A Quaker philosopher at the Earlham School of Religion instilled in me a principle which has stayed with me throughout my life, and which ceaselessly inspires my thinking about world and individual events. He taught: “Always favor the oppressed, and if the oppressed become freed from oppression and become the oppressors, favor the new oppressed.”
Those of us who have tried to give our all to Christ and to Christ’s church face a conundrum as to how we should encounter our brothers and sisters (and our children and grandchildren) who are spiritual but not religious. Let us be like the parents of Emily Dickinson, who affirmed her, embraced her, and welcomed her at the table.
“As we gather at God’s holy table, the table is not our table, not the church’s table, not the denomination’s table, but it is God’s table, and God’s inclusive hands extend a welcome to all.”
I return again and again to the power of ever-so-brief children’s sermons. They cannot eradicate generations of racism, hatred, and narrow-mindedness, but inch by inch they can influence attitudes and values for good.
Listening evaluatively is the mark of a thinking mind. After the wars of disinformation which we experienced in the past half decade, we must rethink how we listen and how we think. I crave evaluative listening skills for my grandchildren, for my neighbors and friends, for all who sit in the pews, for all who vote, and for all who watch, read, or listen to the news. But I cannot wish it for another until I engage in it myself. So, may I practice what I preach, and may all of us desire to grow in our skills as people who think critically and listen evaluatively.