Saturday, March 13, 2010

Freedom from force and compulsion

One thought continues to arise in my mind and heart, more and more strongly. And, that thought is: FORCE AND COMPULSION OF ALL KINDS, AND AT ALL LEVELS OF HUMAN LIFE, ARE AGAINST THE MOVEMENT OF GOD'S SPIRIT, AND AGAINST THE NATURE OF GOD'S SPIRIT. And, against everything that is good and deep and beautiful in human life.

Whether it is a personal compulsion that I have to exercise three times a day, or a personal compulsion that I have every part of the house clean before a guest can visit, or that I have to make everybody happy before I can relax (which means I can never relax), or more dark compulsive thoughts, these bind our hearts and minds, keeping us from the freedom of God's Spirit. Whether it is a parent reverting to threats and physical force - not as some last, desperation attempt to get control when it is lost - but, as a normal part of child-rearing; whether it is a teacher using shame and blame techniques to motivate students; whether it is governments passing more and more laws to try to force citizens into a certain mold; whether it is launching military campaigns whenever we feel a little threatened; whether it is using violent, abrasive language to try and "win" every debate with another, all of these practices are in a sense the choosing of violence over seeking understanding.

It seems to me that the great difference between God and the way religious people have portrayed God so often is that the real God is averse to using force, whereas religious people like to portray God as if he is all about force. The Gospel accounts in the New Testament about Jesus really agree on one thing very, very much, and that one thing is: Jesus did not try to compel people to follow him (rather he warned them how hard it would be); Jesus did not use force against anyone to get them to do anything; Jesus opposed the coercive teachings of the religious leaders of his day. And, well, there is God and who God is shown to be through Jesus. God was shown to be the opposite of violence; the absolute opposite of a coercer. For, "even though humanity was opposed to the ways of God," God didn't declare war on humanity, conquer us, and then put us in training camps to reprogram us. No, God bore our sicknesses, and evils in his very self, breaking the hold of compulsions and violence and oppressions of all sorts. God sought to reach humanity at the depths of our darkened hearts with a love that went deeper than our pain, deeper than our hatred, deeper than our pettiness, calling out from the depths of God's Spirit, to the depths of our spirits, Creator to creature, from the goodness and dignity and glory of the Creator to the goodness and dignity of the creature.

And, yes, it is a powerful and resounding call that comes to us from the heart of God, and when we hear it in our depths, we can't help but respond. But, this response is not some compulsion, but is the greatest release and joyful liberation. As we understand that the center and power of all reality is this overwhelming joyful love, our hearts rejoice and we become more alive than we have ever been before.