Some recent letters to The Advocate have prompted thoughts on the big picture of the human condition. A writer points out Americans are guaranteed the individual right of free expression under the U.S. Constitution. Freely expressed, another has questions as to the seeming bipolar nature of Christianity’s message. Freely expressed in response is the opinion and explanation of why the other guy may not “get it.”
The civilized exchange of ideas is a positive aspect of humanity in general. It seems,though, that the more one gets into details of theological thinking, the more rule-laden ideas become, to the point of stifling the “free” part.
Let’s first put aside the argument that anyone freely chooses their religious preference. The majority of people are born into their theology, as opposed to engaging in actual study and choice. Anthropology teaches that once mankind learned to survive beyond the basics of food and shelter, thinking evolved to more-abstract ideas such as who we are and where we came from. Theology was born to answer those questions.
Mankind worldwide lives under the umbrella of religious idealism, no matter the degree of individual preference or participation. Western civilization is theologically concerned with the God of Abraham at its core, represented mainly by Judaism, Christianity and Islam. But each category is a blanket term for the factions that exist under it. All members of each group do not follow the same tenets.
For example, early Christianity existed in several factions, evolving into the Roman Catholic Church. Protestant ideals were born of free expression in opposition to some aspects of Catholicism.
Protestant theology is further broken down into factions who freely express their own viewpoints as they reinterpret the minutiae of Christianity. The same fractures occur under the umbrellas of Catholicism, Judaism and Islam. And each successive fractionation adds it’s own specific rules as to why they represent the “truth.”
Human beings are intellectual and curious creatures. Faith aside, one must die to learn the reality of any theological premise. Do various and contradictory viewpoints each deserve their own hand in the laws that govern all citizens? Is theological idealism really free expression when one has to follow ever more specific guidelines? Does your free expression trump my free expression because you follow different tenets? Does my being atheist disqualify me from free expression?
It may be paranoia, but right about now I feel some “judge-nots” judging the hell outta me.
James A. Packard