Category Archives: Jesus Christ

The Myth of the Wounded Healer.

One of the delights in blogging is that I discover kindred spirits from various parts of the world.  One recent discovery was a blog entitled “Nickle Boy Graphics” in which another man with a fundamentalist-Christian past brings to the table a gentler approach to biblical faith.  He is a talented graphic artist and uses this skill and knowledge of the Christian tradition to kindly and gently chide those Christians who take themselves too seriously.  Here is a link to one of his posts which I found very provocative:  https://nickelboygraphics.wordpress.com/2017/02/24/its-not-about-giving-up-teddy-bears/

One point this gentleman makes here is that we need to always remember that beneath the surface of someone who is careening in life, appearing to be on the verge of crashing and burning, there is a soul in great pain.  It is so easy to offer, from our font of “great wisdom” a banal kindness and reassurance which, though innocently intended perhaps, fails to include simple recognition of this person’s presence in the world, which I like to describe as “Presence.”  Before we unleash our “fixing” machinery on this person…a tendency we professional care-givers always has ready to unleash on the world…we need to pause and offer simple recognition and acceptance.  We need to lay aside our diagnostic knife and merely recognize, “You and I are here together brother/sister.  We are in this together and I accept you ‘as is’.”  It is easier and simpler to wield diagnostic jargon such as “nuts” or perhaps a sanitized “mentally ill,” or “sinner” or “evil” or “alcoholic” or “drug addict.”  Each of these labels might be quite valid but beneath the label that we so readily foist on the person there is a “Person” who needs to be spiritually/emotionally embraced, as in “accepted.”  And this is not unrelated to the “acceptance” that Christians purport to find in Jesus but closer scrutiny of the scripture reveals that Jesus always has in mind acceptance “as is” without the requirements many Christians demand.  When an individual is offered this “as is” acceptance, described by psychologist Carl Rogers as “unconditional positive regard”, often that individual can find the Grace to begin to address the pain that until that point he had been unable to embrace.

The ability to offer this “unconditional positive regard” comes only with having been through the experience of brokenness oneself and having found someone who proffered this kindness.  It is the ego’s refusal to experience “brokenness” that keeps many professional care-givers from becoming the mythical “wounded-healer” who can facilitate the soul-work where healing is realized.  (Carl Jung is the one who first coined the term “wounded-healer,” perhaps drawing upon Greek mythology.)

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“Who Am I to Judge?”

Trump supporters efforts to justify their support for their leader reaches some extremes at times.  One of my favorites, often from the evangelicals is, “Who am I to judge?”  When I first heard that, I could not help but think, “Oh my gawd!  Who am I not to judge?”  Trump is mentally ill, this has been very apparent from early in last years campaign, and yet this lame justification is positing the notion that we should follow the admonishment of Jesus and “judge not that ye be not judged.”

But this lame-ass response comes from those  who fail to acknowledge that they judge in every other respect everyday.  They “judge” about anyone that is different from them, including blacks, Muslims, homosexuals, non-Christians, and basically anyone that fulfills their need for a “them.”  But after wielding that judgment mercilessly every day of their life, and doing so obnoxiously, with Trump they lamely and piously ask, “Who am I to judge?”  They are showing us that their judgment is very selective.  When someone or something comes along that fits their needs, that embodies all of the hidden dimensions of their heart, they are willing to say, “Well, maybe I won’t judge on this occasion.  Just who am I to judge anyway?  Why is everyone so hard on this man who is only a “baby Christian'”?

We cannot be human and fail to exercise judgment.  To think that one can is very naive.  Yes, I am here demonstrating “judgment” of Trump and “who am I to do so?”  My legal standing on this matter is that I have one eye and half sense, I am not stupid, I am not morally bankrupt, and I can see when “the emperor has no clothes on.”  But it is very important for me to note on this matter an axiom that I live by, “What you see is what you are.”  Though I judge Trump, and will continue to do so, “There go I but by the Grace of God” for I see so clearly how he articulates a dimension of my lily-white, faux-Christian ass that mercifully I learned to encase within a sense of basic civility and respect for others, i.e. “basic human decency.”  One simple example, I will never make fun of a handicapped person.

“Apocalypse Now” vs Love

I grew up in a culture where apocalyptic fundamentalist Christianity ruled.  My young mind and heart thrived on it though it scared the hell out of me, just as it was designed to do.  I think there is an intrinsic vein of judgment built into that mind set and the image of summary judgment on mankind for wrong doing is appealing, especially when you just happen to be one of those who will escape God’s vengeance because you have uttered salvivic “magic words.’  There was some subtle, though completely unacknowledged satisfaction in knowing that one would be escaping God’s wrath while those who were “left behind” would be getting their ass kicked.

Fear is an intrinsic dimension of being human.  I think this stems from the primordial fear of knowing that our grasp on life is tenuous to begin with and can be taken from us at any moment for no reason at all.  And, on top of it all in the end, as the wit has put it, “No one ain’t a gettin’ out of this alive!”  And some people are so attuned to this fear base and are ready to exploit it, particularly politicians and religious leaders. Donald Trump is the consummate master of this exploitation rode to power with a steady stream of “red meat” designed to trigger the fears of voters not willing, or able, to employ critical thinking.  Of course, evangelical and fundamentalist Christians swallowed everything he said, delighted with the notion that he was going to “make America great again.”

I’m reminded of the words of Jesus, “Perfect love casteth out fear.”  I would think that even a tad of the love of Jesus would at least give one some immunity from being the prey of a fear-mongerer like Trump.  But, I too have felt the silent call of Trump’s rhetoric from time to time but have paid no attention to it, recognizing it for what it is—my reptilian brain still present and ready to be resurrected at the slightest tip of the hat if I would but feed it with the energy of my attention.

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ADDENDUM—This is one of three blogs that I now have up and running.  Please check the other two out sometime.  The three are: 

https://wordpress.com/stats/day/literarylew.wordpress.com

https://wordpress.com/posts/anerrantbaptistpreacher.wordpress.com

https://wordpress.com/posts/theonlytruthinpolitics.wordpress.com

Jesus Brought Meaning to the World

The subject of meaning teased me in my youth though it never was allowed to flourish until I started college and began to escape biblical literalism.  This escape was into a gradual appreciation of the metaphor which didn’t fully materialize until a prescient friend gave me a copy of Shakespeare’s sonnets and W.H. Auden’s collected poetry in my mid thirties.  My life has not been the same.

Meaning involves intricate and intimate experience with difference.  Until one encounters meaning, he lives in a sterile universe of sameness usually marching lockstep with those of a similar orientation to life.  A quest for meaning inevitably leads one to a face-to-face encounter with meaninglessness for the one cannot exist without the other.  For example, there is no blue without non-blue.  Now I have been blessed as my venture into meaninglessness has been gentle for it can drive one stark raving mad.  I think I am fortunate to have what the poet John Keats described as “negative capability,” the ability to live with pronounced self-doubt, insecurity, and emotional fragility.  It is no accident that since the gift of poetry in my mid-thirties I have been immersed in poetry and literature for there I find metaphor which allows me to find an anchor in what would otherwise be an overwhelming mystery, a mystery that the linear thinking in which I was stuck for 35 years cannot abide.

It just dawned on me that the story of Jesus is a story of meaning being introduced into a sterile and lifeless world and its disruptive impact.  The world grinds relentless onward, mechanically almost. T. S. Eliot described it as moving in a rut, moving,
“In appetency, on its metalled ways
Of time past and time future.”

But the story of Jesus was about bringing authenticity into the mix.  Jesus was an invasion of consciousness and mankind voted with its feet that consciousness was not its first choice.  And I might add that in my lifetime, particularly this present moment, consciousness has not proven a popular option.  For consciousness is not a function of intelligence or technological accomplishment.  Consciousness is a function of reaching into the depths of the heart and wrestling with “the internal difference where the meanings are.”  These words are borrowed from the following Emily Dickinson poem:

There’s a certain Slant of light,

Winter Afternoons –

That oppresses, like the Heft

Of Cathedral Tunes –

 

Heavenly Hurt, it gives us –

We can find no scar,

But internal difference –

Where the Meanings, are –

 

None may teach it – Any –

‘Tis the seal Despair –

An imperial affliction

Sent us of the Air –

 

When it comes, the Landscape listens –

Shadows – hold their breath –

When it goes, ’tis like the Distance

On the look of Death –

 

 

 

 

Spiritual Discernment vs. Judgment

The Apostle Paul described a “discerning spirit” that could penetrate into the depths our being and there reveal the “thoughts and intents of the heart.”  In recent years I’ve learned to apply this in very human terms as I’ve become more attuned to the whims and fancies that pass through my mind/heart.  For example, about a year ago I was listening to an early campaign rally of Donald Trump and felt an urge to yell out, “Atta boy, Donald!  You tell’em!”  His rhetoric, the cadence of his speech , and evangelical fervor appealed to faint emotional imagery from my early youth and I immediately told my wife, “I know why so many people find him appealing.”  Here I exercised “discernment,” paying attention to a subtle impulse of my heart to which I gave no energy as I recognized it for what it was, opting instead for more mature, rational discretion.  Earlier in my life I would have taken what he was saying, “hook, line, and sinker” and would have been an enthusiastic supporter.

And I find myself exercising this discernment often in my life in areas of race, gender orientation, and even physical appearance.  Part of me still has the very human impulse to respond with great intensity to my first impression but now I have that discernment, related to what Shakespeare called, “the pauser reason,” and realize that the distinctions that my ego wishes to carve the world into are not as clear and distinct as they first appear.

My mind brings to my attention one of my favorite anecdotes from the life of Jesus, the story of the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well.  This woman was a well known local prostitute and a contingent of local Republicans…so to speak…(wink, wink) were demanding that she be stoned to death, according to the law.  Jesus responded, “Let thee who is without guilt cast the first stone” after which he told her to “Go and sin no more.”  Now, Jesus knew well what the law was and that it did indeed call for him to pick up one of the rocks from one of the local rock-vending kiosks nearby and start pelting her himself.  But he exercised internal discretion, i.e. discernment, and knew that often grace and forgiveness was in order rather than strict enforcement of the letter of the law.