I’m turning to a guest writer for today’s Daily Focus—Pope Francis, who traveled last weekend to Albania and spoke at the Presidential Palace in the capital, Tirana. The specific purpose of the trip was to recognize and appreciate the unusual degree of mutual respect and cooperation that exists among Muslims, Catholics and Orthodox Christians in that country.
“Let no one consider themselves the ‘armor’ of God while planning and carrying out acts of violence and oppression,” the Pope said. “May no one use religion as a pretext for actions against human dignity and against the fundamental rights of every man and woman, above all to the right to life and the right of everyone to religious freedom.”
It’s a courageous statement of Truth, clearly addressed to events in the world today. I think, however, we miss the point if we’re not willing to claim this spiritual message for ourselves. We don’t have to turn to the excesses of some Muslim fundamentalists to find examples of what Pope Francis was addressing.
At a recovery meeting I attended last week, a woman raised her hand to insist, with every good intention I’m sure, that it was important that everyone present recognize that their addictions were punishment from God, and that the only way out was to beg forgiveness for the sins that had brought on the divine wrath. She was heard politely, of course, and the sharing continued; but I could feel the energy in the room become heavier and darker. That is, for me, an example of using religion “as a pretext for actions against human dignity.”
We all bear scars from the insane belief in an angry and punishing God that most of us were taught as children. And we all carry in our ego minds a myriad of thoughts that still believe it. In times of stress and uncertainty we sometimes allow those thoughts to become negative, judgmental beliefs—directed most often at ourselves! We can deny ourselves “the fundamental rights of every man and woman” more effectively—and with greater damage in consciousness—than any outside forces could ever achieve.
Today I deeply appreciate my divine right to eternal life, and to that life’s expression in this human experience. In full spiritual freedom I claim the light and the shadows, the joy and the sorrow that my life force creates on my sacred spiritual journey.