Purists and Prophets

Avatar of Eli Knisbacher
Opinion Column

Surrounded by hazy New Mexican desert, a shaggy 30-year-old, Dave, sits cross-legged in the sand holding a flask of peyote tea. He drinks the entire flask. After a few hours, the all-encompassing dunes morph into rolling fields of daisies. Dave reclines. A colossal face, adorned with a flowing white beard and polarized John Lennon sunglasses, stares at him from above. “Dave,” booms the face. “I am your God. You must gather disciples and spread my message. My message is this …”

Of course, few people would believe in the validity of Dave’s vision. Many of us would reasonably attribute our disbelief to the peyote — though Moses may have been tripping too. Others would disbelieve Dave because his experience would sound too far-fetched. Yet many of the latter potential disbelievers would worship a Judeo-Christian God, and by extension, believe in Judeo-Christian prophets. They would believe in the possibility of prophets, but they wouldn’t believe Dave.

This seems hypocritical. Not considering the peyote — unless Moses actually used hallucinogens — Dave’s vision has much in common with prophetic visions in the Bible. Dave spoke to God, and God gave him a task to complete. Dave’s disbelievers, biblical purists, if you will, wouldn’t believe him because the Bible fails to mention his name.

In doubting Dave, the purists would also doubt their ability to converse with God. Prophets communicate more frequently than anyone else with God, and in questioning the existence of modern prophets, they imply that nobody can communicate with God. In thinking of God beyond communication, the purists begin to worry: if God won’t respond to their prayers, what purpose does God serve? If God serves no purpose, to whom will the purists pray when their loved ones die? Who will bring hope into their lives when they feel empty? In doubting Dave, the purists doubt the existence of God.

In doubting God, the purists doubt themselves. They challenge a critical part of their identity, and without it, their worldview begins to crumble. The Ten Commandments, the guiding principles for every Jew and Christian, seem devoid of meaning without God. Maybe adultery is acceptable. If religion is fake, maybe integrity isn’t worth the extra hours it demands. The Bible defines most felonies, and if an uncaring God wrote the Bible, maybe they too are acceptable. In doubting Dave, in doubting modern prophets, we lose moral motivation and turn to sins.

To save ourselves, we must hear what the prophets have to say. We must listen to Dave. We must see beyond the peyote to realize that he conversed with God. All religious experiences like Dave’s must be considered without judgment because religion, while often practiced in groups, is an individual experience. The existence of a God can neither be proven nor disproven; thus, religion must be considered subjectively. Maybe religion is a visceral understanding of that which lies beyond, not a collection of holidays. By this definition, we all are prophets. We all converse with the Gods that govern our universes, be they scientific, heavenly, or otherwise.