Given that Rosh Chodesh Tammuz and US Independence Day coincide this year I wanted to share a thought about religion, spirituality and democracy. Many traditional religious structures, with their hierarchies and emphasis on obedience and authority, don’t align so well with the flattened hierarchy of democracy, where the common citizen chooses their leaders and policies. Spirituality is the democratic impulse within religion, that assigns value to the individual’s subjective experience of Divinity. Religion functions best when there is a healthy balance between the authority of tradition and the subjectivity of the individual experience. I would argue that things work even better when there is the minimal amount of structure and authority needed to maintain the purpose and functioning of the collective while individuals are encouraged to develop a robust sense of personal spirituality.
I believe the same goes with democracy. Democracy works best when there is a robust sense of citizen empowerment and a minimal amount of authority and obedience to the structure and leadership needed to maintain the overall purpose and functioning of the collective. Too much obedience and blind loyalty to the institutions of government, inclusive of the military, saps the democracy of its vitality.
Just like spirituality is messy and chaotic as compared with the clear mandates and structures of religion, so true Democracy is messier than autocratic and authoritarian rule. This mess is the price of freedom.
This 4th I’m thinking about how to live into this mess with joy and hope.