If only we’d had YouTube in the 60s, surely someone would have done much better than this…
Still, Jesus was kind of a hippie. To find out how that turns out, we have only to turn to one our own old hippies, Kris Kristofferson.
Happens every time people start hearing words of love that make them uncomfortable in their traditions, in their perceived truths.
I have no truth to tell. I hardly know what truth is. I’m not even much of a hippie, but I do have long hair, and today I wore socks with sandals. That was pretty radical. It was something of a fashion statement on behalf of sensitive feet everywhere.
What I do have are questions. One question that crossed my mind today is the concept of “soul freedom.” I actually don’t know what it means. It’s a term I heard among the Baptists, but I suspect it was something the Brothers Wesley didn’t much cotton to, or I would have known it instinctively right down to the soles of my sore feet. Sole freedom, I don’t think is an option for me under the current dress guidelines of my workplace, but I doubt anyone can keep me from practicing soul freedom.
Here’s a sermon I found about soul freedom: www.fbc-worc.org/sermons/sermon_pdfs/SOUL%20SURVIVE.pdf
I like the joke. Absolutism as applied to belief tends to make people call each other heretics over the slightest differences. This is why we don’t just have one Christianity but hundreds and hundreds of little Christian sects. We tend to practice radical splits over small differences of opinion. We tend to cast a lot of stones over our own varying nuances of interpretation when we all sit down and read the same words.
Put ten people in a room with a passage of text from any document, and you will have ten different interpretations of what it says, what it means, and what’s important about what it means. This is the nature of human consumption of information. We understand what we read based our own background, experiences, and prior knowledge. And no, I’m not going to get wound up on that and start quoting Foucault or anything. I just sayin’.
This is why I can say I’ve read these articles about soul freedom, but I don’t know what it means. I’m not trying to say I don’t understand the articles. I’m only saying that my religious training makes it difficult for me to process this concept as something that I can know intuitively to be true. When we read something of a religious nature, and we do not experience that feeling of an intuitive connection to the meaning, our first impulse is to dismiss it as false.
Intuition in this case, however, is really just what we’ve been told so many times that we don’t have to think about it to understand it. If someone says to me, “We had an altar call last night, and five people were saved,” I won’t devote any time at all, not even a millisecond to wondering what they mean by the concept of “saved.” In reality, people can mean different things by “saved,” and different churches do teach different doctrines, and you could spend a great deal of time pondering on a philosophical level what anybody means by saved, but I wouldn’t think to think about it because I’ve heard the term so many times.
When I was around people who used the term “soul freedom” in this way, as if it were something they would never think to think about, despite the fact that it was a term I had never even heard before, I didn’t want to ask. Maybe I should have.
Here’s what I think it means–salvation is a matter between one person and one God. If you gather ten people together or ten thousand people together or ten million people together, salvation still happens one by one. One person and one God. How it happens, what the terms are, what the expectations are might be discussed and pondered and prayed over and taught in groups, but in the end it still happens one by one. It is still a private matter between one person and one God. Thus, it is not something any set of rules, regulations, or previously determined procedures can dictate. It is individual. It is an individual freedom. It is for each to work out on his or her own.
This sounds good, but it is difficult to reconcile with those little tracts they used to give us in Sunday School about the Plan of Salvation. There was definitely a previously determined procedure that we were all supposed to march along and take care of post haste.
But here’s the problem with procedures that are laid out for you. They are mechanical in nature. They are matters of obedience and adherence. They sort of prohibit rather than enhance personal relationships with the process at hand, which is to say they prohibit personal relationships between one soul and one God. When you’re looking at a person or a print out to see if you did that whole Plan of Salvation thing correctly, you aren’t looking at God, are you?
This is why I don’t understand what “soul freedom” means. I do understand what people mean when they say “saved,” and if I have that one understanding of saved that I don’t ever even stop and think about, it’s nearly impossible to understand at the same time what soul freedom means.
Somebody who thought he knew a thing or two about Aristotle told me a time or two that a thing cannot be both A and B at the same time. A truth can’t contradict itself. It either is one thing, or it is another thing, but it isn’t both at once.
Those Greeks really made life complicated for us. They made it almost too complicated for us to understand how it is possible that we can say “salvation is supposed to mean this for everyone” and “salvation is supposed to be an individual experience with room for an individual relationship to that experience for all.”
Well, we can say both things easily enough. I just did. But can we believe both things to be equally and synchronously true?
I’m actually not the preacher in the family, so I will leave that for you to decide. Meanwhile, here’s what I’m pondering…can we believe in soul freedom and believe at the same time that we can know or say who is getting it right? Can we believe salvation is an individual matter and believe at the same time that we can know who is left out, that we can say without doubt one particular sin excludes a person from that relationship of one person and one God?
I don’t know about you, but I see contradiction here. What would Jesus the Hippie do?