Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Rituals and Righteousness

"It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin." Luke 17:2

Does one's own inability to follow a faithful path justify suicide as a protection against the corruption of the innocent? And what of war? Are we justified in the killing of those who seek to lead our children away from The Almighty?

Does not the commandment to honor one's father and mother presuppose that the parents are honoring The Almighty? At what age are we not only free, but duty bound, to seek our own paths, even if it means a break with the faith of our fathers and mothers?

But, can we ever completely break the bonds of the "sins of the father?" How far can we actually get from our birth and upbringing? It seems that in times of stress, the natural tendency is to revert back to that which comes naturally. Genetic predisposition, combined with our upbringing, is what is natural to us.

I know that the Judeo-Christian message is one of redemption and starting fresh by walking with others on the Path back to Paradise. But can this actually be achieved in our lifetimes, or are we destined to carry the remnants of our parents' mistakes into the third and fourth generations? And will we not then hand these same sins down to three and four more generations? How do we break the cycles that obviously have been handed down since the beginning of time without walking away from all that is natural and comfortable to us?

It seems to me that none of us is expected to walk alone on this earth. We are meant to have others to accompany us on our journey. Adam and Eve had each other and their children. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses had wives, children, and many friends in faith walking with them. From this long line of the faithful, a family came that was given charge of Jesus as he prepared to walk his difficult path. When it was time for him to break free of the strictures of the old law, he was given companions, male and female, old and young, for his life of publicly living his faith.

Many Christians are taught that infant baptism washes away the sins of past generations. Others believe that we must each reach an age of discernment in order to freely choose our own path. When we baptize each other, we should not only be washing away the sins of the generations preceding us, we should also be pledging ourselves to walk the new walk with each other, holding each other accountable for the continuation of the way back to Infinite Unity.

I have been privileged to witness some infant baptisms in which the congregation was exhorted to protect the child in the ways that he or she should go, according to the customs of the congregants. This presupposes that all the congregants in attendance are true to the tenets of the collective faith. Instead of the child being consecrated to the congregation, it seems right that the congregation should be consecrated into the sacred trust of collectively protecting this child.

This communal consecration should, in no way, free the parents from primary protection of the child's soul, which presupposes discernment and discretion. Discernment is often impeded by deceit. Only in a community of confession and re-commitment can a person continue to trust others who profess to walk in faith.

We often give each other no option for a sense of community other than lives of dishonesty, which leads to toxic shame. Those who are ashamed will always find the company of like-minded, falsely faithful friends, and seek to gather disciples from among the vulnerable. How have we become so afraid to confess to each other, make amends, and recommit to each other and The Path back to Paradise?

It is unfortunate that we so often value ritual over righteousness, so that even when we know our leaders are corrupt, we still allow them access to the souls of our young. How can we ever hope for redemption when we are held in bondage by the persecutors and pettiness of our parents?

1 comment:

  1. You raise some very important issues here. I'll respond to only two of them today. In my view, Baptism does not save the soul of an infant nor of an adult. Baptism is something a person chooses to do as an act of identification with Christ's own death, burial and resurrection. Many Protestants agree with me - but make the same mistake at a "Baby Dedication". God does not give babies to governments; nor to communities; nor to churches. God gives babies to one set of parents. Yes, grandparents and fellow believers can pledge their support to these parents to help them in raising that child - but (in my view) the parents are the primary persons who should be responsible to bring the child up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

    Another issue is that (again, in my view) Righteousness should always be over Ritual. Righteousness comes by grace. It does not come by works. This separates most Protestants from most Catholics. Liturgy is important to all Christians...but Liturgy alone has no saving grace. We may perform all the ceremonies correctly without knowing the peace that comes from having our sins truly forgiven. How do we make sure our sins are forgiven? 1 John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all un-righteousness." Once we have confessed those sins to God our next step is to take Him at his Word.