form in which this education was effected and realized. Culture is broadly speaking the form in which, you could say, this education occurs. It suffuses a person’s life. A culture is broadly speaking a collective form of education in learning what it is to be free from the enslavement of our desires.

In general, it seems like the cultural/social/political programs on offer are either trying to decrease the fatality of enslavement to our desires or trying to allow people get as far away as possible from people suffering the consequences of enslavement to desire. The latter, even in its “anti-liberal” forms, is often just another species of liberalism. Neither is particularly appealing to me as a follower of Jesus.

You can see within movements like #MeToo the longing for a “collective form of education in learning what it is to be free from the enslavement of our desires”, but without a rigorous moral framework and a paideia for learning how to be free, I don’t think we’ll be particularly successful. If anything, what we need is a generation’s worth of culture creators who celebrate limits, unchosen obligations, and freedom from the enslavement to our desire.

Posted by Matthew Loftus

Matthew Loftus teaches and practices Family Medicine in Baltimore and East Africa. His work has been featured in Christianity Today, Comment, & First Things and he is a regular contributor for Christ and Pop Culture. You can learn more about his work and writing at www.MatthewAndMaggie.org

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