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.

Spiritual but not religious? Or Religious but not spiritual?

So often people tell me that they are “spiritual, but not religious”.  I think they mean that they have some concept or connection to something greater, but are turned off by or discouraged by organized religion (an oxymoron, anyway)or by religious organizations.  Understandable. People do all sorts of things that serve their agendas, while talking about serving God, the church, the faith, whatever.  No one with any sense would deny that. But besides those who for great or petty reasons use God for themselves, there are, I think, many of us who serve as clergy, or as lay officers, or who just attend services who are definitely religious–invested in the tradition, the dogma, the rituals, the forms of  religion without any true spirituality–any true connection to God, in whatever form God exists. That’s why they/we can walk out of a religious service, and do precisely the opposite of  those tenets and beliefs that were just averred.  Once outside the doors, repentance, reconciliation, forgiveness, and daily acts of kindness are broad based concepts that have a nice sound but little to do with daily activities.

Look at the photo of me that accompanies this blog.  I’m there, dressed with all the accoutrement of a religious organization. What does that say? Religious? Spiritual? Both? Neither?

How would you know unless you interact with me–personally, virtually, in some way, a true connection?