Susan B and Me

Social media has been circulating a quote attributed (correctly, I hope) to Susan B Anthony: “I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do, because I notice it always coincides with their own desires”.Basically, I agree. My own thought process, as a Presbyterian minister, has always been that the only person more dangerous than the one who knows that s/he is always right is the one who knows s/he’s right because God told him/her so.
The absolute certainty, that what we are doing is right, makes almost everybody else, to one degree or another, wrong. And though in these times, the general tendency is to use these quotes to castigate fundamentalists, and the far right, we have to also acknowledge that the far left, uber-liberals can be equally convinced of their own Godly directives. I’ve read plenty of posts and tweets that are supercilious,sanctimonious, patronising and ultimately hateful from those who are convinced that they are open minded, inclusive, and God’s truly chosen people.
The result: if we are in any way religious, we hurl Scripture verses at each other like weapons. We cavalierly disregard context, translation issues, or the effects of “authoritative interpretation”over the course of centuries. ( I’ve often thought that if we could time-transport any given Biblical figure here, they’d say “Hey, that’s not what we meant!”)
One thing appears obvious to me–the constant political “sound bites”, “quote bites” “cartoon bites” “short rants” from either side aren’t changing anyone’s mind. They’re just ramping up the level of hostility between people who see themselves, their world, and God in different ways.
The question is, can enough of us rein ourselves in, drift to the middle (I know, the Middle, how boring, how unsophisticated, how wishy-washy) long enough to speak to each other with civility. And then to LISTEN. To each other.
That “each other” is an important piece. As a minister, I’ve heard the “spiritual but not religious” line, and the “I find God in nature/the golf course/solitude” lines often. And I can understand the antipathy to religious instutions–they’ve screwed up pretty badly, and there are a lot that are propogating the “God told me I’m the good guy” theology. And yet, it seems to me that if it’s only you and God talking, God can start to sound a lot like you”.
So I guess I’m asking us all to participate in shutting up and listening, testing our thoughts against other people’s, and thinking about context.
Oh yeah–one other thing. Can we do something about the dumbing down of America? That would eliminate a lot of this crap.

The Eating is going well . . .

As is the love part. We love these children with all our hearts. They are a part of us, family. Just  as their mother is a completely different person than either my husband or me, yet raised in our home, these two are even more different. That’s why these trips alone are so essential to us; so that we can get to know them as who and what they are, not as what we think they are, or what their parents say they are. And, at 11 and 13, a good part of what they are–eating machines. As my husband has remarked several times already this trip–this army travels on its stomach, for sure, and when they are hungry, the nearest pizzaria had best watch out.  Fortunately, in Italy, there are, as my mother would say, a “gracious plenty” of pizza available.  Trying to upgrade their culinary tastes, we have introduced them to lasagna.  And tonight, in Assisi, another breakthrough. Eating at a restaurant recommended by Ricardo–story below–they at least tasted some of the spectacular pasta dishes on offer.

Ricardo–the proprietor of a shop we stopped in. Ricardo turned out to have spent his student years in Santa Monica and at UCLA, spends four months of the year on business in Santa Monica, and knows a few of the restaurant owners we know. Ricardo was genuinely pleased to meet people from his US  ‘hood. It was as if we were fast friends already, and immediately got us a table at a restaurant that was completely booked.   Now we all know that true friendships, true bonds, don’t come about instantly; and yet, his attitude was contagious. Perhaps, I wonder, if this is what Christian fellowship should be about–meeting other people who have one thing in common, a love of Christ, and then being willing and open to share that joy, regardless of the many differences in how we express it through our own cultures.

If we try, in our multitasking days, to allow one person that openness and grace, we might get a really good meal out of it.