A brief soapbox about freedom and spirituality. Feel free to tune it out.
For several years I’ve listed my “Religious Views” on Facebook as “Appreciate and wonder at the beauty all around us.” I have more precise views than that, but that’s basically what it boils down to for me. And since I believe there are a lot of different doorways into the same room, I haven’t felt the need to be any more specific. Surely there’s common ground for us somewhere, right?
Similarly, I’ve listed my “Political Views” as “Teach responsibility and then trust people.” I’ve got other axes to grind, and certain issues and candidates hold my attention more than others, but that phrase sums it up.
But oh my! If it were only that easy! This morning as I look at the news and the commentary surrounding it, I’m reading a lot of concern about recent events in North Carolina and Colorado, and on the other side of the coin, a lot of passionate justification for it.
My own feeling is that the biggest obstacle to a better world isn’t evil — it’s apathy. It is in that spirit I write the following.
I’ve been on a spiritual journey for quite some time. My 40 days in the desert have lasted a lot longer than I thought they would, and have encountered some setbacks and wrong turns. Perhaps the best way to say it is that sometimes life events (like this and this) obscure your view at first, only to provide clarity later. Some of the experiences that have been the most confusing to me have later become the most enlightening.
And so, I feel like I’m close to reaching a spiritual destination. My journey hasn’t been a specifically religious one, but in the context of spirituality, one eventually decides to at least explore that avenue. As my dad liked to say, “Organized religion is the only kind.” True enough. Thus I’ve spent quite a bit of time lately exploring the connection between religion and spirituality, and what it means for me.
In that exploration, I’ve found a lot that has resonated with me. More than I thought I would, to be honest. And by the same token, I can’t find one single thing that justifies, in a moral sense, the authority of one group to subjugate another’s ability to let their hearts decide whom they love and how they do it. And I certainly don’t believe for one second that any group has the political authority to do it either. In terms of the hierarchy of things, I believe God works for good, and vice versa. And I believe the government works for us.
We become quickly spoiled by what we have worked for, particularly when others do the work. That brand-new HDTV you waited a year to afford looks gorgeous when you first set it in the living room. Six months later, you can’t remember what you were so impressed with. And if you get the TV as a gift? Two months.
But we must resist that same complacency when it comes to issues of justice. It is all too easy to forget that less than 200 years ago, humans were bought and sold; objectified, manipulated, dehumanized. It is all too easy to dismiss that less than 100 years ago, women were not permitted to vote because others felt anatomy somehow dictated superiority. Less than 60 years ago, a whole generation of Jews was nearly wiped off the earth forever. And for those thinking “But that won’t happen anymore,” I direct you to exhibit A, Rwanda, and exhibit B, Kosovo. Which happened … in our lifetime.
Equality is not HDTV. It doesn’t have a shelf life. And it isn’t a product meant to be accessible only to those who can afford it, or who can mobilize enough resources to argue on behalf of it.
From what I can see, the right to love and be loved is as fundamental as it gets. It transcends the will of any one political entity and any one religious dogma, and comes, in its entirety, from the Spirit that has breathed us all into existence.
For values to be real, whether political or spiritual, they must apply to everyone. Otherwise you don’t have values — you have a members-only club. Freedom, love, justice, and equality do not require an application.
In 40 years, our children will look back and wonder what all the fuss was all about; and hopefully, they will shake their heads at our ignorance, and hide their shock at our bigotry, the way we do when we consider slavery and genocide.
But between now and then, you have to live with yourself. Are your “shared values” meant for you alone? Shouldn’t you share them with everyone?
When I read “God is love,” I don’t see an asterisk next to it.