Sunday, September 16, 2007

Set free to be free

The apostle Paul, in Galatians 5:1, declares that it is ’For freedom Christ has set us free.’ In the context of this letter, Paul was trying to persuade the Galatians not to return to the yoke of slavery to the Old Covenant laws symbolised by circumcision. For Christians in the 21st century, there are other potential sources of enslavement which we must resist if Christ has set us free in order to be free. Someone recently expressed concern about me saying that, from his point of view, I was on a path that would lead me to be unable to be certain of anything. This person was in a position of religious authority who decided to ban me from an activity within the organisation. This individual had come to this conclusion without any direct dialogue with me. Clearly, he had made a judgment about my spiritual path leading him to the decision he made. What is interesting, though, is this person’s notion that a spiritual path should lead to certainty. For many people, religion is about security and certainty rather than the pursuit of truth which might, in fact, lead to discomfort and uncertainty. Making one’s spiritual path about becoming more certain leads inevitably to fundamentalist attitudes and oppressive judgmentalism. Unless a person conform to one’s own set of beliefs they are judged to be on a false path and frequently result in manipulative actions that are designed to make a person conform to one’s own set of beliefs. Christ did not set us free in order to be enslaved by someone else’s belief system or criteria for what constitutes an authentic spiritual path. And a commitment to certainty and security will inevitably lead to a stagnant paralysis where it is impossible to learn and to grow in understanding. The freedom to doubt and to question is an absolute essential for growth in understanding and the development of a mature faith. Without doubt and questioning, we merely reiterate our current understanding and confirm what we already believe. This is not freedom nor is it authentic faith. A commitment to certainty and security rather than truth is the very antithesis of faith! Ignazio Silone, in The God That Failed, has made it clear what true religious liberty (freedom) is about:
Liberty is the possibility of doubting, the possibility of making a mistake, the possibility of searching and experimenting, the possibility of saying No to any authority -- literary, artistic, philosophic, religious, social and even political.
If any person or organisation tries to tell you that authentic faith means:
  • It is wrong to doubt
  • It is wrong to make mistakes
  • It is wrong to search and experiment
  • It is wrong to say No to any authority
Then run for your life! Christ set you free to be free, not to be enslaved by the yoke of someone else’s prison.

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