Addiction and Grace

I recently posited the notion of addiction as an ersatz religion and alluded to the same in my last posting. But religion itself can easily be an addiction, a means of avoiding the very God that one purports to believe in so strongly. Or to speak more precisely, it is a way of avoiding the experience of God that one believes in so strongly. These people who immersed in the “letter of the law” rather than the “spirit of the law” and, of course, “the letter killeth, but the spirit maketh alive.”

These people are ideologues and ideologues of any stripe are dangerous. And by that I mean hyper-conservative ideologues and hyper-liberal ideologues as they are cut from the same bolt of cloth. They believe in their ideas so much that they can’t understand the simple fact that the word (or idea) is not the thing, that words are merely pointers, or to borrow from the Buddhist wisdom, “The finger pointing to the moon is not the moon.”

These spiritual ideologues often have memorized tons of scripture and are well versed in theological intricacies. And, of course, there is nothing wrong with “tons of scripture” or “theological intricacies.” The problem becomes when the whole of the individual’s life is a mechanical regurgitation of words and phrases, dogma if you please. It is to be immersed in the Christian variety of what Conrad Aiken described the “glib speech of habit, of well-worn words and ready phrases that build comfortable walls against the wilderness.” The bible is an excellent way of avoiding the Bible, god is an excellent way of avoiding God. And we must remember the biblical admonishment against “having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof.”

And I close with a relevant thought from Gerald May about the pervasiveness of the addictive process:

I am not being flippant when I say that all of us suffer from addiction. Nor am I reducing the meaning of addiction. I mean in all truth that the psychological, neurological, and spiritual dynamics of full-fledged addiction are actively at work within every human being. The same processes that are responsible for addiction to alcohol and narcotics are also responsible for addiction to ideas, work, relationships, power, moods, fantasies, and an endless variety of other things. We are all addicts in every sense of the word. Moreover, our addictions are our own worst enemies. They enslave us with chains that are of our own making and yet that, paradoxically, are virtually beyond our control. Addiction also makes idolators of us all, because it forces us to worship these objects of attachment, thereby preventing us from truly, freely loving God and one another. (Gerald May, Addiction and Grace)

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