The Guardian recently ran a Rabbi Tony Bayfield CiF Belief (“Comment is Free, Belief”) column called No one has a hotline to God with the sub-heading, “It is arrogant and absurd for any religion or sect to claim a monopoly on God’s truth”
It is an important point to note that no individual and no group has a monopoly on Truth. And that “hotline to God” concept does rather lend itself to scepticism. As one of the wits commenting below the article put it, “Thank you for calling Heaven. All our deities are busy attending to other worshipers, but please continue to pray and you will be answered as soon as possible. Your worship is important to Us.”
Among the other 230 comments following the article (at time of writing) is one of my own: “The important question is not whether anyone has a hotline to God, but whether or not God has a hotline to anyone and everyone….and if He/She does, are we listening, and what would we hear?”
Of course a hotline is a two-way link, but the intent of my comment is to convey the idea that rather than being an endeavour to catch God’s exclusive attention by “dialling in” prayer is more like picking up a “line” that’s always impartially “dialling” out to all. The communications it carries come uniquely crafted to meet the need of each individual who “answers” it, but there is no special privilege that allows any person preferential access.
So, yes, you could say there is a spiritual hotline to the Holy One, but it is an inclusive one, just like anyone who hears a ringing phone can pick it up. So there’s no reason for arrogance if one does connect, just cause for great gratitude. If the question is “how do we pick up?” my experience has been that connection comes through the spiritual sense born of humility and other qualities of grace that are the antipode of arrogance.
So what is God saying on His constant calls to universal humanity? In the immortal words of Stevie Wonder, She says ‘I just called to say “I love you!”’ From my experience, this love message comes adapted to intelligently respond to whatever one might be concerned with at the time (for oneself or for others) and that message – or spiritual idea – is “answered prayer” which results in spiritual growth that leads to practical solutions. It’s not a question of God playing favourites for a particular individual or group, it is a question of whether or not we individually walk into a light that is always shining.
To learn how to do this, it makes sense to me to learn from those who proved they could do it rather well. As a Christian Scientist I am inspired first and foremost by Jesus, of course, and also by Paul (when not misinterpreted as a poster boy for the subjugation of women’s spiritual leadership). Paul famously walked into a blindingly strong spiritual light on the road to Damascus, which then led to his first experience of prayer-based healing through the ministrations of a man called Ananias (see Acts 9:3-18, in the Bible). Ananias is portrayed in the Scriptures as having clearly received a message from God to do that, but his whole demeanour in the experience of hearing God and acting on what he heard is the diametric opposite of arrogance. He is described as the epitome of meekness and modesty, which is just as well, because my own experience of spiritual healing suggests arrogance cannot heal as Ananias did in that encounter.
I am also inspired by Christian Science founder, Mary Baker Eddy who revived interest in such prayer-based healing just over a century ago, and captured her ideas in the book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.
These spiritual luminaries don’t have a monopoly on Truth, any more than an individual who spends more time sitting in the sun has a monopoly on sunlight. However, I have found them to be especially clear “go to” visionaries in identifying and evidencing the healing and redeeming power of a pure heart open to hearing and acting on the constant intercommunications coming from God. Luminaries – and lay members – from other faiths can also inspire me.
Experience tells me that many fellow contributors to Guardian post-article comments (and a fair number of the columnists) would still say this is absurd.
I understand that. It is absurd if there is no God.
However, that’s not what the caller on the other end of the hotline told me when I picked it up this morning…! 🙂
Here is the wonderful Stevie singing his song!