Posted by: nmontague | February 5, 2011

Faith and coercion

I was watching Glenn Beck earlier. He had a guest one, Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, who is a faithful Muslim working against the radical Muslims who use violence to enforce their religion. At the end of the show he said something that was interesting:”Faith is negated if it’s coerced.”

Now, this is something I’ve always believed. You can’t force people to have faith. But the way he phrased it has me thinking. In order for real faith in God to flourish, people need to be able to free to choose what they believe. You could put a gun to someone head and tell them to believe (or conversely not to believe), and they may say everything you want to hear, but that doesn’t change their hearts. You can manipulate the environment they are in. Push them toward faith or a certain religion. You can ban all other religions. You can threaten to take their lives. You can kill people they love. But none of that will ever force people to have faith (or again conversely, not to).

True religious faith requires that the person choose it voluntarily. You can’t change someone’s heart with threats of violence. You may force them to hide who they truly are. But you can’t force them to be someone different.

Thinking about it now, I realize more why Gandhi (Yes, I know I talk about him alot) associated truth with non-violence. It’s because you can’t convince someone of the truth with violence. First, you can’t use violence to help people find truth, because using violence to force people to see things your way leads not to them changing their hearts, but hiding who they really are. If you are hiding who you really are, how on earth can you ever find the truth? It creates lies, not truth.

Second, using violence demonstrates a lack of confidence in your own heart. If you own heart. It demonstrates fear, not faith. Fear of being wrong. If you seek the truth, you have nothing to fear, because if you are wrong about something, you change your mind. Your quest in life is to align yourself with the truth rather than forcing others to align with you. If you are filled with fear instead of faith, how on earth can you possibly convince others to accept what you don’t have. You’re “faith” is meaningless. It’s negated.

Third, on a practical matter it makes sense. What do you think would be more persuasive at changing someone’s heart? Having a gun to their brain or convincing them to accept it without the use of force? Which do you think will have more power in their life?

Faith is supposed to be a principle of power. We cannot access that power if it’s not embraced voluntarily. If there is no change of heart, it doesn’t benefit us.

So what then is the way to empower our lives and the lives of others? First, you need to have freedom to seek the Truth. Then you need exercise the faith to embrace the truth. And if you ever want to have power to help others do likewise, you need to do it with “pursuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, by love unfeigned, by kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy and with guile.” (Doctrine and Covenants 121:41-42).

It makes me ask myself an important question. Do I have enough faith in God to leave my life in his hands? Enough to do no violence to another human being even if it costs me my own life? It’s a matter of faith and charity. Something to ponder right now.

But I do know two things:

1) Zion can only be built when we have the freedom to choose it.

2) The charity necessary for Zion cannot be achieved if we have violence in our hearts towards anyone.


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