Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Reading Mother Teresa XXVIX--interior imaginative locutions


The Reverend Fred Phelps of Westboro Baptist Church, Westboro, Kansas (yes, that's the one) is pleased by the public outrage over the way a woman named Karen Klein was harassed on a school bus by a pack of vile kids.  You may have seen the video--it went viral and it's awful. "People around the world are 'shocked and horrified' by the video," Rev. Phelps wrote on his blog. "Well that is because you are ignorant of the Bible. Godsmack!"


A "Godsmack," in Phelps' world, occurs when the Creator of Heaven and Earth, like an irate wrestler, picks up a sinner and bodyslams him or her to the canvas, which is exactly what God has done with the Karen Klein video--or so says Rev. Phelps. "You have not brought your children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, but have provoked them to wrath and now you are paying for it," he warms America. "Instead you taught them things like it’s ok to fornicate, be gay, and worship your false religious systems. Now your own children have turned against you!"

How does he know? God tells him, through his word. He quotes scripture: "As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths." Isa. 3:12.

The italics are his.

The Reverend Fred Phelps' congregation is the one who, for a time at least, hopscotched all over America to picket the funerals of fallen GIs because, or so ran their logic, America had gone to ruin for being tolerant of gays--or something like that.

The Reverend Fred Phelps' claims arise from his firm conviction that God speaks to him, I'm sure. He and his people know the truth, the whole truth, so help them God.

Okay, I confess--I'm wary of such people, and I'll likely go to my grave, jittery as anything about those who claim that God literally told them to do anything.

Mother Teresa was one of those. For a few months of her life, she heard a "voice," she said, a voice she attributed to none other than her lover, Jesus Christ, who called her to the poorest of the poor, begged her, commanded her, to "Come be my light."  She listened and determined that her calling would be, finally, the sad streets of Calcutta.

The Roman Catholic church calls the "voice" who spoke to her "interior imaginative locutions," and it counts such utterings among the blessings human beings need to manifest on their way to sainthood.

I'm too much a child of the Reformation to buy into such Twilight-Zonish manifestations wholesale, but oddly enough I trust Mother Teresa. The Reverend Fred Phelps is no con-artist; I'm sure he believes he hears the voice of God. But he's also he is also plain crazy. Both hear voices. Both listen. Both act. Both claim to follow God's own vivid leading. Yet, the two of them couldn't be different.

Jonathan Edwards was no stranger to those who claimed to hear the voice of the Lord.  During his life, he sometimes played ship's captain, steering the church through the windy excesses of America's first Great Awakening.  He claimed that the "spiritual light," by which he meant, I'm sure, something akin to the Rev. Mr. Phelps' interior imaginative locutions or "the voice" Mother Teresa kept hearing, never really told the believer anything that scripture itself didn't.  In other words, if the voice I hear says to burn down the neighbor's barn, I'm a simple loony-tune because burning down your neighbor's barn isn't a command of scripture (Lord knows there are loony-tunes, of course).

Honestly, I don't know what to do with "interior imaginative locutions." Was Mother Teresa hearing the voice of Jesus her lover?  I don't know.  But that he told her to love the world's least regarded, that he begged her to minister those no one loved, that he directed her to abandoned children in the putrid slums of Calcutta, I don't doubt for a moment.

Jonathan Edwards would say what she heard was nothing more or less than what Jesus the Savior of mankind says just as clearly in Word.  If she heard his voice some nights early in her life, if she heard him ask her to serve him, I'm not at all shocked because I'm a believer, and what that voice told her is what Jesus says time and time again in the story of his love for all of us, his people, those who are called by His name.

If the voice she heard was Jesus, he wasn't telling her anything he hadn't already said and she hadn't already heard.

That's the best I can do, which is to say, I guess, the best any of us can.

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