I am fascinated by christian schismatism (for reasons that are not at all clear to me.) Mostly, I'm interested in the Protestant reformation in Europe, but I was also curious about the split between the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches (alas, not over anything serious-The Eastern Churches wanted Constantinople to be the seat of power, but the western ones preferred Rome) and I've started to look up some of the schismatic movements in America (Great Awakenings).
I've been particularly interested of late in how the Protestant Reformation led to the ascendancy of the christian right and the election of George W Bush as President of the United States of America*.
Consider the beginning of the continuum-Martin Luther (and Henry VIII) tell you that you can read the Bible in your own language--that you can interpret it without the help of the priest. Then move over to America, which even though it still had it's rich and it's poor, was still a less hierarchical society than Europe in the 1500s. Enter the Great Awakenings. Aside from the snake handlers and the con men there are decent men and women who tell Americans that not only can they read the bible for themselves-they can also talk to God himself and hear what He has to say.
On the face of it, this is not a bad proposition-everyone should be able to talk to God. It's the second half that troubles me though. Most of the people I've heard telling them God told them to do a certain thing (In Particular GW Bush) are people whose motives are suspect. Did god actually tell you to do a certain thing, or did you want to do it anyway? Did you present it to the American people as God's idea, because you know a certain number of your electorate make decisions based on God's advice and therefore they'd think you made the right choice?
This incidentally, (not unlike the Protestant Reformation) is another reason why politics and religion have no business mixing.
But my main point is, why not postulate that anyone can talk to God, but no man or woman alive has the authority to say how He responded. I am not a biblical scholar. I have no right to state the above postulate, but my own native reason.
I believe in God
I believe everyone should be able to talk to God-it gives comfort
Human beings lie
When one of them says he or she was directed to do X by God do we know he or she was speaking the truth
Human beings (myself included) are fallible. We misjudge. Right now there's some guy/girl at a bar/coffee house less than half a mile from me who thinks that someone is giving s/him a come hither or a dirty look and he or she has a 50% of being wrong. That being the case how are we supposed to say we can hear God?
There are obvious problems with this postulate, not the least of which is that people who are a great deal better read in This Sort of Thing would disagree with it. And then there's the fact that I developed it from a weird angle (how are we to stop people from doing evil in God's name?)
This also runs into rocky ground when it meets the wonderful sermons that my parents pastor gives every sunday. He reads the Gospel text and then trys to explain what, in the given text, God is asking us to do.
Obviously this needs more work. I just posted it so I wouldn't forget it.
*there are a lot of books that have been published about stolen elections and voter fraud, but at the moment that doesn't interest me.