Pluralism: For More Than Freedom

A question I was asked in university and since have passed onto my own class is, What do we use our freedoms for? We spout the word “freedom” so easily and throw it around so openly, yet I have not seen commentary on what do we actually use freedoms for. Furthermore, where do our responsibilities in diverse communities lie? In part one of this series, I developed the argument that we cannot ignore our responsibilities and that we become less-than if we continue to do so. In being reminded that freedoms are not the end result but rather are a means towards something, we should ask: how have we as Adventists handled both our freedoms and responsibilities towards spiritual Others?


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/11690

In very general terms religions are divided into Christian and non-Christian, with further divisions of each. The only commonality between Christian and non-Christian is a belief of a God, (except Buddhists) other than that, there’s no connection. The definition of “Christian” automatically separates the system of beliefs, but the relationship is respectful on just basic human terms.

When it comes to various divisions of the Christian religion the conversation should flow easily, but too often it doesn’t. There seems to be more divisiveness between the Christian faiths than the larger religious groups. Perhaps because there is no contest between Hindus and Christians, as there is between Adventists and Catholics, for example . The antagonism between the different Christianities is basically social and historic. What hinders the communication even more, it seems, is the insecurity of each of the religious teachings. All the extraneous aspects of the particular “denomination” stand in the way of accepting the Christianity of the “other”.

Speaking from a Christian perspective, we should respect the individual, whatever religion they practice; but that doesn’t require a respect for their belief system itself - it can’t, if you prescribe to any specific religion.

The freedom Christianity offers is not a political freedom, but a freedom from politics and social acceptance. Jesus did not establish another division of Judaism, or another “church” called
“Christian”. All of Jesus’ teachings were directed to individuals, not as Jews or non-Jews (refer to the division between Peter and Paul), but to individuals. Jesus sought connection on a human level, not on a religious one. The precepts of the Sermon on the Mount are applicable to anyone just on the basis of the human “brotherhood”. Some of the specifics of that sermon were geared to the religion surrounding him, but the blessings were free for any.

The responsibility Christianity handed down was demonstrated by Christ through his life and death, & resurrection. His life - love toward all; death and resurrection - “God’s love for all”, our calling.

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To respect the individual means respecting their belief system because it is part of who they are. If we force a divorce between a person and their faith tradition then in reality we don’t accept that person fully as they are. Such an individualistic mindset downplays the need for community while falling short in understanding the role religion has in people’s lives. It’s what we filter our world view through, how we conceptualize our understandings.

Jesus spoke on societal and religious levels, and he flip them by placing the greatest to the least, by saying the first will be last. He had disciples which were Zealots wanting to over throw Roman power. So when we engage in interfaith it is both a personal level and a community/social level.

You may say that within an enlightened culture, but if a religious system believes in “killing” anyone not of their belief system, you can still respect their religion? You may identify on a human to human level, but not a religious level, I assume.

I get what you mean, but there has to be a line you will not cross.

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For sure that can be a hard area to work with, killing is a bit easier to speak about. My mind goes to forced marriages or polygamy, cases whereby girls are trained to view themselves and their “roles” within a religious setting through a fashion we would deem less than. That’s what makes some engagement/laws tricky. This was the case in Bountiful British Columbia, it took many years and many court dates to sort out.

Well, OK, even with those kind of issues like polygamy etc. a Christian can’t respect the religion but needs to respect, even love, the person (as neighbor). With all the attitudes of inclusion, it may be difficult to say, “I don’t agree with you, but I will advocate for your freedom to believe as you do.” That becomes even more difficult, it seems, to say within a denomination that has detailed beliefs for membership.

In the larger Christian community we should abide by Jesus’ words in Mark 9:40- “For he who is not against us, is for us.” This was further stated in different terms in I Cor. 1:12, 13, "Each one of you is saying I am of Paul, and I of Appolos, and I of Cephas, and I of Christ. Has Christ been divided?.."

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God desires and designed His creation to be free. Free to live, free to grow, free to learn. Freedom is a loving gift from God. In fact, religious freedoms and free speech are closely related. Free speech is the first freedom that is lost as the spread of communism begins. It is the evil-minded that seek to thwart our freedom through tyranny, deception, and control.
It is most important to guard our hearts. God designed believers to guard life and freedoms, not to be doormats and non-thinkers.

Coincidentally, just now, Iran fired missiles near the US Consulate General and International Coalition facilities in the city of Erbil in northern Iraq. According to preliminary information, Fateh-110 missiles were used for the attack.

Freedom is about to be challenged.

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God is love and justice, love is the freedom to choose, his justice is the equality of all beings before him. Love is also grace, but with grace also comes judgment.

There can be no justice without love, nor love without justice, the same goes for freedom, there can be no freedom without equality, nor equality without freedom. If the two collide equality subdues freedom, for the justice of God puts an end to grace, giving what we will call a time of probation, where freedom of choice will be tested, choice that will reveal our character.

The problem is that a lack of knowledge leads to bad choices, and repeated choices become habits, which eventually become character.

We are thus tested on the use of our freedoms, for what do we use it? During the abolition of slavery, the southerners advocated religious freedom to preserve slavery, the North called for equality. Likewise today the church calls for religious freedom against any form of law leading to equality, aren’t we in the same situation? Equality against freedom, justice against love? This is the big mistake of separating the two.

But in the end it is justice that marks time, the time of judgment, equality puts a brake on the use of our freedoms, and this so that we can only live together.

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