Shrill voices

We live in a day of shrill voices.


Shrillness isn’t new.  What’s new are the vehicles by which a shrill voice can be instantaneously repeated across a nation and the entire world.  Cable news and particularly the internet are ideally suited to the amplification of anger and outrage.  The limits on uncivil speech provided by personal relationship with an antagonist go out the window when the “person” with whom I disagree is merely known to me as a face on TV or a screenname on my device.


People of faith are not immune to this intemperate behavior, and unfortunately we are about as likely to dish it out as to receive it.


So….here’s a question….a “prior” question:  Is temperance even important?


Earlier this week I sat with a group of “progressive” clergy and we talked about these very questions.  We wondered about the intersections of certitude and uncertainty. richreading 20130502 We reflected on the ways each of us have come to our own deeply held values and convictions.


I like to believe that my values and convictions are a consequence of unbiased study of the Bible – “Sacred Writ!”  But human formation is a complicated and imperfectly understood thing.  Yes….my reading of scripture has surely helped form me, but so have parents and siblings and school teachers and classmates and community mores and the all-pervasive “media.”  Then there are the less obvious influences like biology and psychology….my genes and my fears, to name only two.


There does seem to be something deeply seated in most people creating a nearly irresistible longing for certainty….for “Truth.”  The strident voices which dominate that which passes for public discourse (on both left and right) presume that getting “it right” will make everything okay.  But will it?  This conviction itself is based on another a priori….the presumed primacy of ideas and positions.


Thousands of years ago, as humans began to notice themselves and each other as more than just objects, but also as subjects, it became natural to wonder where all this – where “we” – had come from.  In the church we are heirs of those who concluded that humankind is created in the image of the uncaused-cause.  “YAHWEH” was one name by which it/she/he became known.


Please note carefully this particular aspect of those ancient creation stories – they are fundamentally about relationship.  They are about relationship within the Godhead itself (“let US create…”), about relationship between the Godhead and the creation, and relationship (both successful and failed) between and among human communities and individuals.  Only later – much later – are we taught that God delivered rules – positions! – to and for the human community.


I’m convinced that people are more important than positions.  I’m convinced that relationships trump opinions – even deeply held convictions.  I’m convinced that any system or leader that explicitly or implicitly depreciates any human being is unworthy of our allegiance.


You may disagree with me and if you do I will work my hardest to listen carefully and respectfully, because you, my friend, are more important that what I’ve just written.


People trump position.  But I need your help to make this real – partly because I’m as tempted to be as shrill as is anyone else!  Let’s work to make our church a locus of passionate and substantive relationship – for the sake of Christ!


With Great Hope!


Rich Pleva
Conference Minister
UCC in Iowa

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