January 26, 2015

Dear Friends and Family of the Diocese of Eau Claire,

Back in the early to mid-1960’s I remember reading from one of the national weekly magazines, Look, Life, or The Saturday Evening Post, an article that advocated construction of a new statue in San Francisco Bay. It was to complement the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor and be called the Statue of Responsibility. Unlike the Statue of Liberty which was a gift from France, the author stated that we should build the Statue of Responsibility ourselves. I was a teenager when I read the article, and I have considered it a good idea ever since.

Our nation is founded upon liberty. The U.S. Constitution maintains that the power in our country resides not in government but in the people. Liberty means we are free to speak and act by our own choosing, but how far can a person go in exercising his or her liberty? When carried to its logical conclusion, extreme liberty spirals down into chaos, violence, and warfare. The French Revolution proved this to be the case. Somehow, liberty requires self-restraint, responsibility, in order for all members of a society to benefit.

I have mentioned this before, but the concept is critical. The core of liberty resides in our relationship with God. As we acknowledge God’s power, his love, and his relationship with us, we understand where true authority resides. James Madison, in his determination to proclaim religious freedom, demanded that no religious group or leader had the right to intervene or claim exclusive dominion over this fundamental relationship between a person and God.

I wish I could ask Madison what he thought of Jesus’ Summary of the Law—to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. You could say this is self-centered liberty extended into responsibility. As we accept God’s grace and his invitation to love ourselves, we extend that love back to God and to other people. It is in this connection that liberty and responsibility become one. When we are free to choose, but in the name of responsibility consider God and other people, we discover a joy that surpasses human understanding. It is the gift of love, and it ultimately comes from God. With my love and best wishes, I am,

Your brother in Christ,