Independence Day means thinking about the meaning of
"independence," something most of us usually
take for granted. There are a number of ways to define
from the control or influence of others."
"The power to act or speak or think without external
threats or restraints."
"Freedom from dependence."
statements are often used in a political context. But
how does the concept of independence relate to our spiritual
life? Jesus says in John 8:32, "You shall know
the truth and the truth shall set you free." He
is saying that while we don't yet know the whole truth,
life is a process which will reveal it to us. And as
we better understand truth, we gain a higher degree
of freedom. The question is: From what does the truth
set us free?
is a universal reality. God's truth is forever. Truth
can't be owned any more than God can be owned. Yet,
religion acts as though it does own the truth. It seems
to say, "Our way of thinking is truth, and any
other view is untruth. If you don't accept our beliefs,
you can't have access to our truth. And if you don't
have access to our truth, God will send you to hell.
Because-God agrees with our version of truth."
said that the truth bestows upon us the gift of freedom.
Yet, religions tend to enslave rather than liberate
their followers. They claim the authority to reward
believers with heaven or to punish dissidents with hell.
One aspect of this authority involves the church telling
us, "Do not think for yourself. Let us think for
you. The mind which God gave you will lead you to hell
if you use it." This kind of attitude imprisons
our bodies in an earthly institution and imprisons our
minds in a culture of fear.
truth is intended to set us free, this kind of institutional
"truth", which springs from fear rather than
love, cannot be authentic.
let's look at those definitions of "independence"
again. "Freedom from the control or influence of
others." Do we really need a flawed human institution
to give us the last word about God? How can the church
possibly do this when it doesn't believe that God has
said anything new for the past 2,000 years?
power to act or speak or think without external threats
or restraints." How am I to evolve spiritually
if every new idea of mine brings forth the threat of
excommunication from the church? How can I understand
my personal mystical experiences if the church assures
me that they all come from the devil?
from dependence." Sunday school is appropriate
for children, but adults are called to "work out
their own salvation with fear and trembling." That
means trusting our own experience, not relying on someone
else's view of reality. The truth sets me free from
ignorance, but I have to face the possibility that some
of my institutions may be the source of that ignorance..
this Independence Day, we have not only a right but
a duty to be free from dependence on any earthly authority
which would limit our thinking and demand that we accept
their dogmas without question. We must subject every
so-called "truth" to one critical test: Does
it enslave our mind, or does it set our soul free?
Paine, the famous pamphleteer of the Revolution, once
wrote: "I do not believe in the creed professed
by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek
church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church,
nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my
John W. Sloat 2004