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.

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