A Cautionary Tale

–A Kentucky lawman’s statement prompts us to be careful about how our beliefs affect our ability to think–A NYT story this morning about Kentucky lawmaker Tom Riner quoted him in relation to his concern about the growing immorality of the society and the many whom he sees as drifting away from the role god played in the nation’s forefathers’ thinking: “If we don’t affirm the right to recognize divine providence, then that right will disappear.” While I can understand Mr. Riner’s sense of mission about strengthening ties between church and state, on its own it is a troubling statement, troubling because it appears to be lacking in a certain logic. If a tree falls in a forest and no one hears it, the tree nevertheless falls. If rights are not affirmed (particularly in Western society), they are nevertheless rights, not affirmed true, but there for the claiming. According to the NYT’s story Mr. Riner, for the last 26 years a state representative who has endeavored to bring church and state closer together, is someone to be respected. A Baptist preacher, he still has a ministry in a humble building heated by a space heater, conducts daily prayer meetings a 7:15am and helps and shelters the homeless. He is obviously someone who practices what he preaches, who believes in what he says and who tries to live by his values. And yet his statement highlights my concerns about people who are so steeped in their own orthodoxy, their ability to think is reined in by their belief system. The world’s main religions, and Christianity would top the list, seek to open the heart, to enlarge one’s understanding of the divine, of humanity, of love. The statement seem to evoke the opposite. Could divine providence really disappear whether or not we believed in it? By definition wouldn’t it have to be larger than we and our human constructs? Even making allowances that the quote was not properly explained it is still a cautionary tale for those of us whose thoughts are influenced by our spiritual beliefs.