With the 4th of July just past, most of us have been at least unconsciously reflecting on freedom, but a lot of people are confused about what that really is. As I shared in my first post on the subject last week, freedom isn’t the ability to do whatever you want. Freedom is your capacity to be your best self in every moment; the ability to do what’s best for yourself and others at all times, regardless of your feelings to the contrary or the pressures you’re under.
But that’s terrifying and most of us don’t have the courage to be truly free. Do you?
Right now, in the middle of the Fortnight for Freedom, many People-of-Faith are organizing to assert and protect our first and most cherished freedom, the Freedom of Religion which, although a universal human right, is legally enshrined in the First Amendment of our Constitution.
But with all this talk in the press about “freedom,” it might be useful to consider a few questions. Namely; “What is ‘freedom’ anyway?” And, “Are you free?”
A common complaint against religion is that it is guilt-inducing. Sometimes the complaints are tongue-in-cheek, as when sitcoms and comedians make jokes about “Catholic guilt,” “Jewish guilt,” “Baptist guilt,” etc. Other times, the complaints are more serious; for instance, when a client in therapy is suffering from a deep sense of inferiority or hopelessness brought on by an overly strict religious upbringing.
So what is the real relationship between religion and guilt?
The first study, from the University of British Columbia, notes that “Analytic Thinking Can Decrease Religious Belief.” (Although, considering the methodology, which appears to have involved having people do a questionaire measuring religious belief, do some mental activities like filling out additional questionaires intentionally printed in hard-to-read fonts [to engage analytic reasoning skills], and then retesting their belief levels, I’m not really sure what this study actually shows).
The second report is from UC Berkeley, which states, “Highly Religious People Are Less Motivated by Compassion Than are Non-Believers.” This study assessed levels of religious faith of participants and then examined how likely participants were to give “10 lab dollars” (??) to a stranger after watching a video about children living in poverty.
According to the lead researcher “Overall, this research suggests that although less religious people tend to be less trusted in the U.S., when feeling compassionate, they may actually be more inclined to help their fellow citizens than more religious people.”
Um. Okay. Maybe…
In response to Vice President Biden’s comments this weekend in favor of gay marriage, many of his fellow Democrats, especially those who represent African American and Hispanic districts (two demographics generally opposed to same-sex marriage initiatives on, primarily, religious grounds) are having fits of apoplexy, arguing that they cannot support gay marriage ostensibly because it is against Christian teaching (and not just Christian teaching, but many other traditional faiths as well).
As the religion guy around here, I thought it might be helpful to take a moment to suggest that this view is really missing the point.
The most serious objections to gay marriage have absolutely nothing to do with religion. By and large, it is simply incorrect to frame the debate about marriage as primarily a “religious issue.”
Sometimes you’ll hear people make the comment, “He thinks he’s God’s gift to the world.” They mean it as a criticism, but the statement is true about each and every one of us. You ARE God’s gift to the world.
Christianity teaches us that everything we have; our talents, our treasure, even our minds, bodies and spirits, have been given to us as a gift that we are to use to work for the good of others. Every one of us was created with a specific purpose in mind.
God has a plan for your life and we can discern God’s intention for our lives by asking ourselves, “How can I use my gifts, talents, experience, heart, mind and strength to make the lives of the people around me better TODAY?”
Today, Lisa Hendey, host of the very popular site, CatholicMom.com, interviewed my wife, Lisa, and I on the publication of our new book, the completely revised and updated 10th Anniversary Edition of Beyond the Birds and the Bees: Raising Sexually Whole and Holy Kids.
In the interview, we share a bit about our life, our kids, and what it really takes to raise children who can be authentically loving, responsible, joyful adults. We had so much fun with Lisa Hendey that we thought we’d share it with our friends at Faith on the Couch.
Join us for a chat!
Apparently, if you want to be a real man, you’d better get to church. Studies consistently show that women are more likely to attend church services than men. But new research shows that men who attend church services are actually more manly (in the most positive sense of that word) than those who skip.
The study, reported in the book, Soft Patriarchs, New Men: How Christianity Shapes Husbands and Fathers, by University of Virginia sociologist, Dr. Brad Wilcox, shows that men who attend church are more effective leaders, more attuned to the needs of others, more responsive to their wives and children, and conduct themselves in ways that make them better marriage partners and parents than those men who are church-phobic.
Often the client will respond, “I just want to be happy.”
There’s nothing wrong with that of course. I would be truly concerned about the client who wanted to consciously find more ways to make themselves miserable.
~A woman, angry at her best friend for some hurtful comments following her miscarriage tearfully says, “No matter how hard I try, I just can’t let it go.”
These are just two examples I’ve heard in session* recently about the challenge of letting old hurts go.
Letting things go is one of the hardest relationship tasks we all face. For Christians in general, there is even more involved in the challenge of letting go. For instance, two of the 7 Spiritual Works of Mercy (which, along with the “Corporal Works of Mercy” offer specific examples of what it means to live as a person-of-faith in the world) involve “Bearing Wrongs Patiently,” and “Forgiving Willingly.” And Catholics, specifically, have often heard the counsel, “offer it up” (i.e., use the offense as an opportunity to grow in patience and generosity), when they complain about how others have treated them poorly.
But as my post on St Gregory the Great’s counsel regarding the need to sometimes speak up shows, placing a premium on letting go of some offenses doesn’t mean that it’s never appropriate to address others. So, how do you know when to speak up and when to let it go? And once you’ve decided to let something go, how do keep it from coming back and haunting over and over again?