Whenever we are in need of a humility lesson we would do well to remember that, with one trifling exception, the entire universe is composed of others. When Galileo tried to make the case that, likewise, neither our planet or its sun is the center of the universe, he was forced, under the penalty of death, to deny theory he floated. The abjuration of Galileo in 1633 is another thing we would do well to remember. For it read:
“I, Galileo, son of the late Vincenzo Galilei of Florence, being 70 years old, swear that I have always believed, believe now and, with God’s help, will in the future believe all that the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church doth hold, preach and teach. But since, after having been admonished by this Holy Office entirely to abandon the false opinion that the sun is the centre of the Universe and immovable, and that the Earth is not the centre of the same and that it moves, and that I was neither to hold, defend, nor teach in any manner whatsoever, either orally or in writing, the said false doctrine; and after having received a notification that the said doctrine is contrary to Holy Writ, I wrote and published a book in which I treat this condemned doctrine and bring forward very persuasive arguments in its favour without answering them: I have been judged vehemently suspected of heresy, that is of having held and believed that the Sun is at the centre of the Universe and immovable, and that the Earth is not at the centre and that it moves. Therefore, wishing to remove from the minds of your Eminences and all faithful Christians this vehement suspicion reasonably conceived against me, I abjure with a sincere heart and unfeigned faith these errors and heresies, and I curse and detest them as well as any other error, heresy or sect contrary to the Holy Catholic Church. And I swear that for the future I shall neither say nor assert orally or in writing such things as may bring upon me similar suspicions; and if I know any heretic, or one suspected of heresy, I will denounce him to this Holy Office, or to the Inquisitor or Ordinary of the place in which I may be.”
Of course, neither the Earth or its sun is the center of the universe, but the Galileo experience underscores a much bigger concern. The man was not even free to advance a theory and was forced to deny his highest conception of truth and fact or lose his mortal life. He did this at the hand of a corrupt authority, a morally bankrupt and spiritually insecure church. Where Our Heavenly Father gave each of us the right to accept or reject the divine plan, the church engaged in intimidation and coercion. Turn or Burn was, in the long run, a vein attempt to usurp the authority of the Spirit of Truth.
Spiritual unity should never be confused with uniformity. Where God bestowed a questioning mind through which we may discover, prayerfully consider, and freely embrace the divine attributes, the institutional church actually retarded progress through its own control freakery nature, its threats, and the demand for lockstep conformity. The Church was never supposed to be a Mechanical Bride.
Marshall McLuhan authored a book by that title. He was concerned by the size and the intentions of the North American culture industry. He wrote: “Ours is the first age in which many thousands of the best-trained individual minds have made it a full-time business to get inside the collective public mind. . .” Are today’s academic institutions, with their own entrenched priesthood, better equipped to free us from certain habits of thought? Or are they, like the church of the dark ages, top heavy with dead intellectualism? It is not a question of being an educated fool versus a religious one, for ignorance concerning the true role of religion is pervasive. We, the earth bound, should be asking if lockstep conformity with the fleeting standards of either theological or political correctness is somehow superior to such conformity with any other dogma? At some point we must ask; “Where is the freedom in either case?”
The Book of Matthew describes a pivotal exchange between Simon Peter and Jesus wherein Peter exclaimed: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied: “. . . flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church . . .”
The pivotal moment consists of how some would interpret “this rock” to mean Peter while others see the Spirit giving rise to the revelatory experience. The “Get thee behind me Satan” rebuke Peter experienced just moments later betray any notion that the true church would be built upon anything other than the direct connection we can each enjoy with Our Heavenly Father who dwells simultaneously within our minds and at the Center of the Universe.