Here’s a thing. There’s a lady who calls herself Wise Hearted when she blogs. Lives on the other side of the world to us but she reads our letters. Obviously a person of great character. How they get to her remains a mystery. But she engages with them, comments and writes nice things so, we like her. Wise Hearted is a believer. What she believes is not important for the letter so don’t ask. Accept that she has something firmly planted in her life that gives her Hope as discussed in our last letter. She knows with assurity where she’s going and that is the best thing anyone can have. She’s the sort of person who makes us smile.
She read our Christmas letter. She liked it and surmised from my preamble that in a previous time I had been a preacher! That suggestion rattled around in my head for a whole evening stirring an assortment of emotions, the reason being, I have very little time for preachers, the proclaimers of some law or system, a set of rules that need to be adhered to all in the name of peace with the Universe, normally introduced as God.
Does that sound very harsh? Me colouring everyone of them with the same brush? A little explanation perhaps?
I’m sure there are some good preachers. But you see, I’ve listened to preachers over the years. Lots of preachers. I’ve learned that they largely work on provoking emotions in their audience and these emotions are normally fear or guilt. Fear because, well if you don’t respond in the prescribed manner you’re destined for a long stay in a very unpleasant place. It’s clever because even the most skeptical of people must harbor a small, even very small concern that the preacher may be right. I mean, if there is one chance in a hundred…
Then guilt. We all are less than perfect. We all get it wrong. We fall short and we are often greater failures in what we don’t do rather than what we do do (sounds like the beginning of a song…de, do, do, do, de, da, da, da – I distract, sorry). So telling people there is an expectation and they have failed to meet it, it’s a slam dunk. Oh, you’re never going to hit the target.
Guilt Trip – A special kind of manipulation tactic. A manipulator suggests to the conscientious victim that he or she does not care enough, is too selfish or has it easy. This usually results in the victim feeling bad, keeping them in a self-doubting, anxious and submissive position.Dr George K. Simon
Oh, I forgot. There is an enticement model where the promise of what you can have is held out. If the stick doesn’t get you maybe the carrot will (always try the stick first, it’s cheaper!). For all who conform there will be great rewards so its in your best interest, self interest, to do as the preacher says.
I’ve heard all three models across a variety of religious setting and I’m convinced I’ve never been a preacher. Never want to be.
But teach? Now we’re talking. Because there is a need for light in the darkness. There’s a need for people to broaden their perspectives, to have options, to have alternatives. To know there are other paths to the one they are currently on and choice always exists. I believe we all have the right to make informed, thought through decisions without emotional pressure. I have encouraged you in several letters this year to learn what others think on the subject, any subject, even your opponents. Then decide. Maybe emotions will be engaged. Some learning will invite an emotional response but it should never force it.
Then retain the right to ask questions. Any system that denies that right needs to be avoided. If it has merit and substance it will stand up to even your questions.
Some would call me liberal. I don’t think so. I’ve just learnt never to close my mind. That love and kindness are more convincing, more world changing than all the words. There is no need to demand, cajole, guilt people to join your gang. You see, if a building is on fire people will come to see. The same with any belief system. If the Spirit, that is the essence of the Universe, the Divine, dwells amongst them, then people will come. If the qualities of God, the Laws of the Universe, love, acceptance, healing presence are there, believe me people will come. Some will taste and decide it’s not for them, some will call it crazy and leave, but many will stay. Not because of coercion but because they’ve engaged, tasted, tested even, and not just with their minds but with their emotions, with their whole man and it was good.
I think you might tell me the imperative to “go and preach the gospel” I’m sure most beliefs have a similar requirement. But let me ask you, your version of the gospel, is it fear or guilt or reward based. Shame on you if it is. For me the very essence of the Universe is Love and that is the gospel. No need to commit, join the party, wear the uniform or live a rule dictated life. The world needs Love, the world hurts for Love, people live in darkness due to the absence of Love. That’s the gospel and you and I need to teach that because people need teachers not preachers and actions and examples in addition to words.
For God to teach you love, he must bring unlovely people into your life.Anon
Your beliefs tell you that Love came down at Christmas. Teach that.
Before I sign off, I’m going to thank Wise Hearted for giving me the chance to think this through. I’m sure this letter will find it’s way to her. Love will always find a way.
Yours, astonished where our letters find their way to,