Archives For Freedom of Religion

IMG_2219As a ship before a reef is directed by a lighthouse, so must we find ourselves directed. Who we allow to do the directing is a matter of choice and faith.

This is, however, counter to the logic of advocates who aggressively serve an ideology of absolute freedom; who, in turn deny absolutes and inadvertently also deny freedom.

The outcome is the theft of freedom under the guise of promising freedom.

The few assert themselves as lords over the many because some form of direction is ultimately necessary for survival.[i] Necessary for freedom to remain freedom.

Accordingly, the act of being confronted by a lighthouse is repressive, and unfairly restrictive.

Following this logic, it’s an anachronistic social construct of a by-gone era.

Something to be denied its right to speak.

Something to be denied its right to confront us.

Something to be silenced by put-downs and ridiculed into submission.

Something that no longer has a right to exist or the freedom to shine?

That is until the unmovable brunt of a reef rips apart the hull and this charade of freedom-without-limitation is shattered upon its concealed jagged surface.

Unveiled, this hidden danger now leaves a trail of debris, terror, chaos and destruction in the wake of what is an observable and reasoned, natural intolerance.

The reef could have been avoided, but it wasn’t.

Consequently, the pride and cheering stop. The celebrity promotions, hype, progressive optimism, associated propaganda, ad hominem, and ticket tape parades are instead replaced by mourning, blame, loss and emptiness.

An unhealthy fear of offending or demands of compensation for being offended by the offensive posturing of the lighthouse no longer matter. All that was has been sacrificed to the abyss. Behind the veil of universal niceness, true freedom is regrettably lost.

Like most ships, who on seeing the warm and graceful signal fires of a steadfast lighthouse, do not stay ignorant; or choose to remain on its own wilful course. So it is, that although an ‘educator may teach a child, the student must take pains to get an education. There is a difference between merit and means. There is moreover a difference between cause and effect…Wisdom’s dole is dispensed at wisdom’s gate’ [ii]

Or, in the brilliant words of the late Dallas Willard,

‘grace is opposed to earning, not to effort.’ [iii]

Karl Barth might meet this with a resounding, “yes! this is our response to God because He loves in freedom; chooses to be responsibly involved.” He grants us permission to know what He expects of us. We are not abandoned to fallible perilous assumptions. We are not left alone, having to choose between what is the equivalent of Scylla and Charybdis.

God is free. In His freedom he acts. In His love we hear His “yes and no” spoken for our benefit. Not because we deserved it, but because it is God’s will-to-rescue us from a corrupted will-to-power; He directs us towards Himself.

Our response, (our effort?) then, is to be one of ‘prayer and gratitude’; or as Barth simply puts it, ‘grateful obedience.'[iv]

For him this is because ‘the truth of humanity, [in our being confronted by grace; Jesus Christ] is that we are directed towards God.’ [v]

Spurgeon, himself, appears to have grasped this, stating:

‘There is no merit in seeking the Lord; but we may not hope to find him without it. The cup must be held under the flowing fountain or it will not be filled, yet the cup does not create the water or purchase it’ [vi]

A summary of this might be as simple as saying that grace affords our gratitude.

In the end perhaps, Abigail Adams says it best:

‘I wish our gratitude may be in manner and way, proportionate to our benefit.’ [vii]

Which in turn means:

‘blessed is the one who hears instruction and responds wisely to it’ – (Proverbs 8:33-34)

 

 


Sources:

[i] My tentative conclusions here rest on those of Albert Camus. To paraphrase, ‘therefore, absolute freedom is ultimately a lie.’ (The Rebel)

[ii] Spurgeon, C.H. 1883 Flowers from a Puritan’s Garden,  Electronic Ed. p.78

[iii] Willard, D. 2006 The Great Omission: Reclaiming Jesus’ Essential Teachings on Discipleship, Monarch Books, United Kingdom

[iv] Barth, K. 1940, The Limits of The Knowledge of God CD. II/1 p.218-229 Hendrickson Publishers, T& T Clark Ltd, 1957

[v] ibid, p.121

[vi] Spurgeon, C.H. 1883 Flowers from a Puritan’s Garden,  Electronic Ed. p.78

[vii] Adams, J & A. The Letters of John & Abigail Adams, #81, 10th December 1775

Aussie flag at half mast Getty ImagesToday, two innocent civilians lost their lives because of the actions of an Islamic terrorist on Australian soil. Others were wounded.

It begs belief then that a good portion of the focus in the past 48hrs has been on the social media hashtag “movement” #illridewithyou.

What should we expect though?

Seeming to be doing and doing what feels-good has become the measure of right response today.

Such armchair activism is a gloomy sign of the flimsy ethics and shallow sentiment that afflicts our post-Christian society.

“illridewithyou” is a nice gesture. But. Outside raising an often short lived awareness of issues, sentimental hashtag movements are historically noted for achieving very little.

Who remembers the ‘hashtag diplomacy’[i] of #bringbackourgirls, #kony2012 or has heard of any genuine change brought about by it?

Call me callous. Throw all the passive aggressive rants on Facebook and 140 bit tantrums on twitter that you like.

It doesn’t change the facts.

In this case it’s tantamount to having a few drunken mates tell you, over and over again, in words devoid of any real meaning how much you mean to them.

Do our Muslim neighbours (moderate or radical) want such attention or even need such protection?

Would, for example, a Muslim man consider it appropriate if his wife did actually end up riding with a non-Muslim for the sake of that non-Muslim proving that they are not anti-Muslim? … {insert a ton of other practical reasons}

One could draw on the argument that often comes from our well-meaning-left-leaning brothers and sisters, who sometimes point out, rather loudly, that it is racist and intolerant to impose anything on anyone.

Ergo, employing this logic #illridewithyou becomes yet another example of “Western (white) moralist superiority and imperialism”.(Granted this is overly simplified. It is so, for the sake of brevity)

The danger of hashtag movements should be clear to all of us.

It is the one that “illridewithyou” highlights well, evidenced by the overbearing suspicion that somehow you’re racist if you don’t agree or publically brandish such a hashtag via retweet, share, comment or post.

You would be right to wonder if any ‘chasm existed between perception, reality, right interpretation, intention and action.[ii]’ Here appearances override substance and perception distracts us from reality.

Engage, by all means! But we need to acknowledge that wisdom and sensitivity must dictate our approach. Acting on rash sentiment tends to only cause division and resentment, rather than create unity.

Critiquing the #illridewithyou hashtag raises questions about fear, ignorance and a lack of respect for Islamic history and culture that might actually lie hidden behind such sentimentalism. Even if the intentions are innocent enough. Ironically, #illridewithyou might actually be Islamophobic in and of itself.

Today, as in all terrorist attacks on civilian targets the innocent suffer.

We should mourn their loss deeply and then ask ourselves seriously, why was it that our first point of solidarity was with our Muslim neighbours and their perceived trauma, and not with the twelve victims, their families and the actual trauma?

Folks, we cannot make peace, or reach heaven through a hashtag. We cannot convince those ‘committed to violence without limits’[iii] to change.

As Jean Bethke Elshtain observed:

‘Whatever sins and shortcomings that exist in the West, Islamist fundamentalism requires none of these to turn people into ideological fundamentalists with whom dialogue is impossible—as a matter of principle, not merely prudence—and who are not content to “live and let live.[iv]

Certainly, a just war against terror isn’t simple, but it is real.

It is one we share with our moderate Muslim and Jewish neighbours who cherish the same rights as Christians and atheists do; friends who deserve our careful thought and responsible action, not just potentially empty sentiments; the bane of all mutually beneficial relationships and effective diplomacy.

 


Sources:

[i] Bauer, G. Hashtag diplomacy won’t save lives, 7th August 2014 sourced: 16th December 2014

[ii] Jennings, W.J. 2010 The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race (Loc. 426). Yale University Press. Kindle Edition.

[iii] Ibid, p. 23.

[iv] Elshtain, J. 2008 Just War Against Terror: The Burden Of American Power In A Violent World Basic Books. Kindle Ed. (p. 45).