VOICE OF THE BRETHREN: UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
With various laws and other issues making headline news this past year, both domestically in the U.S. and abroad, there's been a lot of discussion about "religious freedom" and "separation of church and state," which, when you truly think about it, has been the underlying thread of many conversations since, well, time immemorial. At its most elemental, the dilemma becomes: how to live one's religious life (or lack thereof, as the case may be), in a religiously diverse society. Seems so simple to resolve one would think, yet humans, by their nature, tend to complicate matters.
"Religious freedom" and "separation of church and state" means that no governing body shall interfere with one's spiritual devotion, either in a mosque, a temple, going door-to-door sharing one's faith, or wherever else one professes to serve their god. How you worship the god of your beliefs, whether it involves tambourines and trombones, or silent meditation and chanting, is entirely one's prerogative, and shall not be influenced nor restricted by an authoritative state, and likewise (here's where certain hypocrisies take place and where corruption tends to start) no governing body should in turn be influenced nor coerced by any one religious group. It's hypocritical for a group to espouse religious freedom, yet actively participate in manipulating the election process by instructing others who they should vote for.
To do so, only invites and encourages preferential treatment, bribery, political machinations and other corrupt and unsavory practices. In order for true democracy to work and function, each voting member should account for his or her own vote, based upon their own choice and preference, meaning, DO YOUR OWN HOMEWORK. Don't rely on someone else to tell you who to vote for. Know who the candidates are and what they represent, what the propositions are and what they mean to YOU. That's the very definition of a democracy and purpose of each person having a vote. Politicians and other public officials should in turn abide by an ethical code of conduct in performing their civic duty without courting favor from any particular religious group, which would denounce the very principles of “separation of church and state.” Simple, huh? Now if only human nature didn’t muck it all up.
“Separation of Church and State” however does not absolve or excuse someone from committing crimes or from breaking the law. One cannot commit atrocious, inhumane or illegal acts against another and claim religious freedom. At that point, it becomes the responsibility of the state to protect and uphold the rights and freedoms of its citizens. If your religious sect advocates violence and hatred towards one another, you must strongly reconsider whether that group is doing yourself and the world any good. It should not be the purpose of any religion to divide humanity any more than it needs to be. The problem with many religions is that it imposes an ‘Us vs. Them’ dichotomy, a We are Saved, You are Damned mentality, which seems to be more pronounced and emphasized now than it might have been in earlier years for a certain religious group. Christianity, I believe, was never meant to breed hatred, but as has been proven by history, an apostasy occurred wherein generations of people were killed in the name of Christ; and likewise today, a verse used to illustrate Christ’s expansive love for his fellowmen would now be misused to show disdain for one’s own family. History unchecked has a way of repeating itself.
There are those who claim unity in voting means having unity in Christ. Does having different political views mean you are not united religiously? Hardly. I know members of the same household with vastly different political views (gun rights a major contention), yet continue to love and respect one another wholeheartedly and continue to serve the same god, active in the same church, abiding by the same laws. Does having a different opinion on how you feel the government should operate mean we should hate one another, that we are divided in our love for one another and our love for God and Christ? Only the most bigoted would allow their political views to affect how one treats one another.
Division is not a synonym for having different views or beliefs. Having a separate opinion, idea or belief does not automatically translate that one is divided, antagonistic or hate-filled towards one another. We all come from different walks of life, different cultural heritages, have different life experiences, and speak different languages. So it should come as no surprise if opinions and ideas abound. We as a society should recognize, acknowledge, and embrace our differences. Our differences make us human.
True division is when one cuts ties with another, stops communication, inhibits dialogue and stops loving one another. That’s division. When one ignores another, pretends they don’t exist, refuses to acknowledge them: that’s division. When one oppresses another, bullies and silences them: that’s division. When one builds walls (both figuratively and literally) between one another: that’s division. Ask oneself, who in this day and age is truly causing division?
There’s an interpretation that those causing division are those individuals who express their beliefs at demonstrations, vigils, protest rallies, and picket lines. Really? Whenever I see a group of people gathered together with signs, my initial instinct is to wonder, WHY? WHAT cause are they standing up for? My reaction is never simply, “Oh, I’ll just ignore them since they’re just causing division”or “Let’s identify them so we can retaliate against them later.” Is the bar of integrity now set so low?
Whether it’s anti-war demonstrations during the Vietnam War, the civil rights movement, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, #blacklives matter, #alllivesmatter, women’s suffrage, police brutality, union strikes,or whatever injustice people are gathered together to address, throughout history and in various parts of the world, it is usually the REASON for their gathering that any socially conscious citizen should take notice of, rather than merely to dismiss them, consider them detractors and turn your backs on whatever message they are trying to impart. It is that same freedom of expression that EDSA protestors took their message (however misguided and poorly articulated I believe) to the streets (albeit far more disruptive and detrimental to the public than it needed to be I may add), and yet there were neither claims nor outcries of causing division then (have I mentioned the hypocrisies and double standards are running rampant).
Some claim that if those demonstrating against corruption were true and just, they wouldn’t be ashamed to show their faces and use masks. We all KNOW why people are wearing masks. They do not want to become victims of retaliatory actions, as has been the case in the District of Northern California, U.S.A. where all identified members who stood outside the district office carrying signs expressing their displeasure at how the Administration was conducting its affairs were all subsequently expelled.
As more individuals get expelled and others become more aware of the issues that aren’t being properly addressed in any forum that doesn’t involve the pulpit, I expect to see more vigils happening in many more locales around the world (and expelled members are being discouraged from returning, so their Sundays are free). These individuals are exercising their freedom of expression in the most civil and law-abiding manner they can, since open dialogue and communication have essentially been shot down through expulsions and other divisive measures. Now ask yourself, who is truly causing division: the person peacefully holding a sign saying they love their mom, or the individual who advocates others to disassociate from them, ignores them, and prays for their destruction? Such hypocritical bigotry has no place in the 21st century United States of America, and most especially in a true Christian.
I AM A.E.
United States of America and everywhere else in the world
Dear fellow A.E.,
Upon reading your letter, I sense the clarity and sincerity of your message. I believe what you are doing, and others like you all over the world, signifies a higher level of maturity in tackling sensitive issues in the face of extreme risk and adversities. We can only hope and pray that more and more people would be more pro-active in their reception to the peaceful demonstrations that we are launching to properly educate others about the issues at hand, instead of automatically jumping to misconceived conclusions. We are all after the same TRUTH. The Church Administration should NOT BE AFRAID to tackle these issues and they should NOT ignore nor hamper the TRUTH. They should not close their ears, eyes, hearts and minds to the reality that brethren all over the world are now aware and vigilant, and are speaking out and standing up...for what is TRUE and what is RIGHT. The Ministers, of all people, shouldn't be instruments for corruption, division, abuse and harassment just to be able to cover up the TRUTH with LIES and more LIES.
Let's all pray that the peaceful vigils that continue to spread all over the world will be met with open hearts and open minds and not by hypocrisy, bigotry and hostility. May God always guide and protect all of us in our whole-hearted efforts to restore the church to its rightful glory and holiness, worthy of salvation on the day of Judgement.
“They tried to bury us…they didn’t know we were seeds.”
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