Friday, November 30, 2012

Hearing From God

This isn't so much a new piece as it is an opportunity to bring The Peace Game and God's Will Isn't Rocket Surgery back around to some newer readers while offering a few thoughts to serve as companions to the things discussed in those pieces.

I still very regularly deal with people journeying out of P/QF and the Christian Homeschooling movement (and other recovering religious addicts in general) who can't make a decision without "hearing from God". That very thing ("hearing from God") was the impetus for my ex to be whisked away to another state, housed by hyper-fundamentalist people like-minded to her parents, and have the Peace Game played on her. Her elder sister had the exact same sabbatical, to the exact same place, to do the exact same thing (hear from God), just a few months prior - with the exact same result: conformity to the group goals. Neither of them have so much as a clue what God "sounds" like.

First of all, if you need to "hear from God" about something or some decision, you're already about 90% of the way toward arriving at a terrible decision. If guilt, in any form, is playing any part in your need to "hear from God", you're most likely being manipulated. Second, if you need to "hear from God", you probably wouldn't even know what God sounded like if you did hear from him. Your ideas about God are probably the product of the people in "authority" over you - a God shaped in their image, ruled by their agendas, fears, whims, and desires. Essentially, a version of God that's a world-class asshole who will punish you with plagues, shame, a Norwegian strain of halitosis, a horrible life, and eternal damnation if you do the "wrong" thing.

Coming from the background that most of you do, my advice to you would be if something makes you feel guilty, well, it's probably the right thing to do. Do it and don't look back. Few good and meaningful things in life come without some resistance - and that's especially true for you guys. Most of you have had to go to hell and back just to find a tiny sliver of genuine, lasting freedom and personal liberty, having been stuck behind the Iron Curtain of patriarchal fiefdoms, religious addictions, and religious lunacy.

If you know right from wrong, you've already "heard from God". If you profess Christianity, yet don't really know right from wrong and still struggle with finding "God's will", you're not in any spiritual/emotional/psychological shape, whatsoever, to "hear from God" in the manner you think you should to begin with. So stop. Please. What's God gonna say to you? "Hey. How's it goin'? Want some gum?" or something more like "Thou shalt..." or "Thou shalt not..."? Or will God sound like Screech from Saved By The Bell?

You can keep trying to "hear from God" and continue making terrible, guilt-ridden, acceptance/approval-seeking, religious addiction-driven decisions - confusing God with anything that speaks loudly or happens to offer a release of pressure in your pursuit of a false and destructive "peace", or, if you're genuinely a person of faith, you can trust your heart because of God within.

Just stop trying so hard to prove to God how religious you are. The people who truly love you don't need you to run a spiritual obstacle course to prove anything to them. If they do, they're toxic. If God were toxic, why would you even care what he had to say? Why would you want to please and worship that God?

Breathe. Heal. Live.  


  1. "The people who truly love you don't need you to run a spiritual obstacle course to prove anything to them. If they do, they're toxic."

    I think I need to have this inscribed on a plaque somewhere. ;)

    Thanks for another insightfully incisive post. It's good to see you blogging again.

  2. These days, I kind of view "hearing from God" as "listening to my gut." The two seem to me to be about the same, and usually accurate. The problem is that I was trained not to "listen to my gut" so it takes a lot of practice for me to hear it now.

    I do realize that in the circles you are talking about, those two things would be considered opposites and not at all similar. So I think I agree with you, even though I still use the lingo.

  3. @Eliza: In the Lutheran church in which I was raised, we were taught that one's intuition was the voice of God the Holy Spirit, and we were taught to examine our own desires, fears, grudges, etc., in an attempt to set them aside in order to hear clearly. We were also expected to use our reason for most decisions, with intuition taking precedence when it nudged us. You can see from this that somebody coming up and saying, "The Holy Spirit told me to tell you to do this thing or marry this person or stop doing this other thing," is to be taken with a heck of a grain of salt--at the very least, carefully checking the credentials of the person who makes that assertion! If everybody's listening, why did God tell that dude over there that I had to marry him, instead of telling me?

    The Episcopal church I attend now accepts the same premise; in fact it is codified in our adult Bible study curriculum, which expects students to practice reflection, self-examination, quiet meditation, and prayer--privately, BTW, sharing only when so moved, which I think is an extremely important detail--in order to better listen for God's promptings. All in all, I think this is a much healthier teaching than "hearing from God." My personal practice of this teaching has led me to an experience which, although minor, would not have been possible purely with my own abilities. I found somebody's bank card because while walking and meditating I felt a prompting from the Holy Spirit, turned in a direction I definitely did not want to go, and looked in a spot where I would never have thought to look. Mind you, I turned in the card and that was the end of it; I have no idea whether I saved anybody from fraud or late charges or anything but the inconvenience of getting a new card. Also I've told this story elsewhere and been bless-your-hearted, so.

    Besides intuition, I think the fundamentalist practice of renaming cultural enforcement sessions "hearing from God" also blots out instinctual fear and instinctual love. Instinctual fear is important. It's the thing that tells a girl not to go with that man, that he's creepy but she can't pin down why. The people who "hear from God" tell her not to be silly, he's the assistant youth pastor and she's being a foolish girl. The thing is, her instinctual fear is right; the deeper parts of her brain are counting up his flickering glances at her body, analyzing the smell of his sweat and the way he licks his lips, and coming up snake eyes. And instinctual love is the thing that makes a woman's stomach clench as she sits outside the room in which her baby has been screaming for her for what feels like forever--because some "expert" told her that God told him that babies must learn to lie alone all night or else grow up to be horrible Godless people. But her instinctual love feels her baby's anguish as if it were her own.

    Fundamentalists teach their followers to hammer their God-given minds out of shape in order to attain Godliness.

    Jenny Islander

  4. i wonder if you ever heal

    1. Slowly and in small increments, yes. Fully, I don't know.

  5. People tell me life is hard, and I say compared to what!

  6. You know, Lewis, even though I'm agnostic, I think your blog is a great resource for former fundamentalists (myself included).

    After reading the "Peace Game" post, I sincerely think that there are very few writers out there that have as good of a grasp of just how fundamentalist groups and cults operate as you do.

  7. So far as I know, I have only once heard what I am rather sure was God's voice. I don't often tell this story, but I think you might appreciate it. I was praying (I forget for what) listing all the times God had done something similar to whatever I wanted. And in my head a very distinct voice responded with 'I know. I was there.' Writing it down, I see it looks like a snub, but the tone wasn't that way at all.