So the question went something like this: “Did God speak to you and give you a list of the things you should do on the first day you take office as the next President of the United States?” (Not exactly, but “close enough for folk music” as Theodore Bikel, z”l, used to say when he was tuning his guitar.)
It was near the end of the first Republican Debate and not every candidate got to answer it. I was amazed that the question (which came from a Facebook user) was even asked. I could do a whole riff here just on what the word God means in that sentence. Not that there is anything wrong with inquiring about a candidate belief system, what’s wrong is assuming that believing in God is a marker of how a candidate or a person will behave. It pains me to say this. There are too many “God fearing” people out there whose behavior is far from godly.
Except for Rubio’s joke, that God has blessed the Republican Party with so many good candidates and the Democrats can’t even find one, no one really answered the question well. I wanted to hear someone (all of them) say: My personal belief in God informs the person that I am. It does not inform the person that you are. My faith commands me to respect you and your belief or your non-belief. Just as I have the right to translate my convictions into how I live my personal life, so do you. I believe that God has given us all the right and the responsibility to make our own decisions and I will not use my position as President to force my belief system on yours. And that includes – who you will marry; how many children you may or may not have; whether or not God has chosen this country for a special role in this world; how you live and how you die.
I don’t know about your mind or your heart or wherever you “hear” the word of God, but I know this about mine. Lots of the times, it is hard to know who is speaking. So when I listen, I am really careful how I translate what I hear. When I listen, I try to do so with an abundance of humility, a lot of doubt, and in the spirit of the Rabbis who understood when hearing two sides of an argument: Elu vi-elu – both of these are the words of the living God.