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Visible and Invisible Evil in Sound of Freedom

Sound of Freedom dares to tie indignation in the face of glaring evil back to a named God.

Sound Of Freedom Movie Poster - Photo by Angel Studios

Directed by the well-established Mexican cineast Alejandro Gómez Monteverde (Little Boy, 2015; Bella 2006), the biographical film Sound of Freedom (currently in theaters) is a story about the dark side of a modern world that, while having nominally abolished slavery, in practice fuels slavery of the worst kinds.  Significantly, our film closes with the admonition that, today, “human trafficking is a 150 billion dollar-a-year business” and that “the United States is one of the top destinations for human trafficking and is among the largest consumers of child sex”.  Indeed, “there are more humans trapped in slavery today than any other time in history—including when slavery was legal.  Millions of these slaves are children.”

Chronicling the odyssey of Timothy Ballard (interpreted by actor Jim Caviezel), a US Homeland Security family man gone rogue in order to save a Honduras child kidnapped and sold in Colombia to child predators, Sound of Freedom does more than expose a nightmare that globalist public discourse tends to hide in the “entertainment” closet of social progressivism; for the film dares to tie indignation in the face of glaring evil back to a named God.  The appeal to God confirms the sentiment that we all are to fight for justice in the face of at least one of the blatant abominations of our times, namely the global-scale marketing of children as sex slaves.  The message to be gleaned between the lines is that, falling short of openness to divine transcendence, calls for justice rapidly decay into conformism.

As our story unfolds—and as its hero embarks on a large sting operation that will lead to the recovery of dozens of South American children from the fangs of grotesque brutes (though, at the end of the film, we learn that Tim will continue working with Colombian authorities to free over 120 children)—the audience is tacitly invited to awaken to the thought that in the absence of religious faith man tends to fall into the disgraceful habit of sweeping all that offends the eye in our daily life under the rug of an official mind-numbing discourse based on mechanically conceived and applied rules and regulations.

It would seem that closure to God does not only weaken us in the face of evil, but render us utterly hapless before the temptation of explaining evil away, whether as a fatality, or as a trivial contingency.  In this respect, Sound of Freedom invites its audience to discern faith in God, not merely as means to self-empowerment, but as path allowing us to transcend subjection to compulsion, even in an age swearing by the ineluctability of lust for power.

Not surprisingly Sound of Freedom has come under fire by mass media outlets that have promptly linked the film to “right-wing” conspiracy theories assumed to be extremely dangerous to the thriving of a free society.[1] But then why would our film carry the word “freedom” in its title?  Why would it refer to children liberated from atrocious enslavement, as carriers of the sound of freedom?  “Sound” and not yet “voice,” arguably insofar as liberated children have yet to articulate a sentiment that had been violently repressed by their horrific predators—though, a first angelic articulation is voiced in the film’s closing scene, warning us that, “we, God’s children, are not for sale.”  And yet, the film has been disparaged in the name of freedom, leaving us faced with asking if what is really at stake here is the meaning or actual content of freedom.  To wit, it would seem that what the makers of Sound of Freedom mean by freedom is incompatible with what the film’s detractors mean.  If in the former case freedom is at once natural and divinely-rooted, in the latter case it appears to be socially constructed and cut off from any reference to divine transcendence.  Why, major critics[2] appear to have been disturbed, even viscerally offended by the film, not on account of its sometimes admittedly modest acting performances,[3] but on account of the film’s evoking the lingering relevance of traditional, perhaps even patriarchal religion in a globalist age in which paternal authority is by and large at best tolerated, at least as long as it remains cut off from any religious foundation.  In short,  Monteverde’s sin would be that of having defended a dangerous father (uncomfortably “white,” masculine and Christian to boot) and a dangerous God, neither of whom meet the intransigeant demands and expectations of a planetary idolatrous entertainment industry and its massified devotees across the globe.

It would seem that we are faced here with a radical or irrational disjuncture between “conservatives” and “progressives,” even a violent conflict between two mutually exclusive conceptions of the human being.  While in one case we are free by nature in the respect that we freely desire to reflect a divine good in our daily lives, in another case we are slaves by nature, although we can be free “historically,” in a speech sheltering us from the vision of evil, if only in the name of justice mechanically conceived.

Those caring for natural freedom are called to fight, at times ferociously and cunningly, against those of us living in denial of natural freedom; and to find in their daily victories their sole satisfaction; whence the film’s heroes’ occasional pain-ridden smiles accompanying temporary success over traffickers of children.  Yet, precisely here should we arguably not smile, insofar as visible evils stand as tips of an iceberg of evil the bulk of which remains altogether unaddressed by our film, namely the reason why today the abhorrent trade of children is a business booming on an unprecedented scale, worldwide.

It is not enough to intimate, as our film does if only ever-so faintly, that belief in God would have averted the rise of social evils; for the loss of religious belief in America was not its own cause; nor, was it freely chosen, but compelled by “underlying” ideas that remain open to question.[4]

If a successful battle against unpardonable crimes such as child trafficking is to be waged, that battle is to tackle the roots of the Gargantuan baobab, not merely its superficial ramifications, even at the risk of stepping on a few “corporate” toes.  Why, to be sure, if mass media outlets have found our film’s religious-minded exposure and indictment of visible evils offensive, how much more (and more tellingly) would those same outlets manifest indignation in the face of a story exposing the invisible roots of the evidently horrific phenomenon of a pedocriminality involving the systemic torture/rape and psychological manipulation of most vulnerable embodied souls?

Our film’s heroes are likely to concede that the war against pedocriminality could be overall or in the long run a lost cause, but if it is one, then our greatest battle, at once most important and most urgent, is the one against the invisible roots of visible evils: no passionate appeal to God could make our battling against things unseen, expendable.  In the absence of a reflective investigation of “first thing” or principles, sentiment, if only one open to divine transcendence, remains an inadequate basis for a sustained war against evil.  The appeal to God can work “locally,” but evil knows no local boundaries, deserving to be addressed in the element of a reflection aimed at the massive part of the iceberg that eludes, by its very nature, our conventional vision.

Lest the disapprobation of manifest evils become a distraction from the roots of manifest evils, a battle would need to be fought against hidden evils, or evils constituting an unsurpassable obstacle to the blooming of our progressive societies.  As long as we do not ask rigorously why the “business” of the mercification (or conversion into sheer merchandise) of children is booming in our age of global “transparency,”[5] our condemnation of the phenomenon—even when supported by warm and emboldening feelings—cannot but alienate us from the phenomenon’s source.

Should we be surprised that the dehumanizing phenomenon testified to by Sound of Freedom is exploding in the belly of a world conceived as an open marketplace dominated by the dogma of radical historical immanence?  Is the mercification of children not a necessary logical consequence of what the 19th century announced as “the death of God”—a death that, as Leo Strauss would remind us, is, first and foremost, a philosophical problem?  Does the mechanistic or “positivist” Godless conception of our everyday-life problems and of the institutions called to manage them (government, schools, hospitals, etc.) not define us, too, as Godless and so as “objectively” shut to the very possibility of any divine providence?  Have the rapidly growing legions of rapacious predators of children in our “free societies” not been systematically raised to become what they are, namely bundles of irrational feelings or passions tragically repressed by a dehumanizing machinery of state, one that consistently denies in all-too-practical terms our humanity and above all the humanity of our children, which is to say the (natural) inalienability of their freedom?  Is the global market not raising all of us to become social ticking bombs who are privately cultivating a madness that sooner or later—and more sooner than later—explodes out of the straightjacket of the modern chimera of “the sphere of Cartesian privacy” (of the autonomous Cartesian ego/self)?  Is the tip of the iceberg addressed by our conservative voices not but the manifestation of a deranged imagination produced as the direct result of an upbringing calling us to take God’s death for granted by rejecting any rational tie to divine intelligence, which is to say by shunning natural reason (as opposed to the instrumental/mechanistic reason of our celebrated “Open Society”) as the worst of all possible evils, insofar as it threatens to undermine the very foundations of our “free world”?

Disgracefully, today the foregoing questions are hardly ever raised in public, be it by progressives or conservatives.  Public discourse is saturated, as are our inherited institutions, by the compulsion to deny the invisible bulk of social icebergs as a fantasy, and those calling our attention to it as vile “conspiracy theorists”.  For progressives to attack Sound of Freedom as the voice of dangerously deluded suspicions that a conspiracy might be tying our governments to the booming of child trafficking, is ironic.  For the “tying” in question is hardly a secret.  The “conspiracy,” where all were told, is the public one that entire populations appear to have signed up for if only unwittingly, to blind themselves to the reason why visible evil is globally incited by the very institutions that condemn it in words alone.

It should be evident that “belief” alone will not save our age from barbarism.  No return to old beliefs could ever suffice to spare us the agony of global tribal warfare.  Attention should be raised to the form of belief and so to the intelligible context (veritable “community of ideas”) of any return to beliefs that contemporary trans-humanists are otherwise likely to consider offensive.  Not belief alone, but belief in the element of reflection, or “faith seeking understanding” (fides quaerens intellectum, as our medieval forefathers would have it) as opposed to belief based on pragmatic calculations or cunning, is capable of carrying us out of the swamp of barbaric diatribes onto the plains where common problems are encountered in dispassionate dialogue.

What, on a final analysis, has Sound of Freedom achieved?  In calling our attention to a visible evil,  the film has provoked the ire of a globalist regime dedicated ostensibly to concealing evil behind the smokescreen of a discourse that is becoming as violent as the physical violence it pretends to overcome.  But that is not all, for the film’s passionate invocation of God as ground for fighting visible evils tends to distract everyone—both progressives and conservatives—from a dispassionate or rational invocation of God as ground for cutting through the mountain of invisible evil upon which we all stand together, no matter what we believe.

  1. Our film’s public image was hardly helped by the film’s having been distributed by an “independent” Utah-based media company, or its portraying its protagonist, the Mormon Tim Ballard, as a hero.
  2. The critiques under consideration have swarmed the internet, deserving no further naming, here.
  3. Over the past few years, other films about child trafficking—from Bessette’s 2012 Trade of Innocents, to Stallone’s 2019 Rambo: Last Blood—have been decisively more vulgarly-captivating or “entertaining” than Sound of Freedom. None of them, to my knowledge, have tied resistance against evil to religious manhood.
  4. On the contemporary tyranny of bad ideas, see Arthur DiClementi and Nino Langiulli, Brooklyn Existentialism: Voices from the Stoop Explaining How Philosophical Realism Can Bring About the Restoration of Character, Intelligence and Taste. South Bend, Indiana: Fidelity Press, 2008.
  5. See my “The Ideology of Transparency: Creating the New Sodom and Gomorrah,” Voegelin View,


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