Sunday, October 20, 2013

Can you hear me now?

I am in the middle of reading a novel about Thomas Cromwell the chief minister of English king Henry VIII and a proponent of the Protestant Reformation. During that time there was much debate about who could hear the voice of God. It was mostly believed that only the Catholic Pope, and maybe a few saints, could hear and deliver God’s Word. King Henry naturally disagreed. He believed that he was ordained to rule by God and therefore he also could receive direct and holy counsel in order to rule his nation. But this did not extend to non-royals and women. They were not privy to such communications. Henry used this belief to justify his desire to divorce and remarry so he could try to create a legitimate male heir, since he only had one daughter by his first wife who was now past childbearing. He was afraid that when he died he would leave his kingdom without a ruler in direct contact with God.

In my upbringing as a Quaker I was taught that there is that of God in everyone, and therefore we are all capable of hearing God and having God speak through us. With all that rumbling around my brain last week, during the voting to end the shut down and raise the debt ceiling, a stenographer for U.S. House of Representatives calmly walked up to the podium and began to shout a message she claimed to have heard from God. The website Politico reported her as saying: “He will not be mocked. He will not be mocked – don’t touch me – he will not be mocked... The greatest deception here is this is not one nation under God. It never was... the Constitution would not have been written by the Freemasons. They go against God.”

According to Michael Daly of the Daily Beast, Dianne Foster Reidy told her husband Dan that she had been kept awake for several nights by the Holy Spirit who was urging to deliver a message on the House floor. “This whole mess has just kind of sickened her to the whole process,” he said. “The alliances between people who aren’t really allies. The finger-pointing on the dais, [then] the arms around each other... Where are the people being served in this whole deal?

When she struck up her courage and gave her message Diane was pulled out of the hall for being disruptive and promptly admitted to a psychiatric ward for observation. Had the venality and hypocrisy of the whole debacle simply caused her to snap? Had she become unreasonably crazy? Or was she actually the voice of reason reacting to about 500 or more politicians acting immorally at the expense of hundreds of thousands of others?

I know a married couple who, when they get ready for a night on the town, appoint one of them to be the “voice of reason”. That person’s job is to keep them from eating too much, partying too hard, and most importantly see that they get home safely. That person is supposed to remind the other to exercise good judgment. So what is the difference between that and hearing the voice of God?

These questions remind me of the story my grandmother told me about the first time she ever heard the voice of God. Her father traveled on business frequently and usually brought the children small gifts upon his return. One day when he was expected to come home little Lydie went to watch for him from a third story window. She was so excited she decided to climb out side and sit on a ledge to get a better view. Her big sister was shocked to find her in such a dangerous situation. She pulled her inside and shook her saying. “Lydie, didn’t you hear a little voice telling you not to do this?” “Well, yes.” she replied. “Well that was the voice of God! You should always listen to God!!

I would suggest that the voice of God and the voice of reason are one and the same. Common sense is common because it is informed by knowledge we all have access to. God communicates to each of us that special wisdom which we each will uniquely understand. Though the message may seem unique to our understanding, its underpinnings of truth are universal. Morality is an inner knowledge of a universal understanding of the difference between right and wrong.

Immoral behavior is based on delusional thinking. “I won’t get caught.” “There’s nothing wrong with doing this.” “It may be wrong but I have a good reason for doing this.” “I am doing this for someone else.” And so on… When we ignore the voice of reason we behave immorally. To ignore the voice of reason is to deny the voice of God. Fortunately God is not so petty and jealous that we are required to give God credit for all the good directions we take. Unfortunately there are all kinds of people who use God to justify their delusional thought processes. Mostly God wants us to use our best judgment about the greater good, and to share what we have heard so that we all might learn from each other and try to make better moral decisions as a result.

I don’t think Diane is or was delusional. I think she was merely reacting to what a great number of people regard as immoral behavior on the part of the politicians. I hope she will get some rest and won’t let this experience, or the fears and doubts of others, keep her from testing what she has heard from God by sharing it with others again.
Almost every day when I talk on my cell phone I hear myself saying “Can you hear me now?” We have a tin roof which interferes with our wireless phone reception. God has the same problem. Every day we receive the Word of God. Often we ignore it. It rarely comes in the form of a burning bush like the one Moses saw. Not everyone receives a perceivable and specific direct call to action like Diane the stenographer. It usually comes in the form of our common sense and the impulse to treat others as we would be treated. And, God is infinitely patient. The Word comes in many forms and it always arrives when we need it most. God will keep asking “Can you hear me now?

1 comment:

  1. A more specific identification of particular virtues can prevent us from falling prey to the delusional thinking you describe:

    “I won’t get caught.” “There’s nothing wrong with doing this.” “It may be wrong but I have a good reason for doing this.” “I am doing this for someone else.” And so on…

    Virtues (such as courage, self-restraint, justice, freedom from anger, avarice, and pride) give us a clear standard to measure our thoughts and behavior in a more challenging way than simply calling for reason and morality. The language of the virtues has been largely lost in modern times; Allisdair MacIntrye in his book After Virtue traces the philosophy that led to this loss.

    It is in diligent practice of virtue that we prepare ourselves for hearing the voice (Word) of God. There must be effort on our part to prepare, for without using the capacity we have, we can't expect to receive more. And God's grace is more than our natural reason.