Sjolander Road Fellowship

Declaring the God of Unconditional Love

Compulsory ritualism



Various groups among us insist on what they view as compulsory sacred rituals. Sometime these rituals have a religious basis and sometimes they are put forth as acts of patriotism. I use the term sacredness in the broadest sense, as describing anything we want to venerate.


In a society ostensibly dedicated to personal liberty, the concept of compulsory rituals seems strangely out of place. If the purpose of a ritual is to demonstrate awe and respect, how can compulsion be involved? Can compulsory respect be real? It seems to me that the very suggestion of compulsion negates the whole value of a ritual as a love demonstration or unity affirming exercise. Respect not freely granted is a farce, a mere compliance to get along. I suspect that is where a great number of participants in these sacred rituals really are. Going along to get along without much concern for meaning and value.


During the course of my life, I have reacted both positively and negatively to sacred rituals, religious and secular. Sometimes they seemed uplifting and meaningful and, at others, I sensed crass emotionalism designed to manipulate. When some insist on making a ritual a required test of one's worthiness, then, for me, that requirement becomes an attempt at oppression, totally at odds with the spirit of our proclaimed national and religious ideals.


I always heard that one of the principles of the Bible was God's desire to be loved freely by man. Therefore, He gave mankind free will; so that, if man did obey and respect God, that reaction would derive spontaneously from an honest heart, one free to do otherwise. That thought implied that love, reverence, and respect offered to God without the freedom of choice was worthless. Compulsory love and respect could not count.


Of course, Orthodox Christianity has muddied the theological waters by teaching that God is prepared to damn you, if you don't render love and respect through proper obedience. Thus, any display of love is tainted by coercion and not freely given in any meaningful sense.


I think Paul confirms in I Corinthians 13 that activities motivated by other than love have no value. Love, either of God or country, cannot legitimately result from threats, including the threat of public sanction. Therefore, I see no justification for compulsory sacred rituals either in a love based religious faith or a political system committed to personal freedom.