Thesis 21: Two Ears And One Mouth

This post is part of a series of meditations on each of Luther's "95 Theses." You can view all posts in the series here.

21. Therefore those preachers of indulgences are in error, who say that by the pope's indulgences a man is freed from every penalty, and saved;
Good ol' Martin is finally getting around to some conclusions here. This thesis and the next contain the word "therefore" for the first time since the beginning of the document. He's taking a bit of time setting out his argument so that he can, with sound deduction, make some conclusions. He trusts his logic. He's staking his claim to truth.

Today in class, I made a comment that an early American religious document sounded very much like the Declaration of Independence in its wording. How American it was, I was thinking, of this rather new religious movement to use sentence structure, and even some diction, practically identical to the writers of these quintessentially American documents. Instead, my comment was seen as ignorance about how one constructs an argument using deductive reasoning, which was then explained to me in summary.

But, I know what deductive reasoning is. That wasn't my point.

I say this not to pick on my professor. I think incredibly highly of him, and admire his intellect. I say this to underscore our decreasing interest in the nuances of truly listening.

I grew up in a household where deep listening did not occur that often. Though I had a childhood and young adulthood that was loving and that I wouldn't trade for the world, I've had to unlearn many ways of listening that aim to continue the debate rather than pause and soak in the depth of the conversation.

I wonder if this is where we've gotten ourselves in the contemporary church. Our surrounding culture has become so polarized in social and political thought that we've transferred that polarization into our American churches. To be sure, the majority of the time this plays itself out in very harmless ways, just like it does in "normal" life.

Yet, the church is a place where it is possible to live into the sparkling paradox of two beings just listening without talking.

This seems at the essence of true religion, because it can only lead to a generous response, a desire to act in response after reflecting. We need more of this logic. Our brain's logic is one form of understanding. Our heart's and soul's are others.

Have we lost the ability to be attentive, truly attentive, when others express ideas? Do we leap too quickly to the next move in the debate that we miss the human in front of us, expressing wonder, fear, love, excitement?

If I find myself wondering whether I should be talking or listening, I'm talking too much.


Original image by Flickr user Horia Varlan. Reused under Creative Commons license.


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