Get Free

Everybody wants to be free, right?

We read that the truth will set us free.

We’re told Christ came to free us, and that if he sets us free, we are free indeed.

One of the liberties we in the U.S. at least claim to prize is the freedom to speak the truth as we see it. Yet we allow dogmas, editors, critical readers, and the marketplace, to censor us.

The Brothers Karamazov addresses the concept of freedom. In the “Grand Inquisitor” chapter, Dostoyevski sets up a drama in which Christ returns to earth in medieval Europe, gets taken captive by the Inquisition and told by the Inquisitor why he failed: because people don’t really want the freedom he granted.

What people want, the Inquisitor contends, is what Satan, while tempting Christ at the end of his 40-day fast in the desert, offered to help Christ provide them:

Miracle. A show so grand it would stop all questioning.

Mystery. Idols to worship.

Authority. A source of unambiguous, strict rules that everybody must follow, so they won’t feel alone and different.

As writers, we can’t afford to be like the people Satan (in the Inquisitor’s story) describes.

If we hope to leave ourselves open to the spirit that moves us, we need to question everything, beware of idols such as the desire for fame and wealth, and to express our uniqueness.

If we’re Christian writers, redemption can free us from the demons of guilt and shame. If this freedom allows us to shed legalistic inhibitions, fear of risking heresy, and whatever hang-ups are blocking the messages the spirit is ready to give us, I suspect we can create more powerful art than writers who haven’t found the ticket to freedom.