Faith And Freedom
Our perception of faith must move beyond the nebulous in order for it to provide us with the necessary strength to fight the negative forces within and without. The call for change in our environment requires the best positive engagement to create the best positive result, and to get this result, we need a tangible and active faith in our lives to constantly renew and restore the essential engine of our revolutionary spirit.
Our faith is our freedom, and our faith is the cause of our freedom. Our faith keeps our integrity whole and frees us from being controlled: Thomas Merton writes:
“To defend one's faith is to defend one's freedom...Freedom from what, and for what? Freedom from control that is not in some way immanent and personal, a power of love. Religious belief in this higher sense is then always a liberation from control by what is less than man, or entirely exterior to man.
He who receives the grace of this kind of religious illumination is given a freedom and an experience which leave him no longer fully and completely subject to the forces of nature, to his own bodily and emotional needs, to the merely external and human dictates of society, the tyranny of dictatorships.
This is to say that his attitude to life is independent of the power inevitably exercised over him, exteriorly, by natural forces, by the trials and accidents of life, by the pressures of a not always rational collectivity.”1
If we try to play the power games of the elites without understanding the potential power we carry within ourselves, and how this power is already corrupted and what we must do to purify that corruption, we will never get a grasp upon our freedom. The very ideal and multifaceted reality of our freedom has its full origins in our genuine spirituality. These two aspects of our being cannot be disconnected in any way.
“Freedom from domination, freedom to live one's own spiritual life, freedom to seek the highest truth...the ability to say one's own 'yes' and one's own 'no' and not merely to echo the 'yes' and the 'no' of state, party, corporation, army, or system.
This is inseparable from authentic religion. It is one of the deepest and most fundamental needs of man, perhaps the deepest and most crucial need of the human person as such: for without recognizing the challenge of this need no man can truly be a person, and therefore without it he cannot fully be a man either.”2
The struggle for our individual and collective freedom stands as the highest aspiration of humanity. We cannot fulfill the meaning of this struggle unless we take it into the spiritual sphere. We must heed the voices of wisdom from those who have transcended their material bonds, who have found their actual freedom, for it is in their perspective that we will actually be able to free ourselves.
And what is this freedom? It includes the aspiration for justice in the spheres of the social and the political, but it is more than this. It is an internal emancipation from our lower nature, from our lust, anger, and greed, as well from our envy and confusion, and our impersonalism. This internal liberation creates and sustains a real revolution, for it is a revolution of the heart, and once the heart is free, then the external obstacles of injustice and inequality become much less difficult to remove and overcome.
The true revolutionary spirit of the heart must be a humble spirit. Real humility builds enduring character, and this is a character that must stand tall to create real change in our collective environment. This humble character is not afraid to submit itself to a higher source of strength, and it is not afraid to admit that it doesn't have all the answers, and that it must be dependent on something more than itself.
“But it is essential above all to understand that the basic principle of spiritual freedom, all freedom from what is less than man, means first of all submission to what is more than man. And this submission begins with the recognition of our own limitation.”3
The two greatest figures in the fight for justice and freedom in our time, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and Mohandas Gandhi, were not afraid to be humble before God, and to pray, beg, and plead for His mercy, for His help, for His direct assistance in their awesome tasks and responsibilities. If we want to imbibe their example in our own struggle, we cannot be afraid to seek something more out of our own hearts and our own relationship with God. This is where we will find our actual faith, and our actual freedom, and our ability to bring out this freedom to those who have yet to or who are unable to claim it.
1Merton,Conjectures Of A Guilty Bystander 88-89