(Original post by GospelJohn)
Training elephants is not easy. After all, they are huge compared to humans and have a will of their own. And yet we have all seen them bend to the will of their trainers. How is this done? One step at a time and it begins very early in life.
A baby elephant is initially confined so it can barely move. Later, it is tethered by a strong cuff and chain secured to a wall or steel pole. The baby elephant slowly learns that no matter how hard it resists, its desires do not override those of his trainers. Over time, the elephant resigns itself to the status quo and the trainers are able to gradually reduce the restraints until a simple rope tied to a stake in the ground works as well as the strongest chains. What does this have to do with the subject at hand? I believe this is analogous to how constrained we become to our spiritual beliefs based in fear, guilt and shame.
So why do we hear stories of people and animals becoming lifelong friends without any coercion at all? Such stories often share a common theme. It takes time and patience and trust to accomplish such a friendship. That makes one wonder why such cruel treatment of animals, like with the training of elephants, is used at all? The answer is that it is quicker and requires much less effort from the trainer to get an animal to submit through fear and suffering than it does to win their cooperation through love and patience. But how does all this relate to religion and spirituality?
When God created us, there was a choice made as to whether or not we should have free will. Clearly we do have it, so God’s answer was that our having free will was the better way. But in having the freedom to choose our own path, we also have the choice to reject God’s loving ways. If the goal is to have everyone freely accept God’s loving ways for our own, can that best be done through love and patience, or coercion and suffering? The answer to that question has evidence on both sides, for we all do suffer even though God loves us with an everlasting love. But we also know that our choices made out of fear hardly compares to the joy of cooperating with others through love. And so the answer becomes clear.
While God’s plan may require a great deal more time and patience to accomplish, His loving approach is a sustainable win/win for us all. When every one of us joyously agrees on how we should live, coercion, suffering or our submission to anyone’s will is a moot point.
But what do we make of the Bible’s warnings of a torturous and irreversible hell to which rebellious souls are condemned? That has to be a selfish and intolerant plan created by Mankind that lacks love, compassion and patience. Such a fearful and anxious approach works quickly to scare many people into submission, but it doesn’t last. We will always sin again when our lives are guided by fear, guilt and shame.
How can I be sure I am right? God created us in His own perfect image, and so the same qualities that bring God His greatest pleasure are also shared by us. It would make no sense for God to create us so that we thought He could be improved. How would it serve for God to be something other than the most wonderful, loving and patient Creator we can imagine? So in believing that the true nature of God is to be unconditionally loving and perfect in all ways, how can we be wrong? We will still reap what we sow, for that is instructive and only leads us back into His loving arms as we learn what works best. But tethering ourselves to the fear, guilt and shame of the religions many were raised with is not what God intended nor does it yield His desired results. What do you think?