04 July 2006

Ten Years Online

On this day 230 years ago, the King of England's subjects in the American colonies declared themselves subjects no longer. Henceforth they would be free citizens of an independent nation that existed only in their imaginations. As yet it had no national laws, but it did have a collection of gentlemen's agreements passed by a Continental Congress, and it had something of an army, led by an inexperienced Virginia planter.

The dream for which the army and the Congress staked their lives - their little rebellion was considered Treason against the Crown and punishable by execution - was an amorphous collection of values from the European Enlightenment, condensed in a little pamphlet called, "Common Sense." From those values they distilled the following lines:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
These words provide a postscript to the 1648 Peace of Westphalia, which set up the modern system of nation-states. It is simply this: Sovereignty does not reside with governments, but with the people governed. And this: Human Rights are not created by governments -- rather, governments are instituted to protect the Human Rights that people are given originally by their Creator.

Democracy is spreading, and has been doing so ever since the first liberal democracy began this day in 1776. The number of liberal democracies on earth is at an all-time high, and almost all countries on earth claim to be democratic whether they are or not. That is to say, the European Enlightenment value that liberal democracy represents is paid almost universal homage, even by its enemies.

And so, we chose this day to launch The Virtual Church of the Blind Chihuahua 10 years ago to affirm liberal democratic values as the only way we know that can enable people of all faiths to share our planet in peace. And the only way we know to practice our own faith with authenticity and without hindrance. As the Bible says, "Let my people go, that they may serve Me," and as the Qur'an says, "Let there be no compulsion in Religion."

In ten years, we have not been entirely without impact. Some 20 people or so have written to us that they were considering leaving Christianity until they stumbled upon us, and realized (in so many words) that Christianity is not the sole intellectual property of the Fundamentalists. Some vigorous debates have taken place in our Forum concerning sexuality, and war. A woman "came out" to her family and community about her having been abused by a priest when she was a teenager. And numerous clergy and laypersons from around the world have written to say they enjoyed the site. Our essays on nuclear weapons, the Challenger explosion, and some others have been discussed in college courses, and our Abrahamic Prayer (combining Jewish, Christian, and Islamic elements) has been used in interfaith gatherings. All in all, not too bad.

What we would like to see in the next ten years (if we go that long) is more participation by Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists trying to work out a way of affirming their own and each other's faiths.

On a more personal note, I want to mention that my mother-in-law passed from this world yesterday. Let us all be mindful that we are only passing through this world, and that it is our mission to leave it better for our having done so, to the extent we can.

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