Thursday, April 06, 2006

Freedom to create the path

Another book for my wishlist: American Gospel : God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation by Jon Meacham. Newsweek has an excerpt here.

I love how the excerpt points out that America has been diverse since the beginning. Not even entirely a Christian nation at the outset, we included Jews and made treaties with Muslims. The religious freedom of the States was a magnet for those who couldn’t find it in their homelands.

I think not having a state religion is one of the greatest strengths of America. Freedom to choose devotion—or not—guarantees that if we’re pursuing a spiritual path at all, it’s because we really are engaged. Freedom to break from the tradition of our elders also ensures that if we continue with those traditions, it’s because we value them. It makes religion stronger to have adherents involved willingly, even if the numbers ebb and flow.

Freedom of religion implies freedom of thought. And free thought is the engine of progress and growth. I believe the American foundation of freedom made it possible for the country to be the birthplace of the teaching I follow—Christian Science. This, of course, makes me deeply grateful for the freedom that allowed Mary Baker Eddy to forge ahead with her movement. She writes, “Spiritual rationality and free thought accompany approaching Science, and cannot be put down” (Science and Health). You can’t have one without the other.

So I can hardly at this point try to coerce people to my way of thinking. If it’s freedom that got us here, it’s freedom that will continue to strengthen us. I need to respect and defend the individual right to choose—or not choose—their own spiritual path.

I didn’t always understand this. As a young woman, I was quite dogmatic, with a superior attitude about my faith and a wish for everyone else to embrace it. This made me inaccessible to my friends when they were in need. It wasn’t until years later, through my own growth and mistakes, that I began to see that each of us is on our own path and each of those paths is precious.

This morning when thinking about the path I'm on, I suddenly saw it as hacking my way through a jungle. In other words, the path isn’t already established, all paved and golden. It’s a path *I’m creating* with the lessons I learn and the direction I choose. Reminds me of this passage from Eddy’s book Science and Health:

A book introduces new thoughts, but it cannot make them speedily understood. It is the task of the sturdy pioneer to hew the tall oak and to cut the rough granite. Future ages must declare what the pioneer has accomplished.

--vii:22

The path is ours to create. Freedom makes that easier, even if it seems chaotic while we’re all hacking away. And respect for each other can bring us companions for the journey.


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3 Comments:

At 4/06/2006 11:03:00 AM, Blogger SBB said...

Laura:

Thank you for all of your insightful and inspiring posts this week. And I've loved the Jacob and Job reminders in this week's bible lesson - we can hold on through the human struggle to God's blessing.

Wanted to specifically thank you for the link to your earlier Principle post at the beginning of the week. I hadn't considered "placement" as an attribute of Principle before and that idea was very helpful in situation that I have been working through recently.

Thank you for ALL that you do!

-Diane

 
At 4/06/2006 12:21:00 PM, Blogger Laura said...

thanks so much Diane, and thanks for your participation.

@}-->--
Laura

 
At 4/07/2006 11:04:00 PM, Anonymous Emily said...

Thank you. I just had a conversation with a friend not so long ago about the difference between spirituality and fear. To my way of thinking, government-mandated religion and policies that attempt to legislate morality are worthless substitutes for true spiritualization of thought.

It's rather like Valentine's Day. When my husband and I began dating, I told him I did not celebrate Valentine's Day, because I felt that it was a racket. The companies that sell candy and flowers and greeting cards have conspired to convince women that men don't love them unless they shuck out hundreds of dollars for roses, candy, and dinner out (all of which mysteriously triple or quadruple in price on Valentine's Day), and women, buying into this line of bull, get mad or hurt if the men don't jump when Madison Avenue says jump. The men, knowing this, buy the requisite flowers, candy, and dinner out because they are afraid they will get in trouble if they don't.

They have basically reduced what is supposed to be a romantic holiday celebrating love to an expensive chore. Ron puts the seat down and picks his socks up off the floor because he is afraid he will get in trouble if he doesn't. Buying me flowers to stay out of trouble is no more romantic than taking out the trash. Frankly, I find it *more* romantic when he takes out the trash or does the dishes without being asked; at least he does that out of love, because he wants to lighten my load, and not out of fear that I'll get mad if he doesn't do it.

Likewise, I doubt it impresses God much when we show up to church or refrain from immoral activity just because we are scared we will get in trouble if we don't. If you're not doing it for the right reason, it doesn't mean a whole lot.

 

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