Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Choice, not coercion

I wanted to comment a bit more on one of the ideas from Jon Meacham's American Gospel:

The great good news about America—the American gospel, if you will—is that religion shapes the life of the nation without strangling it. Belief in God is central to the country's experience, yet for the broad center, faith is a matter of choice, not coercion, and the legacy of the Founding is that the sensible center holds.

Faith being a choice to me is essential to its effectiveness. When you make faith an obligation, the person is faced with having to decide whether to bow to that authority or not. They either have to accept the authority out of obedience or fear, or reject it out of a sense of rebellion. Yet, neither decision is related to the faith itself. Whenever faith is obligatory, a block is placed in front of its sincere implementation.

So faith *must* be a choice. It must be something that's decided in individual hearts. It can't be imposed from the outside—once it is, it's no longer faith. It becomes then a reaction to outer human authority rather than response to inner spiritual calling.

Choosing freely to embrace a transcendent concept because it has inspired you or healed you fuels further spiritual growth even as it uplifts. There's no comparison between that and external human law attempting to impose spiritual understanding. Even writing about the two in the same paragraph is making me shake my head. They can't share the same space.

When I pray today about the world and its problems, this issue will be at the forefront of my thought. We see all too often the imposition of rules and dogma where what's really needed is freedom of faith. We see it in far-away lands where theocracy holds sway. We see it in religious conflicts where one sect wants to control another. We see it in countries where state religions have been around so long the people no longer even bother to go to church. We see it here in America, in regions where particular beliefs hold sway, and even in our own churches where how one person practices is subject to criticism by those who practice another way.

If I could do my own crusade, it would be to make freedom of choice obligatory. Where each individual *must* hammer out for themselves what they believe and want to practice. Where each one is encouraged to listen to their own hearts and let the Divine influence them directly. But even that might be taking away freedom from those who would really rather just have someone tell them what to do. So I guess no crusade for me!

Today is about cherishing my own freedom of choice, knowing that I'm where I am spiritually because I've chosen to pursue it and embrace it. And appreciating all those around me who are also on their own journey, and loving them right where they are.


Spiritual rationality and free thought accompany approaching Science, and cannot be put down.


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2 Comments:

At 8/02/2006 08:10:00 AM, Anonymous Dennis R. said...

This such an important issue to me. In my life, I have been a part of several different faith groups. I have found this problem of freedom of choice to be an issue in many of them.

If one tries to think for themselves, or sees things a little differently, it can bring extreme pressure. I have never been able to accept every tenet of anyone particular group. I am very ecletic. I am a syncretist. I take the best ideas of each group and come up with a faith that I can live with.

I study a lot of spiritual ideas and subjects, but I have to be careful who I share them with.

I lost an eldership in one church because of my belief in what is called eternal security-that one could not lose their salvation. I am even worse now, because I now believe in universal reconciliation-that all will eventually be reconciled to God.

The freedom to pray and think for oneself is, in my view, one of the most important freedoms we have.

 
At 8/02/2006 08:16:00 AM, Blogger Laura said...

ah Dennis, I love both those concepts -- eternal security and universal reconciliation!

thanks for sharing....

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Laura

 

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