Category Archives: fundamentalism

Control Issues and Freedom

One of my reader’s response to yesterday’s blog has got me to thinking more about control issues and related matters.  As noted yesterday, we all have control issues and address them in ways unique to our genetic, cultural, and social endowment. Hopefully our adaptation will leave us with a socially tenable persona; or, if not, one that is so “untenable” that that we don’t give a damn about the outside field of reference, basking in the comfort of some rigid ideology or cultic religion!

The latter response is what Erich Fromm had in mind half a century ago with his book, “Escape from Freedom.”  Those who can’t submit their private field of reference to the external “market place” of ideas escape into the illusion of being in control but will be safe from any awareness of their dilemma.  Their “freedom” is specious as hell and, indeed, might be one of the best examples we have of hell.  Those who have opted to enter and confine themselves to this conflagration have found the illusory need for control so powerful that they have sold their soul.  And always they will be voicing a conviction that “we are right”…usually exclusively so…to counter the deep-seated feeling that they are intrinsically wrong and even “damned.”  Confinement to this narrow prism of “the right way” is the curse of death, spiritually speaking, as it reflects a deep-seated inability to self-reflect, to deign to let go of some of the very-human need to be in control, and to gently tippy-toe into the realm of a mature faith.  For in the often frightening world of faith, doubts, fears, and insecurities are common.

So, why do we have such an inordinate need to be in control and thwart the heart’s natural inclination to faith?  I think it stems from our unconscious “knowledge” that life is much more precarious than our tribe taught us that it was.  And this tribal “fig leaf” (part of which is our persona) was very necessary just as T. S. Eliot noted with his observation, “Humankind cannot bear very much reality.”  But if we are lucky in what Richard Rohr and Carl Jung describes as “the second half of life,” we will find the courage to slowly remove that fig leaf, tippy-toe into the nakedness that it has hidden, and learn to swim in the realm of faith.  But faith, at this mature point of our life must not be the ideological regurgitation of dogma that often characterizes the first half of life.  It must be a faith that, in addition to an external reference point, includes an internal reference point which is what Jesus had in mind when he told us the Kingdom is within.  This faith must at some point become a faith, not only in a God who is “out there” but in the person “in here” who is “me.”  It requires “The Courage to Be.”  (See Paul Tillich book by same title, free on-line pdf at following link—http://www.pol-ts.com/Research_files/Source%20Material/Tillich/courageofbe011129mbp.pdf)

Being Tyrannized into Sexual Abstinence

Here is a powerful report of a young woman who as a ten-year old girl was subjected to a fundamentalist Christian ceremony in which she vowed to maintain her sexual maturity until her wedding night.  This report demonstrates how her parents, and the culture of her faith, tyrannized her regarding her sexuality at at time where, per her report, she didn’t even know what sex was, thought boys were “icky”, and loved having tea parties with imaginary friends.  Her parents, because of their own fears about sexuality, intruded into her innocence and the violation really crippled her when she did get married.

H. L. Mencken once cryptically noted, “The problem with abstinence is its over emphasis of sex.” Mencken acerbically noted that often an innocent dimension of life is over laden with fears of culture and problems that are certainly present to begin with in this important dimension of life are compounded by the “over emphasis.”

THE FOLLOWING IS THE REPORT OF THE YOUNG WOMAN:  http://www.alternet.org/i-took-christian-virginity-pledge-child-and-it-nearly-destroyed-my-life

The “Donald Trump Show” Wreaking Havoc!!!

My immersion in the work of Carl Jung has led to an increased sensitivity to the murmurs from my unconscious depths.  I catch myself often seeing…and feeling…responses to stimuli in my world that I once would have not noticed.  For example, last week I was watching the daily “Donald Trump Show” that has exploded on my country’s political and cultural scene and caught myself wanting to say “atta boy” as he trotted out his usual falderal that is always delightful “red meat” for the rabid base of his Republican Party. For example, he offers a steady diet of juicy themes like “I’m the only one who has the courage to stand up to ‘them’” or “I’ll build a wall to keep out them there Mexicans…and make’em pay for themselves” or “I’ll make American great again” or denigrating Washington politicians as “stupid.”

His message speaks to the unconscious of voters who feel they are losing control, that their country is losing control and losing the prominence that it deserves, and that “we need a leader who will tell the truth and will ‘get something done.’”  And all of these desires are noble human desires but only when taken in context and fulfillment is sought while respecting others who might suffer as a result of their accomplishment.  But I noted my heart’s response to say “amen” in response to the primary thing his message offers—certainty!  My country…like the rest of the world…is still trying to come to terms with the flow of history and accept that the “certainties” of yesteryear need to be modified.  But some part of my heart, still listening to the reptilian brain’s insistence that my ego can be in control….can be “God”…and wants that certainty.

And this Trump message strikes right at the heart of fundamentalist Christianity which drives the base of the Republican party without which they would not be able to win anything.  But, speaking for myself…and in spite of those unconscious murmurs…there is a rudimental dimension of my fundamentalist faith of yesteryear that is not only surviving the lack of certainty but is discovering that it is thriving.  For, now in place of certainty, I find faith and hope welling up.  But I will admit it would be simpler and easier if I could just go back to the past and have confidence that my mindless…and heartless…regurgitation of dogma was sufficient.

Trump has the Republican establishment shaking in its booties.  For Trump is behaving like an enfant terrible and putting on the table what the GOP establishment wants to be kept beneath the surface because it is ‘unsavoury” to most of the American electorate.  For example, the racism and misogyny that is glaring in the Republican agenda is openly voiced by Trump while the GOP establishment stands helplessly by and cringes.  It is almost like Trump is embodying Tourette’s Syndrome for the Grand Old Party and saying the things that everyone is thinking but civility and decorum does not permit to be said.

My Life in a Mega-Church

I spent two years as a member of a mega-church in the early eighties, a Baptist Church in Springdale, Arkansas. I was so proud of myself, so pleased to be a member of a church that was so “up-and-coming” and growing larger and larger and larger. And the pastor was very good. And I mean very, very good; even today I appreciate memories of his skill as an expositor of scripture.

And I was single at the time and didn’t “smoke, drink, or chew…or screw”…though I will admit I faltered on that latter point from time to time. And, yes, God forgave me. I knew he would. He had to. But I hated relying on that “duty” of His and so didn’t “imbibe” as much as I wanted to. But, nevertheless, I did not “smoke, drink, or chew!!!” But, I continued to flirt with darkness in the fall of 1981 when, after hearing the pastor lament the passing of Arkansas’s “Blue Laws” I stopped by after service and reveled in a luxurious Wal-mart for a while and bought a lot of “stuff.”   (The “Blue Laws” disallowed most stores to open on Sunday) I do remember to this day the guilt of that offense, hoping that no other church members saw me!)

But it was so nice to be part of a church that was really special and powerful and becoming more so. The Word of God was being preached and souls were being won to Jesus and even though the world was lost in sin, we were doing our part to win the world to Jesus. And I was a small part of this enterprise. It felt nice to belong.  Now looking back on it, the “pride” is kind of awkward, for it is the pride that Emily Dickinson had in mind when she described, “a mind too near itself to see itself distinctly.”  Or, to put it in the words of a recent Face Book discussion group re Paul Tillich, a mind “embedded in itself.”

Looking back on it, I was merely an “actor” in my life and my faith and so I’m tacitly accusing this church of the same. But, I have some guilt over accusing them. For, they were very, very good people and are so today. And, so was I! And they will not be reading this account and if so they must take it as it is, a revelation more about myself much more than an account of them. Yes, those people were “limited” but who is not and there was none of them more limited than was I. Dealing with my “limitations” has taken me a different direction than most of them but I’m sure most of them are not in the same place as they were back then. We are all “actors” in some sense and God takes our “strutting and fretting” during our “hour upon the stage” and weaves them into this beautiful tapestry that we call the human experience.

“You Spot It, You Got It”

Conservative Christians in my country are currently beset by a rash of “sexual indiscretion” scandals, personally or with their close associates. In some instances their response is to minimize the “sin” with the pious platitude, “God has forgiven me” but what they fail to address is how that often their lives have been characterized by ardent stances on moral issues and quick judgment of others on sexual matters. Yes, I firmly believe God has forgiven them and he will forgive them of a more serious sin that is present if they would deign to acknowledge it.

This “unacknowledged sin” I can address because of personal experience, past and present, demonstrating once again the wisdom of a psychologist, “You spot it, you got it.” I knew one of the notable figures alluded to above and helped educate him in the practice of being what I now call a Christianoid. I was in the position to do so for at that time in my life I was a Christianoid and each day could have said, “Wind me up and watch me be Christian.” My Christian faith was a “thing” that I had acquired from my culture and it provided the core of my persona. Without it I would have been a “no-thing” and would have had to deal with the intense existential anxiety that comes when you begin to realize, cognitively and emotionally, that one is “no” thing.

One could use the term hypocrite to describe me at that time in my life for the word means simply “actor” and I was merely an “actor” in the whole of my life, including my faith. I didn’t know anything else. And I was not a “bad” person nor was I a “hypocrite” in the usual sense of the word. I just was very immature and had not enrolled yet in the “school of hard knocks” which always facilitates an identity crisis. And I lived in a culture and practiced my faith with people plagued with similar immaturity.

One thing that Christians need to learn from this current “mess” that they are in is that the God who they believe in so fiercely…the same one that I do…is trying to tell them something about sexuality. Basically, He is saying, “Hey, I made you sexual beings. I did it deliberately and it is a good thing. But trying to deny, avoid, or repress it will get you or your children into trouble.” And it is very apparent that those who have the gravest concern about the sexual behavior of other people and want to control it have the gravest issues with their own sexual impulses. “You spot it, you got it.”

The sexuality issues of Christians is part of a more fundamental error they are making which is a denial of their very body. And this is very personally relevant for myself as I took this to an extreme and have spent my whole life denying my body, placing too much emphasis on cognition rather than emotion. A misplaced emphasis like this will always turn one into an ideologue in which the “idea” is valued more than the “thing” which the idea refers to. Thus I had to discover that the “Jesus” that I purported to worship was only an idea and that I was actually, in some subtle sense, only worshipping myself.

Let me emphasize that I believe firmly in moral codes and in self-restraint, or, as the Greeks said, “measurement in all things.” But when the external boundaries become too strong, when they are emphasized excessively, the spirit within is squelched, and “acting out” will occur often in the form of “sexual indiscretion.” It is almost as if the gods are saying, “Hey, you think you are in control and a bastion of virtue? Just watch this!” And then they send a vixen our way, we imbibe readily, and are taught that we are not what we were pretending to be. We must not fail to learn the lesson that we are always “actors” in some sense and that “none is good, no, not one,”; or as Shakespeare put it, “Give every man his just desert, and who would escape a whipping?”

Hiding behind “God’s forgiveness” is not enough. Sure, it is there and will always be there. But our indiscretions always reveal issues in the depths of our heart and in those depths is where the work needs to be done. But with Christianity that I used to teach others there was no awareness of those depths and barriers actually in place to avoid discovering them. This is the “bad faith” that John Paul Sartre wrote about.

Anti-intellectualism and “Mindfulness”

I find the current anti-intellectualism craze in my country fascinating though my fascination is mitigated by fascinated by the worry about its consequences.  As indicated earlier this stems largely from my past life in an hyper-conservative Arkansas community when conspiracy theory was one of my favorite “comfort foods.”

But epistemology is relevant.  These anti-intellectuals are not without intelligence; in fact, some of them are very well educated and have powerful posts in our government.  But intelligence is not a static phenomena, or shouldn’t be.  For intelligence to be meaningful it must be accompanied with the capacity to view things critically, even belief systems that are near and dear to their own heart.  Without that critical capacity, one will find himself in a closed mind which does include the “comfort” of not knowing one has a closed mind.  And one who lives in this prison…self-imposed in some manner…will automatically dismiss anything that threatens his view of the world.  This is the “epistemic closure” or “confirmation bias” that I address here so often.

 Intelligence is not objective.  With the anti-intellectual crowd, they have intelligence but they have used that intelligence to formulate a comfortable world view and then said to themselves unconsciously, “Ok, that’s enough.  I don’t need to know any more” and will spend the rest of their life viewing the world and themselves through that narrow little prism.  Instead of “thinking” they will be spend their life “thought” by a body of ideology comprised of preconceptions which have never been questioned.  Their thought life will be a daily regurgitation of these preconceptions.  And having that narrow view of the world pierced would be extremely painful so most who are within its “safe” confines just will not allow it to be pierced.  For this “penetration” by reality would evoke a deep sense of being existentially “wrong” which is related to why so many of them often avow a deep conviction of being “right.”  And this “wrong” that they fear is not a conscious “wrong” of having done something amiss but of “being” wrong which would evoke what I have posited earlier is the experience of “the judgment of God.”  The experience of “being” wrong is at an extreme unmitigated terror and that is why we have been given a persona without which we could not function.

But if we live our whole life knowing ourselves only as the ideology-based persona that we trot out every day, we will not have understood the question posed by Jesus, “What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?”  Our persona can survive, and even thrive on self-scrutiny but our ego will always tell us that it can’t.  And therefore, when threatened, we cling even tighter to our persona rather than experience some version of the aforementioned terror.  And for most of us the “terror” will only be some degree of discomfort,  i.e. “cognitive dissonance.”  But usually we “cling in panic to our tall beliefs” when “Truth holds our her hands” and proceed to “shrink away like an ill-treated child.”  (Auden) We prefer the comfort of our ideas rather than addressing the “Reality” that lies beneath and beyond these ideas.  We cannot bring ourselves to declare like W. H. Auden, “Oh blessed be bleak exposure on his sword we are pricked into coming alive.”

It is no accident that the fundamentalist Christians who are the driving force of this anti-intellectualism vehemently oppose meditation and yoga, often denigrating it as “Of the Devil” or “Straight from the pits of hell.”  And, they are right…in their way of looking at the world!  For the “mindfulness” that is in the vogue in our culture with many of us “damn liberals” emphasizes awareness of one’s subjective experience that precedes our “fall” into the realm of cognition.  The “awareness” that mindfulness disciplines offers is frightening to one who is an ideologue and trapped in his ideological “comfort food.”  This “awareness” frees us from the bondage to our thinking.

 —-AFTERTHOUGHTS—-

“Words,” wrote John Maynard Keynes, “ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking.”

 

A very thoughtful assessment of this current anti-intellectual craze is found in the magazine Psychology Today:  https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/wired-success/201407/anti-intellectualism-and-the-dumbing-down-america

 

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President Obama Invading Texas!!!

American politics is so much fun these days with the lunacy running amok in the extremist wing of the Republican Party.  Their latest insanity is a paranoid fear that President Obama is plotting an invasion of Texas.  That is right!  The routine deployment of federal troops in six southwestern states, including Texas, has stoked fears that it is a ruse to get the populace accustomed to seeing Federal troops on the roads and highways so that when the sure-to-come invasion does occur the people will not know what is going on until it is too late

But, the significant feature of this story is the even the governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, stoked these fears when instead of dismissing the paranoid concern, he wasted tax-payer resources and ordered the state guard to monitor these activities so that the rights and freedoms of Texas citizens would not be in jeopardy.  Even a Republican candidate for President, Rand Paul, responded to a question on the issue with the promise that “I’ll look into it” rather than dismissing the issue.

Abbott’s and Paul’s response reflected their dependency on the lunatic fringe of their party without which they would have no hope for election.  Mollification of these “low information voters” is necessary for these politicians who bow to their God of “Maintaining Electibility.” 

A mature response on this type of lunacy was demonstrated by Republican Senator John McCain in 2012 when he was campaigning against President Obama.  When “working a crowd” with a live microphone, one “low information voter” female asked McCain to address her concern that Obama was a Muslim.  McCain politely and calmly took the microphone from her and told her, “No, President Obama is not a Muslim.”  He then adroitly shifted the focus to legitimate territory, “President Obama represents a different approach to governing this country” and then proceeded to address the GOP agenda.  Here McCain politely set a limit with this woman and with all who were watching.  In recent years many Republican politicians have gone to embarrassing extremes to avoid honestly answer questions re Obama’s citizenship and religion, knowing that to answer candidly would possibly alienate them from the base of their party.

Now, this kind of “stuff” always gets my panties in a wad because I grew up in that kind of madness and it is still buried somewhere deep in my heart…I guess.  And looking back on it I realize and remember how it appealed to a mother lode of fear in my young heart remnants of which are still present, unfortunately.  And fundamentalist religions of all stripes are always fear-based and thus thrive on perceived threats to their integrity and freedom.  But they are failing to remember that Jesus said that, “Perfect love casteth out fear.”  (My panties, btw, are pink chiffon with black polka dots!)

I do not blame these “low information voters” for this phenomena.  They cannot help it in some way for they have not been blessed with the opportunity for an education.  But I do blame politicians who have exploited the fears of these people merely for the sake of electability.  One other illustration of their pandering is that many of the leading GOP politicians have a stock-answer to questions about whether or not they believe in global warming:  “Well, I’m not a scientist.”  They know that the ill-informed, uneducated basis of their party thrives on an anti-science and anti-intellectual currency and so these very intelligent and well-educated leaders of our country embarrass themselves by refusing to answer the questions of that sort directly.

Here are two links relevant to this insanity:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/07/us/conspiracy-theories-over-jade-helm-get-some-traction-in-texas.html?smid=fb-nytimes&smtyp=cur&bicmp=AD&bicmlukp=WT.mc_id&bicmst=1409232722000&bicmet=1419773522000&_r=0

 http://bigamericannews.com/2015/05/05/obama-plans-to-invade-texas-kidnap-george-w-bush-and-create-a-new-kingdom-of-liberal-darkness/

 

 

 

 

 

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