Brian’s Reflection: Monday, November 22, 2010
Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy, President of the United States;
he was assassinated on this date, in Dallas, 1963
John Kennedy was no goody-goody. He was not, in my view, a great statesman. But he is an icon of the 60’s. He was young, rich, charismatic, and a young president of the World’s (supposedly) most powerful nation. He was apparently, according to many contemporary and later commentators, an iconic image of the times. As a Canadian boy of 17, I stayed home from school (how I don’t know) and was glued to the TV through 3 days of the whole thing (all in black & white, on the CBC).
At the time, I think the thing that most stunned me was that such a thing could happen in America; it seemed so ….. uncivilized! And now, the thing that strikes me the most is how that moment transcended all politics – as sleazy then as now – and was such a personal human drama. John Kennedy was us all, struck down at the prime of Life ….. and I realize now how that can happen to any of us, no matter how “safe” or “protected”, even living in the richest country in the World. It makes me deeply aware that we Americans think we are so powerful ….. but we are so vulnerable on so many levels, despite our privileges. This is the “spiritual” affect of that day 47 years ago.
Kids all around the World today kill themselves because they are not approved of by their “peers”. Because they don’t meet the social standard. We’ve had a recent spate of Gay teens killing themselves. Straight bullied kids off themselves too. American society has little tolerance for “non-conformists”. American men run scared if they are not seen as gun-toting, sports-crazed, anti-queer “guys” who demean women. And God forbid if any of us seek a non-militarized society and don’t equate war-fever and World dominance with Patriotism.
John Kennedy’s words apply to our Western culture. But they also apply to the inner life. It is applicable to Religion today around the World. One must think with the majority, goose-step in line, or one is suspect, often persecuted. That’s what Jesus warned about when He said to his followers, “You will be persecuted for My sake”. Because Jesus did NOT conform; he WAS free; He GREW in Holiness and Humanity. And He threatened the Hell out of people.
But Kennedy is right. “Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy or Growth.” All society and all religion degenerates easily into a tool of the slavery and the stunting of the Soul.
“Those who have ears to hear, let them hear.”