Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Talk Less, Listen More

We all know politicians who proudly assert that God is on their side in war and in their domestic agendas. This has always struck me as self-righteously presumptuous, arrogant, and dangerous. For those who are unshakably convinced that a personal Supreme Being endorses what they do are very likely to want to keep doing it no matter how dubious and destructive it is without giving it a second thought, and their appeals to fundamentalist religion usually manage to draw enough popular support to allow them to keep doing it until it has inflicted untold suffering and even death. What’s more, they and their supporters tend to disparage, demonize, and oppress those who disagree with them. For if God is on their side, then those who oppose them also oppose God, and those who oppose God are simply evil and deserve to be ignored and worse.

How unlike these sanctimonious politicians was Abraham Lincoln who urged the people of his day to stop insisting that God was on their side and to start hoping and praying that they were on God’s side. What a different mentality it is to go from dogmatic, unyielding insistence that one is right to open-minded and open-hearted acknowledgement that one might be wrong and to respect those and the opinions of those who say they are.

I am reminded of the words of a Hindu sage who when asked about the difference between prayer and meditation answered, “When I pray, I talk and God listens; and when I meditate, God talks and I listen.” How I wish that more politicians and regular citizens would do less talking and preaching and more reflective listening, by whatever name, to the “still, small voice” speaking from deep within their hearts and souls.

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