Category Archives: psychology

Evangelical Christianity–We Have Met the Enemy and He is Us!!!

Evangelical Christianity is its own worst enemy.  Feeling their faith is being threatened, they have hitched their wagon to a man who can even be thought of as an “anti-christ” of sorts as he is the opposite of anything that Jesus taught.  These Christians feeling of socio-economic powerlessness has pushed them into seeking political power and they found a spokesman in Donald J. Trump.  But faith, certainly including the Christian faith, is not something that can be threatened if its focal point is the personal dimension of spirituality, not the ideological.  This phenomenon of the Christian teachings is termed the “Personhood” of Christ which, if kept from being itself merely another cold, sterile idea, can lead to an internal, “personal” experience not dependent upon ideology and dogma.  Obsession with ideology and dogma keeps any experience of anything from taking place.

But the ego, termed “the flesh” by the Apostle Paul, is always ready to co-opt our spiritual impulses and accomplishes this purpose by turning the teachings of any spiritual teacher into dogma.  When the dogmatic emphasis predominates, everything about the spirituality is kept in the mind and “worship” consists of some version of a repetition compulsion with words and ritual, usually including guilt-ridden do-goodism.  When this spiritual edifice is threatened the ego instructs the individual, and the group, to merely rely more feverishly on this repetition compulsion.  This addictive behavior is desperate as with all addictions the point is to keep one away from recognizing one’s inner emptiness which, according to the teachings of Jesus, is where “fullness” is found.

God does not reside in ideas or “Christian” behavior though both are necessary components of spirituality if they are seen merely as a means to an end and not an end in themselves.  The ego’s domain of ritual and ideas is the Pauline “letter of the law” and the Apostle emphatically declared that the “letter of the law killeth.”  And when this situation predominates in a culture, it is the seed-bed of atheism as many times, quite ironically, it is only the atheists that see through the Christian charade.

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Here is a list of my blogs.  I invite you to check out the other two sometime.

https://anerrantbaptistpreacher.wordpress.com/

https://literarylew.wordpress.com/

https://theonlytruthinpolitics.wordpress.com/

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Our Denial System Challenged by Lao Tzu and David Whyte

Thirty spokes are made one by holes in a hub,
By vacancies joining them for a wheel’s use;
The use of clay in moulding pitchers
Comes from the hollow of its absence;
Doors, windows, in a house,
Are used for their emptiness:
Thus we are helped by what is not
To use what is.

I want to write again about this little ditty, written in the 6th century B.C. by Lao Tzu that “moved in like a bitch” (to use a Trumpism) on my soul and has mesmerized me ever since. I was in my thirties and know that I must have been bewildered by this verse as it totally had no place the very literal mind of mine that predominated back in my innocence. Increasingly I have “grokked” this wisdom the past decade realizing the importance of recognizing that there is an “absent” dimension of life which is very present even in its “absence.” Actually, it is the only thing that “is,” but then it “is” not nor “is” it a thing. If you understand this, then “Bless you” and if you don’t, I encourage you to flash the sign of the cross to your computer screen and run away screaming! For understanding this will cost you everything you have and even deny you the ego-satisfaction of thinking you are any better off than those who do not get it.
It is so daunting to realize that one has spent his life denying reality, has lived his life in a trance designed to keep himself out of touch with himself, with the world, and with God. In some way I know this is the “hell” that I used to preach against though I now realize the “hell” I saw threatening others had already gnawed deeply into my own soul. The denial system that we acquire with birth and upbringing is very important, but it is so very important that at some point we find the grace and humility to own our dishonesty with ourselves, with others, and with God. And this is really no big deal as it merely means we have a chance to accept our human-ness, a dimension of which is our mortality, which civilization, composed of comforting “fig-leaves” is designed to hide. Poet David Whyte wrote in “Consolations,” that we are in denial of the grace that lies just beyond the horizon of our view of the world, described by Conrad Aiken as, “the small bright circle of consciousness.” And Whyte avowed that to be in denial is to find oneself with a lot of company, noting then that “denial is the crossroads between perception and readiness, to deny denial is to invite powers into our lives we have not yet readied ourselves to meet.”

Here is a list of my blogs. I invite you to check out the other two sometime.
https://anerrantbaptistpreacher.wordpress.com/
https://literarylew.wordpress.com/
https://theonlytruthinpolitics.wordpress.com/

Evangelical Christians Under Attack…by Themselves!!!

Evangelical Christians are under attack.  The “War on Christmas” is underway already.  But the irony is that the attack is from within, demonstrating the wisdom of Pogo, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”  Many of their ranks, and I think it actually is most of them, have pledged their troth to Trumpism, the figure head of which is Trump, and the rank-and-file are dug in so deep that they cannot escape…especially the illustrious “Evangelical Advisory Council” of sycophants that Trump has wrapped around himself.  They suspect, in the depths of their heart, that they have really screwed up in pledging their troth to a man who is the antitheses of Jesus but, being full of “christian” ego, they cannot admit that.  They, like Trump, cannot admit that they made a mistake.

Now, I don’t have a dog in this hunt.  Consciously.  Being an evangelical in recovery, I’m certainly grinding an ax to some degree.  But, I firmly believe in the value of religion…the word comes from “re” and “ligio” which combined mean to “tie together” what had become disjointed, which is present in the etymology of the word “ligament.” And there is value in the evangelical faith as it suffices for many, and even most people in this world.  We pointy-headed pseudo-intellectuals can dismiss them but we do so only out of an insidious arrogance.  Truth has many levels and some approach truth on a level that can easily appear “superficial” to we “pseudo-intellectuals.” But I think God’s wisdom was presented in the wisdom of a fundamentalist radio preacher of decades ago, J. Vernon McGee who said he wanted to “put the cookies on the lower shelf so even the kiddies could reach them.”  And I, being one of those “higher shelf” denizens, a “pseudo-intellectual” at best, can readily affirm the value of “the cookies” on any of the shelves.  For the value lies in the cookies!

But what has happened in evangelical circles is that the “luminaries” have become intoxicated with their prominence and are more interested in maintaining their position than exploring the value, the richness, of the “cookies” that Jesus…among others…presented to us.  They are those that a friend of mine, Charles Dewitt, had in mind in a poem decades ago when he described the clergy as, “You heroes of spiritual contraception who have long since despaired of rebirth.”  The clergy, when they become “professional” are always tempted to relish their position and seek to increase their prominence and maintain it at all costs.  This is not because they are bad people, but merely because they are people…or human, and the human ego has a deep-seated tendency to know nothing other than itself.

 

Biblical Literalism and Human Culture

Biblical literalism is very much related to what I see as a cultural literalism in my country.  Many conservative people, especially in Alabama at present moment, are seeing their world in such literal terms that they are oblivious to the long-term consequences of what they are doing.  Just as they approach Holy Writ only on the surface level, so they approach their daily life and the life of their community and nation only on a surface level.  They do not grasp the nuances of life and therefore the nuanced dimensions of life, unbeknownst to them, are grasping them firmly.  One might say their individual, as well as the collective unconscious exerts inordinate influence on them.

Our need to conceptualize our experience with God parallels are experience of having been conceptualized ourselves.  We first lived as an awareness, an amorphous Presence ready to soak up this substantial world and thus form an ego identity.  This state of “awareness” was what the Buddhists call the “world of 10,000 things” which is a metaphor for “a world of everything,” of undifferentiated wholeness.  The Biblical fall is the experience of being reduced to the conceptual…a thing among other things…which then reduced our Creator Him/Herself to a concept, a thing.

Spiritual teachings of all stripe are intended to facilitate an escape from bondage to this “letter of the law.”  But gaining this freedom…or even tippy-toeing near its periphery…requires an awareness of the predicament which is a profoundly existential phenomenon.  This awareness is not cognitive, though cognition is involved…somewhat…and is greatly influenced by the experience.  This experience takes place deep in the heart, in the unconscious, that, “foul rag-and-bone shop of the heart.”

Understanding this phenomenon can be transformative.  One could even say it can be, “being born again.”  Grasping this dimension of life changes our relationship with our self, with others, and with our world.  We begin to see and understand ourselves as related to all “things”, to be part and parcel of this cosmos, even part of what some describe as, “the Cosmic Christ.”  But this experience is inherently threatening to the rugged individualism of our culture which instills within us the notion, “I am the captain of my ship, the master of my soul

Yes, we are individuals but our individuality has value only in the context of our unity with all things.  This experience of the Great Round often comes to us first as the feeling of an impending threat to our sense of being a separate and distinct individual.  This threat is that of impending doom, of fragmentation or dissolution of the ego, which is actually merely the ego having its tyranny loosened and learning to live in harmony with the body and the rest of the world.

Trumpism is Devouring Alabama

Trumpism has found another avatar, this one in Alabama, a mini-avatar in the person of Judge Roy Moore.  And Moore, fulfilling his job-description, inspires his devotees to merely double-down in their support of him as his moral, ethical, and legal character become more exposed as fraudulent.  Just as with Trump, Moore has evangelical Christians as an important element of his support base and they are demonstrating their historic skill at “doubling down” in the face of his non-sense.

But my favorite “doubling-downer” currently is Jerry Falwell, Jr. the increasingly infamous president of Liberty Baptist University.  After consistently voicing support for Trump, even in the face of opposition from students, faculty, and alumni, he has boldly stated that the believes Moore over the women who are accusing him of sexual improprieties in their youth.  But Falwell has no choice.  He has put himself out on a limb and cannot back down; for backing down, admitting that his judgment about Trump was in error, would be to admit making a mistake which is the characterological flaw that he shares with Trump.  Falwell is here demonstrating one subtle but fatal flaw of any faith tradition, the temptation to take one’s “belief” too seriously, not realizing that there should be a distinction between one’s belief and the “object” of one’s belief.  But believers of the Falwell variety actually have only belief in their belief for they have been indoctrinated into a version of their faith which emphasizes cognition over experience.  In this mode of spiritual experience, faith consists merely of a creed, a medley of “well-worn words and ready phrases that build comfortable walls against the wilderness” (Conrad Aiken) of a messy reality that they wish to escape from.  These are the “letter-of-the-law” believers that the Apostle Paul warned us against.

I must issue a caveat here.  I don’t think Falwell is a bad man nor is in insincere.  And the Jesus that he voices belief in was, and is, a cosmic demonstration… i.e. “Word”… of forgiveness to any and all of us regardless of what we think, say, or do.  But this Divine Grace does not leave us without the consequences of our behavior–consequences to ourselves, to those around us, and even to the whole world.

 

 

 

An Alternative to Perfunctory Forgiveness

My foray into A Course in Miracles (Acim) the past year and a half has been very helpful in learning to view reality, including my faith, through a more critical prism.  One of the most important lessons has been about forgiveness which is more than the perfunctory “performance art” forgiveness that I have been accustomed to.  This “performance art” forgiveness is when you forgive someone who has offended you because that is the thing you are supposed to do.  You have learned that when someone has “been naughty” to you, it is your Christian duty to forgive them, especially if they ask you to.  But Acim teaches that forgiveness goes much deeper than social obligation into the depths of the heart where you recognize that in an important sense you and the offending party are one, that “there go I but by the Grace of God.”  You forgive because you realize that you are connected to that person, are “cut from the same bolt of cloth,” and are in some sense guilty of the same offense.

Performance art forgiveness is often a transaction of power.  You are the bastion of moral virtue and godliness and before you is the lowly miscreant seeking absolution.  The miscreant walks away comforted with your forgiveness and you walk away basking in the comfort of knowing that you have, once again, been noble and Christian.  Acim teachings put each party on a level playing field…and that is where the teachings of Jesus want us to be with others. His teachings were intended to be a great equalizer among humankind, not as a means to facilitate some of us being “noble” and others “not so much.”

But performance art forgiveness, and the whole of performance art faith, has its place in human affairs functioning kind of like a set of training wheels on a bicycle. And perfunctory forgiveness is better than none at all and, if given a little thought and humility, can lead to the understanding taught by the Course.

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Here is a list of my blogs.  I invite you to check out the other two sometime.

https://anerrantbaptistpreacher.wordpress.com/

https://literarylew.wordpress.com/

https://theonlytruthinpolitics.wordpress.com/

Jerry Falwell Jr. Embarrassed by Trump

Jerry Falwell Jr. and his fellow evangelical luminaries are feeling the hurt for their hypocritical support of Trump.  With other “advisory board” types fleeing the sinking Trumpian ship, only one has resigned from the Evangelical Advisory Board and Falwell, Jr. in the interview below is challenged to justify his continued support.  Falwell Jr.’s support of Trump is completely untenable and in the interview the shallowness of his views are embarrassingly apparent.  To make matters worse for him, students at the University bearing the Falwell name and some of its alumni are finding the courage to confront him, to expose his hypocrisy, and ask that he resigns. (See WaPo story– https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/right-turn/wp/2017/08/21/jerry-falwell-jr-and-other-religious-backers-of-trump-embarrass-themselves/)

I can’t help but feel some sympathy for Falwell Jr. as my youth and early adulthood was spent with rudimentary efforts to ensconce myself in evangelical culture like he has, though I would admittedly have splashed about in a smaller pond than he.  Looking back I can remember so clearly how that identity issues were paramount as at that age I was looking about to see where I could establish myself and take my place in the local version of a dog-and-pony show version of evangelical Christianity.  I failed miserably in that phase of my identity quest…for which I am so grateful…but Falwell Jr. was very successful.  He merely read his script better than I did and that alone did not and does not make him a bad person or un-Christian.

There is the “Christian identity movement” in our culture which Falwell Jr. is part of though he is not cursed with the rabid, unrefined version of that madness.  But his “identity” is wholly Christian which is not easy to be critical of as it sounds very noble.  But the problem I’m addressing here is in the hollowness of an identity which is based on ideology rather than personal experience.  Christian ideologues of the sort I am critiquing see God and even Jesus only as ideas, noble ideas which rattle around in their skull, but which have not been integrated into the core of their being so that a meaningful impact can be had on their thought, speech, and behavior.  They are products of our ideologically oriented culture which does not want authentic human beings but simple ideologues, automatons, who will march in lock step with the prevailing cultural milieu.  To put in simple terms, Falwell Jr. is like Trump in that he is driven by unquestioned assumptions one of which is, for Falwell his Christian faith.  The questioning spirit which could deepen his faith and expose to himself what the Apostle Paul called “the flesh,” even in his noble intentions, will not be permitted.  This is because it would be too painful to have his Christian persona exposed for what it is, not realizing that as the persona is penetrated by the light of day…what Christians call “The Holy Spirit”…his faith could deepen as the unacknowledged dimensions of his soul were brought to the surface.

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Here is a list of my blogs.  I invite you to check out the other two sometime.

https://anerrantbaptistpreacher.wordpress.com/

https://literarylew.wordpress.com/

https://theonlytruthinpolitics.wordpress.com/