I was inspired recently to watch an old favourite TV show again from the early 2000s, “The West Wing” where Martin Sheen plays a very fair, balanced and passionate US president, however for a time he sat very much in the middle ground not wanting to rock the boat, as opposed to fighting for what he believed. In one episode Sheen’s character was told a parable about Gods assistance.
The parable is this; A faithful man was stuck on his rooftop in a flood. He was praying to God for help. Soon a man in a rowboat came by and the fellow shouted to the man on the roof, “Jump in, I can save you.” The stranded fellow shouted back, “No, it’s OK, I’m praying to God and he is going to save me.” The rowboat went on.
Then a motorboat came by. “The fellow in the motorboat shouted, “Jump in, I can save you.” To this, the stranded man said, “No thanks, I’m praying to God and he is going to save me. I have faith.” The motorboat went on.
Finally, a helicopter came by and the pilot shouted down, “Grab this rope and I will lift you to safety.” To this, the stranded man again replied, “No thanks, I’m praying to God and he is going to save me. I have faith.” The helicopter reluctantly flew away.
Soon the water rose above the rooftop and the man drowned. He went to Heaven. He finally got his chance to discuss this whole situation with God, at which point he exclaimed, “I had faith in you, but you didn’t save me, you let me drown. I don’t understand why!”
To this God replied, “I sent you a rowboat and a motorboat and a helicopter, what exactly was it you were waiting for?”
This is particularly important to Spiritualism; our Principle of ‘Personal Responsibility’ is emphatically defined by this, in that if we can help ourselves, or an option for aid is available, we should take it.
In the end, who does it help to remain silent? What will change, what good will come from silence, or subservience, or fear?
As Spiritualists’ we get to contact those that have gone before us to the afterlife, can hear wisdom and guidance and proof of this. We ask for guidance and direction, we get it, but all to often find ourselves stunted in sharing that which we learn because we are seen as fakes, entertainers, not to be taken seriously, or because we may be challenging established thought or views, that by offering alternatives may cause us difficulty. We end up in the middle ground.
This can cause great pain for some, pushing them deep into the ‘underground’ if we do not stand up for our belief and convictions.
As a minister, I have read my bible from cover to cover many times. We are told by some that it should not be questioned, taken literally or word for word. There is a big problem with this. Hebrew and Greek from thousands of years ago do not always translate into English (or other languages) very well.
There are so many examples of this that cause pain to those who are impacted by them. The point is, we should always look rationally and with an eye to the fact that not only are the words not always easy to translate, but the mindset and understanding of humanity as a whole are very different in our world now, compared with those of the world which committed words handed down from that time by voice to paper, often many years after the fact.
But one example of this, often used in the negative tones may be of help, in that it attempted to prevent the same issues it is now used to protect. Revelation 22:18.
‘I testify and warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book.’
“Takes away from or distorts, the words of this book.” Change these words? Translate them? So that the original meaning is more closely understood by being read in the original languages used? The bible is a guide to living the way we should, therefore if these words are translated and that translation has errors with colloquial terms that never translate well, even in modern language, we will not be living the way we are supposed to? All this, plus if anyone has added or taken away over the last number of hundreds of years if we do not know about it, how do we fix it? There lies the rub. We have been given eyes to see, ears to listen, hearts that make us compassionate and feel, we are constantly guided by the world of Spirit whether we know it or not, so that if something feels wrong, we should question it, learn more, understand and live free and well, at peace with our neighbours, not punishing them for having a different face, view, or belief.
Ultimately, we are made in the image of God, not our physical appearance, not by the shape of our body, gender or colour, not even the bipedal life form, but by the form of the soul, the light and spark that runs through us and makes us that which we are. Alive.
Inspiration and revelation happen every day, in a smile, a kind word, friendship support and trust in each other. We are all each other’s Rowboat, Motorboat and Helicopter, sent to represent the hand of the Great Spirit in each other’s lives.
We here in this home of ours are no strangers to challenging established views, following our hearts, and standing up for what we believe to be right. We would not look back at the Littleport Riots as we do if not. But as our guidance and wisdom from the world of Spirit teach us, we grow in our ability to challenge. As the prose poem written by American Max Ehrmann, Desiderata, says, ‘Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.”
In short, be polite, but never shy away from being or standing up for yourself.
May God bless each and all, and may His light guide us away from being stuck in a silent middle ground.