Listen to your still, small voice

To the editor:

Marilynne Robinson, author of Pulitzer prize-winning novel “Gilead,” has published a series of lectures entitled What Are We Here For? in which she criticizes history’s mis-characterization of the Puritans. She says that, instead of ridiculing them for their excesses, we should honor them for their faith in humanity’s divine inner light. The Puritans were inspired by John Wycliffe, who published the Bible in English in 1381, and by Oliver Cromwell, who briefly upended a repressive monarchy, and they brought these revolutionary ideas to this continent.

Robinson contrasts the New England colonies with the Southern colonies. The former were founded by people escaping the rigid legal and economic systems that determined land ownership and regulated civil society, while the other group perpetuated the divisions between rich and poor people that existed in 17th-century England.

Our country was founded on the belief that educated people could govern themselves because humans carry within them the values of justice, honesty and compassion. Whether our nation survives will depend on our commitment to fact-based civil discourse, political participation, and respect for the dignity of all people.

We have been endowed by our creator with the unalienable right of liberty, and this gift can ennoble us if we use our freedoms for more than personal gain and future salvation. I have found that true happiness involves awe and reverence, humble gratitude and service, but Americans today are easily distracted by a noisy culture that celebrates our ego.

Great writers, artists, scientists, composers and public servants have tapped into the divinity we all carry within us. Inspired, they have contributed to human progress throughout history. When we refuse to acknowledge or exercise that same divinity, we diminish ourselves and our communities. Robinson is disappointed by the current trend of our schools to produce taxpayers instead of citizens. While job-training has merit, thoughtful participation is essential to a democratic republic.

Frequent letters to the editor suggest a return to the Bible as a remedy for our nation’s ills, but many people have been wounded by those who seem to find all their answers in a single book. I suggest that we listen to the still, small voice that resides in all of us and is continually trying to guide us in the direction of peaceful coexistence and noble action.