Schizophrenic Voices

I hear voices that tell me what to do and what to think.  I hear them coming from the TV, the radio, the internet, books, magazines, teachers, colleagues, friends and family – and even my church.  And these voices are hardly in agreement.  They pull me every-which-way and rip me up in pieces.

I want more than anything to hear the voice of God – to trust what he tells me to do and think.  And the purest way (theoretically) is for his voice to manifest in my ear while my heart trusts that it actually is him and not JUST my imagination.  I have rarely, if ever, experienced that (or anything close to it).

Second to that ideal, it seems, would be the Bible – the Word of God.

But hold on.  The impurities of all the other hearings of God’s voice that I might perceive pretty much are constituted in the media by which I hear it.  The TV, radio, internet… friends and family.  All of these have been my teachers at some points.  All of these resources have contributed to and/or distorted the way I hear God’s voice and trust him – and they are the very voices that tear (schizo) me apart.

But at least the Bible has a remarkable track record of consistency.  Despite issues of canonization (what books are included/excluded), textual variants (errors in ancient copies), and a few other concerns, the Bible puts us in almost direct touch with the writer (or better yet – the Inspirer).  If we let the Bible be authoritative over us and submit ourselves to the voice therein, we are in a much better place to do and think what God says and trust him with our lives even where some bits don’t readily make sense to us.

It’s an ideal, I know.  Lot’s of room for variance of opinion still, even on important and delicate matters.  But the moment we abandon the ideal, we are left with the chaos of Schizophrenia!  No?

Even so, there are those voices, and yet I too venture into the echo chamber adding my voice to the cacophony.  I do so largely through this blog.  I dare to speak for God!  That is a prophet’s raison deter.  And prophets are called by God to do this work even in the Bible, which suggests that even the Word of God tells us that his voice is heard in the cacophony!

And I really struggle with this.  I want to be heard!  I believe that I have a message from the master!  It is an urgent message for his people!  It is a word of love, a word of warning, a word with a cutting edge and a pointing finger.  The finger points to guilt on the one hand, but in the direction of correction on the other.  And it suffers indifference from hard hearts, stiff necks, and closed ears on the one hand and drowning in the cacophony on the other.

I find myself somewhere between “conservative” and “liberal” on a lot of meters.  I find myself somewhere between soft and loud on others.  But I don’t see myself, or this message with which I have been entrusted, as free floating on an apocalyptic sea of chaos somewhere between shores.  Instead, I see it asleep on a cushion in the belly of the boat while all the sailors are fighting the winds and waves!

And so it seems even my voices hear schizophrenic voices.

On the right of me, I hear one deeply devout and careful blogger (and a number of church friends) preach the love and gentleness of Jesus.  This love and gentleness (an invitational approach) goes to extraordinary lengths to avoid offending anyone, lest the message get lost in the offense.  The only demand, it seems, is not to demand anything!  But in today’s world of political correctness, which seems to have become a pacifist’s blade that replaces yesterday’s politeness, it seems Jesus does not even amount to a speed bump on the road to destruction.

On the left of me, I find more than a few bloggers of deeply devout conviction who preach blistering, scathing reviews of Evangelical pop-religion (and the politics that go with it).  The message there has all the heat of the hell-fire-and-brimstone sermons of yester-year with none of the commitments and little of the content of those old fashioned sermons.  A real Give-me-Jesus-keep-your-backward-ass-politics message.  It’s all demand with no invitation.

Which voice has the True Jesus?  Is my addition to the cacophony somewhere in between or somewhere completely off the Spectrum?  We could place Pastor Phelps out there between… No?  But he certainly would not have me!  Nor do I resonate with him, except I appreciate his tenacity.

Didn’t Jesus make demands?  Didn’t Jesus get shrill sometimes?  But then again, didn’t Jesus carry lambs on his shoulders back to the fold after leaving the 99 in search of just one that was lost?  Was he not both on different occasions?

But then that raises the question: Was Jesus schizophrenic?  Was his message?

The daily prayer of the Jews, dating back to the Hebrews of old, is the Shema – “Hear O Israel!  YHWH our God is One!”  (Duet. 6:4).

I am clear about this: God is One.  To be with him is to find harmony with him.  The humility of the invitation on the one hand and the humility of submitting to the demands he makes on the other are the only way of harmony with him.  A crucified King of kings both inviting you to love the impossible and taking the punishment for not submitting while placing a demand to follow only him as the way, the truth, and the life requires a humility down at everyone’s core.

Jim Morrison (one of the voices in the cacophony) said, “No one here gets out alive”.  Bob Dylan (another voice in the cacophony) said, “Those not busy being born are busy dying”.  You have heard it said… but I tell you, you cannot hear, obey, or join the voice of God without humility. You cannot really live with out humility.

I speak particularly to believers.  Non-believers are welcome to listen in – and hopefully find conviction.  But only the humble will hear the voice of God.  If you can’t humble yourself to hear it, then one day you will find yourself humbled by his wrath.  Woe to those who think they can wield his wrath casually!  Woe to those who give up their spine to the wrath of lesser principalities and political correctnesses.  Both approaches have my sympathy at various points, and I share some characteristics of each.  But in listening to both among the cacophony, I am sent back to the Word of God to humbly examine myself, and I urge others to do the same.

Otherwise, you will be ripped apart by the voices.

 

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9 comments

  1. LoiterLarry · May 3, 2016

    I have been following your blog for a while. You seem a little unhinged with this offering. Are you making fun of the mentally ill?

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  2. Agent X · May 3, 2016

    Thanks for reading. No. I am not unhinged (I don’t think), nor am I making fun of the mentally ill. On the contrary, I am identifying with the mentally ill – to the extent that I can, and I see the church (certainly the ones I have been involved with) as ravaged by voices. I am affected too.

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  3. LoiterLarry · May 3, 2016

    Idk
    You sound really dark and paranoid. If you can’t trust the church built on the rock that overpowers the gates of hell, then how are you going to trust God? And if you can’t trust God, then maybe your brain is in a vat and you are already in hell.

    Shouldn’t you be singing the praises of the Bride of Christ and putting your hope in her for all you are worth? Maybe if you turn a blind eye to all the dark things you see and put your faith in her instead, you might find yourself feeling better.

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  4. Agent X · May 3, 2016

    Larry,

    Is that what St. John does with the 7 churches in Revelation 1-3? Is that what St. Paul is doing with the church at Corinth or Galatia?

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  5. LoiterLarry · May 3, 2016

    X,

    First off, those guys were Apostles, you are not.
    Second, they did not suggest the church, or themselves, were mentally ill.
    They did not run the risk of offending either the church or the sick. It looks like you are doing both.

    I wonder if you are not painting yourself into a corner with this. One you can’t get out of.

    Like

  6. Agent X · May 3, 2016

    Larry,

    Have you ever sat quietly behind a person who hears voices and listened to the conversation between voices coming out of one mouth?

    I have.

    As I sit and listen to the church, I find the dialog making about as much sense.

    I read N.T. Wright talking about the Quest for the Historical Jesus and how Albert Schweitzer’s contribution shut down the quest for almost a hundred years because he successfully argued that all the scholars who came before were basically remaking Jesus in their own image. Thus we had Jesus the monk, or Jesus the rebel, or Jesus the sage and so on… A bit of truth in each, but none that were not ultimately a reflection of the scholar constructing that history.

    How would we ever hear the voice of Jesus himself? Surely he is truly OTHER than the scholar writing about him… No?

    And now days I find a church not even willing to consult God’s word so much of the time. Never mind that we will still have to argue out our interpretations of a text (a message from God), we have our own agendas to pursue and listening to the text is too cumbersome to begin with… and besides, someone digs around tin the Greek or the Hebrew a bit and tells us that actually the term used here in Second Opinions 16 doesn’t really mean God is against homosexuality, it means he is in favor of it as long as….. And for most of us who don’t read Greek and Hebrew, a couple of experiences like that and we are ready to quietly throw in the towel on even bothering with the text.

    Sadly, our Bibles become nothing more than a fashionable leather cover with our name imprinted on it. Meanwhile, we go on remaking the church in our own image.

    Now we have a modern, western church that quietly tucks away any notion of carrying a cross and following Jesus – AND along with that, any notion that we should open a church house door to the poor on a cold winter’s night and accord ourselves with Matt. 25! Instead, we can lift that passage out of context, put it on a bumpersticker or blog, turn around and raise a ton of money for a charity that claims if we give our money to the poor, we will hurt them so we should give our money to the minister instead. And the minister is definitely NOT carrying a cross in this scenario, nor telling others to do so. Instead, he is pandering to the whims of the larger culture to gain even more money!

    We are remaking Jesus in our own image… listening to the voices of our own whims and dressing it all up as if it were the voice of God.

    I would like to take a deeper engagement with Scripture. I am sure we would still have plenty to argue about, but if we can’t even open the word of God together, what do we really have? And if, when we open the word of God together, we don’t find his voice being somehow both Other and Authoritative (While LOVING to be sure), then we probably are still fooling ourselves!

    And in the off chance that some ear somewhere might hear my voice saying these things, then a truly different DIALOG (as opposed to a monolog pretending to be a dialog) might really begin! And under the present circumstances, that would be amazing – even revolutionary! And certainly prophetic.

    X

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  7. Agent X · May 15, 2016

    Hey Larry…?

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  8. LoiterLarry · May 15, 2016

    Sup?

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  9. Agent X · May 15, 2016

    Feeling a bit lonely today. Sitting with the echoes… They are not really the voice anymore, but they made deep impressions on me – channeled my life in certain directions. None of them seem fruitful… There is no utopia where I am now and no signs for it anymore. Seem lost in blind alleys. Listening for a voice of hope. Would love to hear a Welcome Home message, but got off into uncharted territory in the blind alleys thinking I was following the voice of Love. Now I am left here sitting with merely the echoes. They did not lead where they promised.

    I guess I was just wondering if you were still there. You seem to always hold my feet to the fire. You always go with me, but you seem to be the voice of conviction or of tough questions. The biggest support I ever sensed from you was not so much in what you said, but in the fact that you are always there… listening… caring…. it seems.

    Thanks for replying.

    Like

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