Peacebang has had a number of magnificent posts recently, most noticeably Clarification and Musings on Moral Authority
. This is a subject I’ve given a lot of thought to- decades of thought, ever since I left the church of my childhood. I have kept journals of my religious journey since those days in the early 70’s, and a few paragraphs from that journal may serve as introduction to my conclusions on Moral Authority. Note: I use the feminine pronouns and the title “the Divine” for God- not because I believe the Divine has a gender, but to avoid the emotional baggage of “God the Father”, and because I cannot bring myself to call the Divine “it”.
I believe in a living Divinity, indescribable, knowable only through personal experience.
I believe that human beings have a soul that is our true self; our conscious personality and rational mind are only tools our true self employs to manipulate its environment. The soul lives in a world of magic; it is to this true self that the Divine speaks.
I believe that the Divine works only through living agencies, by influencing souls. She does not punish by causing natural disasters, nor does she reward by salvation from natural disaster.
I believe that the Divine only persuades, she does not compel. We have the right and the freedom to act against her wishes and our best interests.
I believe that responsibility, for good or ill, is my one irrevocable possession. No one else may pay for my sins, nor I theirs; it is non-transferable. Nor can anyone else claim my triumphs, nor I theirs. I owe my teachers gratitude, but they did not perform my feats any more than I have performed those of my students.
The Divine does not command. She does not make her love conditional on what you believe or do; her joys are poured forth unconditionally. Although she demands nothing from me, I choose to offer something to her, just as unconditionally, a gift born of my gratitude. I offer her my covenant, my promise of things I will do in her honor.
I will walk the path of least harm; none whenever possible. Nor will I permit by my inaction harm to come to others when it is within my power to prevent it, for it has been said that we will only have justice when those who were not injured are as outraged as those who were. How is it that people can see the defiling of the cross or the Koran- graven images of the Divine- as blasphemy, and yet not understand that defiling their fellow man- the living image of the Divine- is equally blasphemy?
I will return measure for measure; an honest day's work for an honest day's pay, dealing honestly and ethically even if I am the only one who knows it was done.
I will be charitable to the poor and gentle with the weak. I will seek to understand the hopes, fears, and aspirations of those around me. I will leave this world better than I found it.
I will do these things not for fear of death but for joy of life. This is my covenant.
Moral Authority does not derive from God’s word, because the Divine speaks to us (if she does) individually; it could be said that there are six billion religions. Moral Authority does not derive from what we believe, because even the wisest of us believe, in some corner of our lives, some damn silly things. Moral Authority derives from what we promise to do, and whether we keep that promise. Maybe my credo isn’t very profound, and maybe my covenant isn’t very long and doesn’t promise much- but it’s mine, and I keep it.