He was one of the most kindly fellows I had ever met. When he spoke at the traditional service of the church I attend, I was happy for him because of the reaction of the somewhat elderly congregation. I didn't much care for his rhetorical style. He slowed his speaking waaayyy dowwwnnnn. He chose words that were seldom more than two syllables, never more than three. He spoke in lists and his sermons were self referential. "The next point in my list is..." The subtext of every public word was unspoken Bushism at its worst: "You all are dumb as bricks, but you should like me anyway because I'm like you, my brothers and sisters. I'm dumb as a bag of hammers."
I squirmed and tried to think pleasant thoughts that would take me out of worship service and back at work. And I became preoccupied with beating down more evil desires. What had we ever done to him? But the service, eternal as it seemed, always came to an end, I stopped wishing he was dead and burning in Hell, and we were friends again.
Once, he explained to me that he never wrote his own sermons. Each Saturday night, just as he was in despair about what to say to whatever congregation he would be visiting the next day, he would be visited by the Holy Spirit. "God," he told me, "writes every sermon for me."
I hear that sort of thing from devout volunteers in the church. The messianic arrogance was unintentional. The I-am-a-prophet sort of Rat Robertson self-aggrandizement did not often come into it. Rather it was an attempt at modesty. Whatever I do that has merit, please credit the Lord who gives me inspiration. Whatever is flawed comes from me.
Lately, we have been hearing that sort of thing from minor politicians, mostly from the right. It's not unprecedented, of course. Sarah Palin came close, when she publicly asked for guidance from a spiritual counselor whose previous claim to fame had been accusing a woman of witchcraft and making her life miserable. Palin asked if God wanted her to become Governor of Alaska. Turns out the Lord did. The voters obeyed, but then did not cooperate with the Almighty in making her Vice President.
Pat Robertson had obeyed the Lord when ordered to run for President. The late Sam Kinison speculated that a very bored divinity was having fun at Robertson's expense. Michelle Bachmann is waiting for her orders. Sharron Angle (R-NV), God's seemingly eternal gift to Democrats, is the latest. After announcing to a FOX interviewer that the purpose of television news is "to ask the questions we want to answer so that they report the news the way we want it to be reported," she has told voters of having received her latest endorsement. God is urging voters to cast their ballots for her.
Thomas Merton reminded us that humility demands we acknowledge our ignorance. We never know what God wants. We do our best, in faith that our desire to please, itself, pleases God. Perhaps it is a sign to us that Angle has already performed one miracle, bringing back Harry Reid from the dead.
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"But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you."
However, though God does leave us to face our perils alone. He is only with us to the degree that we imagine that he is and, in the end, as we leave this life kicking and screaming, God does not save us from that perilous fate.
Even Christ Himself began to wonder why the Father had forsaken Him. I wish I could wonder that also.
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