I saw a short clip from some mega church today, where the preacher was shouting at the people (aka abusing them) saying that God told her that they had no right to question the pastor because they were dumb sheep. They had to obey the pastor's every word no matter what they thought of it.
Yes God told her that.
That's a rather extreme example and I probably don't need to comment on it as such. But the issue really comes down to "God told me".
I always thought I could hear God speaking sometimes in a way that was very clear - not audible, but in a way that cut through the chatter in my head and told me how much he loved me and it would all be OK.
But like so many christians, I became obsessed with "hearing" God speak so that I could be sure that everything I did was His will. I thought every failure in life was because I didn't hear Him, so I was just bumbling along wondering if what I thought was God really was him. And yet, if I had to be honest, the only thing I could say I really "heard" were the words of love and comfort.
This was incredibly frustrating as I was obviously a second class christian. So what about those who claimed God actually told them clearly what to do, where to go, and basically everyday instructions for life?
I ended up doing a little survey amongst my online community about how they "heard" God, without using any religious language or bible verses to describe it. Some couldn't describe it without using christianese, which was rather telling, and most admitted that they felt closest to God through nature/creation and sort of went with what they felt. Once the religious jargon was stripped away, it seems most people just fudge along - except for the few who claimed to actually hear God telling them stuff.
I decided to look a little more objectively at those who claimed that level of communication and look at the fruit of their life and the things they communicated. Without any exceptions, they left a trail of destruction behind them. Broken relationships, gossip, manipulation and control, you name it, they are walking disasters, often with deep seated mental illness hiding behind the religious facade. I found this could be extended through to big name ministries, the so called prophets and apostles, the big time pastors, all who spoke the words of God.
So meanwhile, what's really going on?
I read a lot of stuff about the psychology of this and tried to put it into a spiritual perspective. At our core, we are spiritual beings desperately in need of love. We are created for love, from love, but if we don't recognise it and "get it" we do whatever we can to get whatever resembles it, no matter what it looks like or who else it affects. The more desperate we are for love, the more our hearts and minds will create and manipulate to get it, or whatever they can that helps to numb that need.
Hearing from God falls neatly into that category. I was absolutely desperate to know that God loves me, and perhaps because of my passion for integrity as well, I heard Him telling me how much he loves me, but nothing else. In hindsight, I'm so glad I didn't start to hear more than that!
I've come to the conclusion that what people hear is no more than their own hearts, but shaped and coloured by their paradigms. Paradigms that allow them to expect God to talk to them like the prophets of old claimed. Paradigms that tell them they will be blessed and loved by God if they speak his very words to people. Paradigms that are built on religious assumptions.
So where does that leave us? Personally, I think God does speak to us, but not like that. I look at who he is, in all he has created, and hear his love and peace in that. I "hear" my mind say its OK, I'm loved. I hear my heart speak truths about love, joy, peace, acceptance, because that's what I want to hear.
It comes down to integrity and honesty with ourselves. Are we so desperate that we aren't prepared to stop manipulating God and people so we can see what our hearts really want and need? Those who hear God speaking harsh judgement and damnation - are they just projecting their own fears, subconsciously taking others into their own hell?
I think God is one with us, we are inextricably united, so in a way we can't help but "hear" him, but religion blinds us to the fact that we ARE love and that we already have all we need simply because "I am". If we hear God telling us what to do, where to go, what scriptures to read, what to say to people, we are actually hearing our own desperate hearts, scrambling to find our true identity. When we are honest enough with ourselves to recognise these needs, we begin to see that everything we need is in us - I am! God doesn't speak to us - our heart's fears and desires, coloured by whatever our greatest needs are, speak to us. And if our paradigm is based in christian religion, then the voice of God will sound like that.
In the end I realised I don't need to hear God's voice, simply because "I am", and I'm learning to live loved, and because of that, I hear and see and taste and experience so much more than a mere voice in my head.