What ‘Ol Abe Saw
Moses, Jesus, Paul, et. al. as motivator. Their words as marching orders for how to live and what is right to do.
Sounds good. Yet, as he watched the bloody carnage justified on both sides by Christian theology, Abraham Lincoln perhaps said it best:
“I know that the Lord is always on the side of the right. But it is my constant anxiety and prayer that I and this nation should be on the Lord’s side.”
Which side is the Lord’s side? Or is it that God plays for both teams? Or is it that human beings are condemned to action that may or may not be “right” until God (or Satan?) sorts it out?
Cherry-Picking and Sound-Biting
This contrast came home to me during the recent fight over gay marriage in the state of Minnesota, where I live. Progressive religious leaders took a long look at the reign of the religious right in politics and decided to counter it. We took the Christian message of love and inclusion to the statehouse. I knew that we had accomplished the goal when a conservative state senator said, “This is about more than religion.”
The worm had turned. And, indeed, the right to marry is now guaranteed in the state of Minnesota.
Many of my religious sisters and brothers believe that the loving and inclusive message of their faith traditions prevailed. Don’t get me wrong—I’m all for loving and inclusion. It’s the message of Moses, Jesus, Paul, et. al. that bothers me a bit.
Weren’t we progressives cherry-picking and sound-biting as crassly as our conservative opponents?
Where were the real Moses and Jesus and Paul in all this?
Perhaps our hearts were telling us things. Perhaps our sense of right and wrong was talking, on both sides. But these sacred thinkers weren’t saying anything new that the scriptures weren’t telling Abe Lincoln and Jeff Davis back in their days of choosing who to slaughter and why based on those old writings.
This gives me pause. Are we really best served as we make decisions in the Twenty-First Century by referring to old texts and deities that pretty clearly don’t do a whole lot of clear talking?
Or might we be better served “using our own little heads”?
That’s a phrase I learned from my fundamentalist Christian mother: “Use your own little head.”
By it, she meant for teenage me to “listen to my raisin’,” another catch phrase, rather than my peers. My mother was cautioning me to use my own head. Further, at least to my future-humanist ears, she was saying that reason, not the religion in my gut, should determine my actions.
Shouldn’t reason, not the religions of our various cultural backgrounds, serve as the arbiter of public discourse and our efforts at realizing a just society?
As a multi-faith leader, I spend a lot of time saying and showing that people of diverse religious faiths can find common ground. I believe in that work.
I’m also convinced that our common evolution as cooperative and rational animals trumps the overlays of religion and culture made since our common trek from the Rift Valley began.
We are rational animals.
After all, which would you prefer as a physician, someone who feels your pain or someone who knows how to stop it? Listening to the heart is a fine thing to do. And, there’s no doubt scriptures make great soundbites.
Listening to our own heads is the hard part.