Category Archives: Psychology

Non-Inclusion On a Personal Level

On the way to visiting my buddy Paul Joseph in Brantford this past weekend, I was thinking of this issue of inclusion again. We talked about it while we did some running around to get some errands done while I was there.

There is a website called “Love Without Agenda” run by Jimmy Spencer Jr.
“Love Without Agenda” is inclusionary in their core set of values, and one of the team members, in his bio, speaks of it in a way one speaks of Jesus or the Gospel. Here is what he says:

“JACOB WENTZEL / DEVELOPMENT WRITING & FORMATION My name Jacob Wentzel and I am a 25-year old native of the Chicago area who now resides in Bucktown. Since graduating from Loyola University Chicago with bachelor’s degrees in English and French literature in 2012,1 have been working at an office job, acquiring a masters of liberal arts at the University of Chicago, and pulsing, patiently, to become part of something significant, here and now, for the welfare of humanity. At the core of our initiative is the message of unconditional inclusion and equality within the human experience, which has also become the core belief of my personal philosophy From the start, I was raised to get along with all types of people, and was even particularly attracted to the misfits who were excluded by the mainstream. Then, about 12 years ago, when Spencer became my youth pastor, I found out what happens when the message of inclusion is applied to the place from which is should most radiate, but which more often practices exclusion: the Christian Church. As Spencer took his message of inclusion beyond the Church and as his initiative evolved over the years, I did whatever I could to help, including editing articles and essays in exchange for chorizo burritos. Meanwhile, I also ingested the message of inclusion through my pursuit of the liberal arts, which taught me the beauty and truth of a polyphonic community in which no voice is excluded or even hushed. As one who is constantly reflecting upon my immediate community and looking to solve its problems, I am eager to combat the evil of exclusion and to give a voice to all walks of life.”

I’m going to chalk some of Wentzel’s enthusiasm to age (he seems to have a world/global vision for he speaks about the “welfare of humanity” and combatting exclusion for all walks of life) but you can see how much inclusion means to Wentzel. It’s as if it isn’t even questioned. He LOVES inclusion. It’s almost as if he is having an orgasm. It’s as if this is what he lives for. THIS IS THE GOSPEL!

It’s understandable that some would think this way as they believe that Jesus was all about the marginalized. But let’s face it. Jesus had some that were closest to him while excluding others. And ALL of us don’t include EVERYONE in our close circle and we do it for several reasons. Some because of differences of opinion, some because of culture, sex, age, interests, etc. As a matter of fact, it is physically and humanly impossible to include everyone in our lives. And it isn’t “sinful” to not do so for the reasons given.

The modern Christian belief is that in the consummation of the ages we will all be loving everybody in Christ. There will be no hate. Everyone will be included. Perfect love will abound. How we come to that point is another post but for now, let’s simply accept that that will be the case. So, in the mean time, in the “all-ready-not-yet that we now live in, we are supposed to work toward that vision. In other words, we are supposed to be loving towards others NOW, based upon a future eschatology.

But let’s think of many of those reasons mentioned above as to why we don’t include others. And let’s think of this on a very personal relational level between the sexes. Say a person, wants to date someone but that other person doesn’t find them attractive for various reasons. Let’s just go with looks as the surface reason. Question: The person who rejects someone on that basis–is their negativity toward said person sin? I mean, it certainly doesn’t fall within the eschatological vision of where we love everyone. Most of us would say it isn’t sin even though it is VERY exclusionary. They simply are not attracted to the other person on a physical level and it is that lack of attraction (negativity) that is my main concern here. There could be other reasons. Economic. One person is poor while the other is not. That makes cause for lack of attraction. Negativity again. Is it not sin to exclude for those reasons? Is not that lack of attraction sin? Again, on a personal level, not many of us would say it is sin. We just accept that this is the way the world works. That this is the way of the world. And that we simply want to get on with our lives and live our lives from day to day.

If we are all ONE at some future point then I would suspect that whatever negativity that one has for excluding someone on a personal relational level ie., why they can’t be lovers, or included in their inner circle would not be the case at that point. ALL of that should be erased. Yet we accept that “negativity” now for personal reasons but not for thinking generally about Christian love and ethics for and towards all humankind as is the case in Wentzel’s spiel (to be exclusionary is the epitome of evil!).

The whole inclusionary vision, based as it is on what I think is a over-realized eschatology doesn’t work in the real world–the here and now. It doesn’t work between groups and it certainly doesn’t work on the personal level.

Maybe it is the case that the so-called “negativity” is not negative. Maybe that is the way we are wired and so we might want to tweak what we mean by inclusion and Christian love a little. That is, when we think of inclusion, maybe it should be viewed as all peoples, ethnicities, races, groups, etc, are simply included in the beatific vision. Either way, right now, it IS the case that we discriminate and don’t included on MANY levels.

Inclusiveness On Steroids

The whole inclusiveness ideology that many Christians tout today is based on a particular understanding of God’s love and Jesus’ mission in the world (Christ came to save everybody)–the whole, “he came to seek out the marginalized and we’re supposed to love everybody” thingy.

In saying this, many Christians don’t really have a problem with how their faith (and this particular theo/politico outlook) would play out with regard to public justice or individual justice. Essentially, for them, government was and is doing a good and just thing to end discrimination, ie., school integration and civil rights legislation, acceptance of LGBT folk, etc.

Interestingly, the whole top down approach to rid society of discrimination has not only been a failure historically but it really doesn’t make philosophical sense because it ignores that the attempt to eradicate “racism” (ie., attitudes) is much like the attempt to eradicate stupidity as well as it ends up creating a homogenized and uniformed society. That is, it “flattens” society. (James Kalb, “Against Inclusiveness”).

But there’s something else as well. Inclusiveness ignores human nature and how relationships work. What I mean is that you can’t like or “love” (in that sentimental sense) EVERYBODY. Does love (in this sentimental way) mean, for example, that a pastor will get along with everyone in his flock who is under his care? How exactly would a pastor “love” everyone in his congragation? Would he get along with EVERYBODY?Would he not have differences with parishoners? Would he not find some relationships like sandpaper–gritty that go against the grain? Does this not ignore how relationships work in real life situations? For example, most of these same inclusive Christians would have no problem with a couple who divorce for they realize the situation–that that couple are ultimately not reflecting the Triune love of the Godhead in their relationship. In other words, there is a less than perfect love there. As a matter of fact the best that a couple might be able to do is to reflect that love by not talk to each other and in this way seek out as much peace as POSSIBLE. In other words “as possible” means there is less than perfect love there. But maybe it has nothing to do with “less than perfect love.” Let’s say, said couple have different interests and are not compatible on other levels? Does it have to be a question that there is LESS THAN perfect love? Or does this not reflect the normality of the way that relationships work and are INTENDED to work?

So, if this happens on a personal level, why MUST we push the idea of inclusiveness on such a grand public scale? If the idea of a divorced Christian couple as not “inclusive” (of each other) is OK, why do we not allow for this on a societal/sociological scale? Let’s face it. People choose to hang with and befriend certain other people for various reasons. People clash with personalities. People don’t always feel comfortable in other groups. So what would be problematic with a pastor who chooses not to associate with certain people in his congregation ie., trust, personality issues, cultural differences, etc? Granted, some of this “lack of reconciliation” is due to sinful tendencies and impulses but some if not most of it isn’t. And it would certainly be hard to differentiate between the various reasons, as if there are hard and fast boundaries.

One may say, “Well we should TRY to be loving (which means inclusive) because ultimately in the new age to come we will be love each other.” This is inclusiveness from the other end of the spectrum–the eschatological end. But why must “loving” in this instance mean getting along, making-friends-with, everybody? Why can’t loving mean simply serving–without the sentimentalism? Why couldn’t a pastor serve those in his congregation by helping them connect with others whom are like minded (you know, birds of a feather flock together idea?) or connect them with those who can be loving in the way that these folk need to be loved? Would that not be loving even though the pastor doesn’t have the interior resources to love in that way? It seems to me that inclusiveness in the Christian community is an inclusiveness on steroids that does damage to the way relationships work and are intended to work.

Personal Pain and Reality Distortion

I’ve told people about this before and I make no bones about it but on and off, throughout my life, I have struggled with depression and anxiety. At first, I didn’t even know what it was but only when I was put on Prozac by the school physician that I attended at that time did I realized that this was indeed what I suffered from. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m a pretty outgoing guy who loves to laugh (in part because it is like a temporary cure to alleviate the pain I feel). People find me rather personable, especially once they get to know me (at first, at times, I seem stand-offish). However, it seems like I’m constantly trying to stay above the surface–as if I could crack at any minute. And what do I mean by that? Well, I’m not talking about harming others. I’m simply talking about having a nervous breakdown. Where I just can’t cope with the daily routines of life. You know, the struggle of getting out of bed, doing the things I love to do, (one of the reasons I don’t blog regularly is because I feel as if i don’t have the energy for it), etc. If I were to judge myself on a scale of 1-10 with 5 being the “surface,” I would probably fall somewhere between 4.5-6-8. Part of my problem is that I spend inordinate amounts of time by myself (and I’m definitely NOT an introvert). And it really isn’t so much that I feel I could “snap” all the time (that comes with particular stressors in my life). It’s that I feel that I’m grumpier and more moody than I was before I ever knew I had a case of clinical depression. Archibald Hart, a leading Christian doctor and researcher in this area of psychological health has a book out called, “Unmasking Male Depression.” He speaks about it’s differences from female depression and I would say some of the symptoms describe me to a tee.

Well, I wrote all of this so far to say that the other day, (Sunday), I wrote on my facebook page, “Some days you feel so lost.” Well, Sunday, I felt that way. I knew what it was related to and I put those feelings in the category with my depression and the pain and hurt I’ve felt from people whom hurt me. “This pain is a knife a fire” and why do the “innocent pay” are references to a song by former Christian rock group, “White Heart” from their song, “Seventy times Seven” which have described my experience with some relationships. Interestingly, I’ve had some responses to my facebook posting and one in particular, by Jon Trott, whom some of you may remember was one half of the party that exposed Mike Warnke. Jon’s words penetrated and were deeply meaningful in the light of the advent of Christ’s coming to this painful world (this is not to put down a notch or two the other encouraging words. I really appreciated how all of them combined together essentially said, “You are not alone. God is with you)”. So, I want to post a link to Jon’s blog that he posted on my page. I hope you find hope in his words.

Personal Pain and Reality Distortion

Existential Despair: The Problem And The Cure

Have you ever watched the 1953 movie, “The Robe?” IMBD summarizes:

“Marcellus is a tribune in the time of Christ. He is in charge of the group that is assigned to crucify Jesus. Drunk, he wins Jesus’ homespun robe after the crucifixion. **He is tormented by nightmares and delusions after the event.** Hoping to find a way to live with what he has done, and still not believing in Jesus, he returns to Palestine to try and learn what he can of the man he killed.”

Rotten Tomatoes says:

“After the Seven Last Words, the jaded Burton wins Christ’s robe in a dice game. Gradually, **the mystical influence of the holy garment transforms Burton from a roistering cynic into a True Believer**–at the cost of his own life, which he willingly gives up in the service of his Lord.”

Greg Boyd, in his newest book, “Benefit of the Doubt,” says this (which I love btw):

“Augustine spoke a profound truth when he said our hearts are restless until we rest in God. **So long as we try to meet our core needs with idols, we experience disappointment, frustration, and a host of other negative emotions.** Yet we find ourselves unable to discontinue our searching, for our hunger never dissipates. We may try to numb it with the novocaine of alcohol, drugs, or pornography. Or we may try to forget about it by distracting ourselves with work, television, movies, sports, politics, and the like. But the novocaine eventually wears off and the distractions are only momentary. Until we learn how to find our life from God, we are incurable idol addicts.”

Greg describes perfectly Burton’s tormented state without relief until he submits to Christ. Burton, I thought, played those scenes well. He was like a man in a desert searching to relieve his thirst but finding none. I imagined (as I was watching the movie) that if this was set in today’s world, Burton would have been thrown into a padded room in a straight jacket and given drugs to put him out of his misery. I’ve so connected emotionally with that aspect of the movie because I have been in my own “prisons” of emotional despair with no escape or relief in sight. THAT to me, is hell. A very scary place to be because part of the anguish is the feeling that it will never end and there is nothing you can do to end it.

Some people want to ignore this stuff. I just can’t. It weighs on me to heavily. I wish I could be like a lot of people who seem to “just forget about it.” But asking me to forget about it is like asking me not to breathe.

Pride And Self-Acceptance: The Problem Of Identity In Theology And Psychology

I’m rather excited about this book that I mentioned yesterday by Terry Cooper so much so that I have to quote him at length today. Also, something else to think about with regard to this quote is the atonement. Maybe we need a greater acceptance because of how self-deprecating we are.

Rogers goes on to make an interesting speculation about why he and Freud differ so much in their basic views of the self. Admitting that this is only a hypothesis, Rogers suggest that even though Freud came to understand his own hidden dimensions through self-analysis, he was not able to fully accept those dimensions on his own. In fact, all of us are limited in what we can discover on our own. Once patterns of self-depreciation have been established, it takes another person to empathize with our inward journey in order for the full self-acceptance to be possible. As brilliant as Freud’s self-analysis was, it lacked the warmly accepting relationship that makes the disowned parts of the self easier to embrace. Rogers continues his speculation:

‘Hence, though he might come to know and to some extent understand the hidden aspects of himself, I question whether he could come ever come to accept them fully, to embrace them as a meaningful, acceptable and constructive part of himself. More likely he continued to perceive them unacceptable aspects of himself–enemies, whom knowing he could control–rather than as impulses which, when existing freely in balance with other impulses, were constructive. At any rate I regard this as a hypothesis worthy of consideration.’

While Freudians might wince at such a statement, it grows out of Roger’s deep conviction that we discover ourselves most deeply in relationship to an accepting other. Hence, Freud’s attempt to achieve self-acceptance in the isolation of his own analysis is similar to Luther’s attempt to gain a sense of grace through ascetic practices in a monastery. To put it religiously, we cannot muster up our own grace. It has to be mediated to us by a power of acceptance greater than we.

So What Is It? Pride? Or Low Self-Esteem?

Reading an interesting book right now. Sin, Pride and Self-Acceptance: The Problem of Identity in Theology and Psychology–by Terry Cooper. It concern’s a question of the human condition. Is our problem pride or low self esteem/self loathing. Is the problem that people think too highly of themselves or is that a cover for low self esteem? If say, you are in counselling, sure you may be temporarily down on yourself. But once your life is back to normal, pride will take over again. However, according to some, pride is a symptom not the primary problem.

So which is it?

The “pride” and “self-acceptance” are overall general models. So “inherent sinfulness” would be the overall model covering those two sub-categories to some degree. Thus, for the author, the question of the complexity of these two sub-categories is what he is working out in his book. For example, what is the self acceptance model? Well, what is the difference between self-love and selfishness? Are these two the exact opposite of each other? Could the person who is selfish love himself not too much but actually too little? That is, could said person have a lack of care for themselves which leaves them empty and frustrated and so they “snatch from life the satisfactions which they block themselves from attaining?” One might appear to care too much for themselves but in actuality be, an unsuccessful attempt, covering up and compensating for a failure to care for one’s true self. Truth be told, I think of some of Jesus’ last words, “Forgive them father for they know not what they do” in this context. Were those who nailed him to the cross being prideful or was that covering some deep seated inadequacy or inadequacies? Or what about Martin Luther King who suggested that his enemies, “prideful” as they were, were also in need of being set free.

Interesting stuff. Gotta keep on reading.