Saturday, February 05, 2005

The Enemy Within, Part III

A Great Reawakening


My last post on this topic left unanswered the question: Do we have adequate weaponry in our spiritual armory to fight this enemy? The enemy possesses a self-righteous zeal born of overweening spiritual self-confidence. Can the West muster the spirituality to counter the mortal evil of its foes?

America is the most religious and spiritual of the advanced Western nations. Although Orthodox Secularism is ascendant in the permanent federal bureaucracy, the media, and academia, average Americans believe in God and attempt to live life accordingly.

Religious belief seems to be good for you: study after study indicates that believers are statistically more likely to be healthy. Suite University reports:
Recently there has been research that shows that those that attend religious services are healthier than those that do not. Observant individuals live longer, suffer less from chronic diseases and recover more rapidly from serious surgery. They also have a more positive attitude toward living.
Given this information, out of self-interest, a rational person would believe in God. But rationality seems to lead people away from religion to the Church of Orthodox Secularism. After all, some of the tenets of the major religions, as revealed in their scriptures, run contrary to modern science and reason.

So reason is not the vehicle for awakening faith; people are converted not by argument, but by experience. St. Paul was not convinced not by the arguments of Jesus' disciples, whom he zealously persecuted, but by being struck blind, knocked off his horse, and later healed miraculously. Elijah convinced witnesses of his authority by calling down fire to consume the holocaust. Prince Gautama thought and travelled and discoursed and discussed, but the light never came to him until he sat down under the bo tree and simply awakened. As Walt Whitman wrote:
Hurrah for positive science! long live exact demonstration!
...Gentlemen, to you the first honors always!
Your facts are useful, and yet they are not my dwelling,
I but enter by them to an area of my dwelling.
Part of the problem is childhood's conflation of God with the image of The-Old-Man-With-A-White-Beard-Sitting-On-A-Throne-In-The-Clouds. An intelligent person will, without even thinking about it, reject the idea of God when it carries with it such atavistic mental baggage. As a child grows up and abandons his belief in Santa Claus, so does the thoughtful person grow up and surrender his childish idea of God. Unfortunately, all too often, our culture leaves him with no coherent replacement.

This phenomenon is exacerbated by the reliance of established religion on scripture. Even without being fundamentalist, even without requiring that the believer accept every word in the Bible as literal truth, established religion, by working through scripture, tends to channel thought into a mindset that is two millennia out of date. This is a conundrum which cannot be easily solved, since abandoning scripture would leave only individual revelation to guide the believer, producing a Faith of All Against All.

And yet there was a time before scripture. Whatever the eternal verities might be, they were there before the first Hebrew scribe borrowed glyphs from the Phoenicians and recorded their experience of the Word of Yahweh; these verities will still be true æons from now when the sun gutters out. Though the scripture itself is likely to be fallible and flawed, since it was written down by fallible and flawed humans, nonetheless, the underlying verities remain.

Perhaps it is this freezing of belief in scripture that has stilled the voice of revelation within the human heart. In the last six centuries our conception of what it means to be human in the created Cosmos has changed so drastically that the received wisdom of the Holy Books can hardly speak to us about the nature of the universe.

But suppose, just suppose, a new revelation could somehow come into the world, the world as it exists now at the dawn of the 21st century. Imagine a revelation that could speak to the whole of interconnected humanity, one that could withstand the scrutiny of modern science. What form would this awakening take?

Intuition tells us that it would have to be experienced as a fulfillment and extension of some, if not all, of the existing major religions, in the same way that many Jews of the first century could adopt Christianity as a fulfillment of their faith, or that Hindus of the sixth century B.C. could become followers of the Buddha. It would have to available to the whole world, and not just a single tribe, province, or region. It would have to encompass all that modern science accepts as true; after all, the Bible included all the science of its time. A new awakening would address the sensibilities of intelligent secularists, their understanding of what is important, of what is right and wrong, and of the place of human intelligence in the larger scheme of things.

Above all, it would be true. People do not adopt fervent religious beliefs because they are logical, or because they know them to be in their own interests; they come to them because they are completely, unequivocally, and obviously true.

Everyone has a religious belief, whether he is aware of it or not. Every person has a faith of some sort, a set of premises about the nature of reality and his position in it. An absolute atheist has absolute faith in the non-existence of God; minimally, an indifferent secularist believes that the world existed before him and will continue after him, and he believes in a reality beyond the bounds of his senses.

Imagine a colorblind man who says, "I don't believe in this 'blue' you're always talking about. Sure, there are different wavelengths of light, but there's no such thing as 'blue'". How could he be refuted? There is no way to prove him wrong, but the truth of "blue" does exist; I know that it exists, because I have experienced it as "blue".

Mathematics begins with assumptions -- including both postulates and theorems based on previous proofs -- and performs operations on them using a set of shared rules, proving new theorems. Thus, a mathematician starts by defining his terms. Rather than prove the existence of God, we will define Him:
1. Given that I exist, and
2. that other entities exist besides me, and
3. that there are sets of entities in this cosmos which are larger than I am, then
4. God is defined as the largest of all such sets, one which includes all the elements of all the others.
The necessity of proving the existence of God is therefore obviated, and theological mathematicians can then spend centuries deducing His other attributes.

In fact, as a corollary to Gödel's Theorem, the existence of God cannot be proved, nor can God be understood. A complete description or proof of a consistent and coherent system cannot exist within that system. Our mathematics and logic tell us that belief in the existence of God must remain an act of faith.

Not everyone has to be struck blind on the road to Damascus in order to come to faith in God. God exists for me because He is immanent in every moment and every particle of the world around me; I wake every morning to His photons passing through the windows of my eyes, and every night I pillow my head on His darkness to enter the underside of His conscious cosmos. No argument can dissuade me from this knowledge, and nothing can take it away from me.

To quote Whitman again,
And I say to mankind, Be not curious about God,
For I who am curious about each am not curious about God,
(No array of terms can say how much I am at peace about God and about death.)

I hear and behold God in every object, yet understand God not in the least,
Nor do I understand who there can be more wonderful than myself.

Why should I wish to see God better than this day?
I see something of God each hour of the twenty-four, and each moment then,
In the faces of men and women I see God, and in my own face in the glass,
I find letters from God dropt in the street, and every one is sign'd by God's name,
And I leave them where they are, for I know that wheresoe'er I go,
Others will punctually come for ever and ever.
The world that reveals itself to our senses and our understanding is the process of God unfolding. According to the Bhagavad Gita:
Brahman is the ritual,
Brahman is the offering,
Brahman is the one who offers to the fire that is Brahman.
When one sees Brahman in every action,
That person will find Brahman.
When we in the West awaken to the process, we will find our place in it, and our place is the struggle against an evil manifested in the world. It is, to quote President Bush, "the calling of our time".

21 comments:

Doug said...

Most Excellent!
In the morning I shall read parts I and II.
---
(previous comments link still comes up blank!)

Dymphna said...

Doug, I think we got the links fixed.

Bill said...

"So reason is not the vehicle for awakening faith; people are converted not by argument, but by experience."

Absolutely, but how many believers try to convince others by reason?

"Even without being fundamentalist, even without requiring that the believer accept every word in the Bible as literal truth, established religion, by working through scripture, tends to channel thought into a mindset that is two millennia out of date."

This is a great observation. It had not occurred to me that the medium the message was couched in would be of that great an import, but your having stated it made it obvious. It explains why I spend so much energy translating scripture into usable terms for me.

"Perhaps it is this freezing of belief in scripture that has stilled the voice of revelation within the human heart. In the last six centuries our conception of what it means to be human in the created Cosmos has changed so drastically that the received wisdom of the Holy Books can hardly speak to us about the nature of the universe."

What a conundrum for established religion: If the scripture is not frozen, then there is rapid scism, but by freezing it, it becomes irrelevant. Yet it is our place in the Universe in spiritual and emotional terms that religion has to address. Science addresses our physical place in the Universe, and it is humbling to the point of insignificance.

"Above all, it would be true. People do not adopt fervent religious beliefs because they are logical, or because they know them to be in their own interests; they come to them because they are completely, unequivocally, and obviously true."

Yes, at the most fundamental level of being--they are true.

What an eloquent and fundamental statement this is. Thank you. It helps my thinking to see how you have said it.

Baron Bodissey said...

Bill -- "Yet it is our place in the Universe in spiritual and emotional terms that religion has to address. Science addresses our physical place in the Universe..."

I am seeking a renewed syncetistic faith in which the streams of science and religion flow together again. Prior to the Renaissance, there was not any real distinction between religious knowledge and scientific knowledge. Modern science arose from the attempts of Christian believers to understand the way the laws of God unfold in the created world.

wildiris said...

I've been following this thread and it is a subject that has been on my mind a lot as of late. As a member of my Church Council(Lutheran-ELCA) I have been troubled for a long time about the decline in the church's presence in our society and the corresponding decline in church attendance. The question we face is how to make the church's message relevant once again to people. And in many ways your thread, The Enemy Within" is asking exactly the same questions.
I've come to some possible conclusions that I would like to share and get your feedback on. I don't have much time at one sitting to spend on the Internet, so I'll probably end up with a string of multiple posts.
I would like to use as a starting point a line from one of the Belmont Club's recent posts, "Bargain Basement Fascism". Paul Campos commenting on the Ward Churchill affair noted that one of the aspects of Fascism was the following: "The treatment of moral responsibility as a fundamentally collective matter".
But before I go further, and for future reference, I would like to lay out the foundation that my thinking rests on. Decades ago I read a book titled "The Selfish Gene". In it the authors pointed out that ideas and thought patterns are subject to exactly the same evolutionary forces and processes that living species undergo. A few years later I was introduced to the, somewhat new-age, notion of the "evolution of human consciousness". That is the notion that human thought and ways of thinking are evolving just as the human species has been evolving over the centuries. But when you combine this notion with the thesis put forth by the authors of "The Selfish Gene", the idea doesn't seem so new age after all.
Probably the worst intellectual crime committed against western society by the 60's generation has been the equating of race with culture. This has made it impossible to have any rational discussion comparing cultural values from one society to another. Why this happened and how all of the above ties together with the theme in "The Enemy Within" is what I hope to do over the next few postings.
Culture, religion, morals, ethics, taboos, traditions, views of the universe and a person’s place in it and etc. are just outward manifestations of a society's collective consciousness.
In this way of looking at human consciousness, there are two fundamentally different and mutually exclusive ways of seeing the world one lives in. One can see a world where individual choices matter or one can see the world as a place were choices don't matter.
If individual choices matter, then it is important to make the right choices. This is the realm of morality and religion. If individual choices don't matter, then somebody or something else must be responsible for things. This leads to the realm of superstition and Fascism, see comment above.
If you believe your individual choices matter, then you must also believe, by assumption, that you have the power or resources to make those choices. And along with personal empowerment must also come the burden of personal responsibility,(i.e. the concept of sin ).
Conversely, if choices don't matter, then one must see oneself as powerless; as victim, as pawn. And herein I believe lies the distinction between Nietzsche's concepts of master morality versus slave morality.
An interesting aside at this point is to note that for people who believe that choices don't matter, the concept of sin makes no sense. And if the concept of sin is absent, then the concept of redemption becomes meaningless. This is the distinction between those who "got" Mel Gibson's movie "The Passion Of The Christ" and those who couldn't.
Got to go. More to come in the future.

wildiris said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Baron Bodissey said...

wildiris -- "The question we face is how to make the church's message relevant once again to people."

The message can become relevant in one of two ways:
1. People change to the point where the message has meaning to them; or
2. The message changes so that people find it relevant.

Changing the message to suit the temper of the times doesn't seem like a good idea to me. However, if I'm right, and the structure of existing faith is so out-of-date that our current concepts of the world (as intelligent scientific thinkers) are no longer in synch with it, an attempt to discern a truth that is in synch with it would be worthwhile.

I don't know where any of this will lead. I'm trying to syncretize, using my knowledge and understanding, and hope thereby to uncover something that is "completely, obviously, and unequivocally true". If something like that happens to a lot of people, a rebirth of faith in the West becomes possible.

wildiris said...

It’s always challenge to articulate my thoughts in a way so that others will understand me correctly. I didn’t mean to imply that by my words, “The question we face is how to make the church's message relevant once again to people.” that I think Christianity is some kind of a consumer product that simply needs new packaging and a new up-to-date marketing campaign to become popular again. But I can understand the fact that you and many others would see it that way. The precedent is certainly there, since there is no end of people in the Christian Church today, including some in my own congregation, who think precisely in that manner. I personally find this trend in the Church today very disturbing, since in the end, it only results in turning, otherwise well intentioned people, into servants of the current popular culture.

I share many of the same sentiments that were expressed by Cal Thomas in the article of his, linked-to above, and I worry about the absence from the world of intellectual discourse any articulate, intellectual and historically knowledgeable spokesperson(s) for the Christian faith. When the leadership of the Lutheran Church, ELCA Synod, has abandoned itself to the whims of popular culture and when the most prominent spokesperson for the Protestant Christian Church today is someone like Jerry Falwell, then you know your faith is in trouble.

What I sense is that the Church today has lost its way. The fact that it’s “not getting it message out” is not due to poor “marketing” strategies. It’s not getting its message out because many in the Church seem to have forgotten what the message was in the first place. The essence of the Christian faith is contained in the four Gospels and at no point in any of those four books does Jesus lecture on about science, politics, socialism, the-welfare-state, anti-war activism, abortion rights and etc. Unfortunately today, many people seem intent on turning Jesus into just another hippie with a “Be Nice To People” bumper sticker on the back of his Volvo.

If, for the sake of discussion, I must try and condense down the essence of the Christian faith to just a few words, what I would say is this, “In the end, Christianity is not about how we are to treat each other, nor is it about how we are to conduct ourselves in this world; Christianity is about how God treats us”. It was a re-awakening to this aspect of Christianity, and all that is implied by it, that formed the spiritual basis to the reformation movement as characterized by Martin Luther.

But getting back to the concerns that some of my words seem to have caused you Baron, I am not looking for a new sales pitch; I am searching for a new reformation. But exactly what could constitute this “new reformation movement” I struggle to figure out. Which, incidentally, is why continually I find myself drawn back to your blog site. While your approach to this question seems to be to look to the future, mine is to look to the past and try and understand what it was, that made the first Protestant Reformation such a seminal event for our modern western culture.

As a point of reference I’ll recall a previous post of mine own. “ The protestant reformation, as characterized by Martin Luther, was a transformation of western society that happened on several different levels. On an earthly plane the reformation was the rejection of the political and secular authority of the Catholic Church in Rome over the affairs of the various kingdoms of northern and western Europe. On a spiritual plane it was, 1)…a rejection of a religious view that emphasized the spiritual centrality and necessity of the Catholic Church with regards to one’s relationship with God, and 2)… a re-awakening of a religious view that emphasized a personal, “one on one”, individual relationship with God. “

A number of unique changes were occurring in the western European society, in the years leading up to the Protestant reformation. Changes in thought patterns (i.e. society’s collective human consciousness), that without which, a Protestant Reformation could not have happened. The first change I would point to would be the appearance, beginning with the renaissance years, of what one could call “rational though”. That is, a view of the universe characterized by the emergence of that mode of inquiry we would eventually know as the modern scientific method. The second change would be the appearance and growth of a European middle class. A third change would be, of course, the invention of the printing press, the Internet of its time. The one important thing these changes all had in common was their ability to empower individuals to have more control over their own lives than any society has ever given its members before in human history.

The Protestant Christian notion of “a personal relationship with God” could only have appeared in a society where individuals were ready to accept the concomitant burden of “a personal responsibility to God”. But this, in turn, could only happen if individuals felt that they lived in a universe/world/society where their individual choices should, could, would and did matter. Unfortunately this notion that “individual choice in the course of ones life is a birthright for all people” is so embedded into our modern western cultural world view that we as a society have lost the ability to see what a radical and unprecedented step in thinking it was for the world of that time.

What I’m trying to say is that the Protestant Reformation was just one of many outward manifestations of what I would assert was an evolutionary jump in human consciousness that occurred within the societies of North Western Europe sometime during the late Middle Ages.

But I've wandered way off topic. I'll try and focus better next post.

P.S. if one wants to have an idea what the world was like to live in pre-reformation, one need only look to the Middle East today.

Baron Bodissey said...

wildiris -- I agree with you exactly. I've attended church growth workshops where people concentrate on "We've got to get people in the door" and "We have to compete with TV" and so on. As if "Church" was just another commercial brand competing for market share.

Howard Hanchey, an Anglican theologian, has said, "The important thing is to remember Whose we are." I agree with him.

The new reformation we're looking for may need to transcend Christianity; we'll have to wait and see.

Concerning "The Protestant Christian notion of 'a personal relationship with God'" -- the individual, as such, was not invented until the Renaissance, just in time for the Reformation. See "The Invention of the Individual".

Baron Bodissey said...

Whoops -- that last link seems to be screwy. This one should work.

wildiris said...

Thanks for the reminder link to your earlier post. It is interesting that you pegged the first appearance in the collective human consciousness of the notion of self as an empowered autonomous individual to the Renaissance. Since what one could consider as the first reformation and, to the best of my knowledge, the first appearance in popular culture of the notion of a personal relationship with God, was the ministry of St. Francis of Assisi (1182 to 1226).

But if this concept of the self as an empowered autonomous individual is the essential ingredient to the Protestant Reformation, does it then follow that the decline of the presence of the traditional Protestant Church in today’s society is due to the fact that we may be losing this very notion from our collective human consciousness? Which finally gets me back to the topic first raised in your post, Enemy Within, I.

Baron Bodissey said...

wildiris -- you may be onto something there. Is the modern insistence that authenticity resides solely in the collective (la raza, gender, the proletariat, etc.) responsible? It also seems that there is hyper-individualism at work, the narcissism of 21st century pop culture. Perhaps there is some weird convergence of the two trends, a narcissistic sense of collective grievance, which is responsible for the decline of spirituality.

wildiris said...

“Perhaps there is some weird convergence of the two trends, a narcissistic sense of collective grievance”

You can go to communities in Berkeley and San Francisco and find the following kind of individual: militant, pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel, Jewish, gay activist. The fact that our society has not only been able to produce such pathologically dysfunctional individuals, but has also managed to create a whole cohort in our society who will actually listen to them and take them seriously, indicates that some kind of massive short circuit in our society’s ways of thinking has most certainly occurred.

I might also suggest that the hyper-individualism you’re sensing in todays culture is in actuallity the self-absorbed, self-centered concept of self that you’ll find in children and immature adolecents, that was somehow frozen in time in a person’s youth only to be played out later in an adult world.

As a short preface to the following discussion: I consider myself like one of the blind men in the story about the seven blind men and the elephant. I sense that I’ve stumbled onto something important, but I’m also aware that it can’t be the whole story and that others will have discovered the same things, but from their own perspectives and with their own interpretations.

As Dr. Laura says, “choices matter”. For a while in my life I listened to her show. There was a certain fascination listening to her callers describe the messes their lives had gotten into; sort of like looking at a bad car wreak, it may be an awful sight, but you find you still can’t turn your attention away. In almost every case, her caller’s problems could be traced back to bad choices they themselves had made earlier on in their lives. Two trains of thought grew out of this observation. The first was that the old fashion values of our Judeo-Christian moral code had a real practical aspect to them; in that they could/would, if adhered to, keep people from making precisely those kinds of bad choices that got Dr. Laura’s callers into the troubles they were in. And second was that one could view all of the post-60’s social welfare policies that have been promoted by the politically liberal-left segment of our society, as attempts to create a world were choices don’t matter. That is, for every bad choice you can think of that someone could make to screw up his/her life, there has been an attempt by that liberal-left segment of our society to create a government program to undo, make-up-for or fix.

Dymphna said...

Wildiris said: I worry about the absence from the world of intellectual discourse any articulate, intellectual and historically knowledgeable spokesperson(s) for the Christian faith

But there is already an abundance of articulate, intelligent and knowledgeable spokespersons. For example, take a look at First Things, the periodical put out by Richard Neuhas. He’s a Roman Catholic priest, former Lutheran. His publication is full of knowledgeable Christian intellectuals. Or look for the writings of Avery Cardinal Dulles, especially on the Enlightenment. And there is Mars Hill, if it’s still in business. The purpose of this bi-monthly journal, which arrived in cassette form, was to examine culture in the cross-hairs of intellectual, evangelical Christianity -- from a Dutch Reformed tradition, if I recall. John Courtney Murray is an American theologian worth reading.

That the MSM is anti-intellectual and biased means that it is the one place to avoid when searching for indications of where the church is going. And “going” it is. If one believes in the Christian message, then there is an a priori belief that the church will last as long as the world lasts. It exists in a fallen world and is permeated with the same limits as all of creation, including the limited vision of living in the present while tied to the past and anxious for the future. Lilies of the field? In our dreams.

Jerry Falwell is the most prominent spokesperson for Christianity because the MSM says so. Few Christians believe it, though perhaps outsiders think he is some kind of American pope. But who else besides the MSM and the people who pay attention to the MSM think this? Mr. Falwell has his point of view and is entitled to speak it; the MSM is entitled to turn up and listen when he does so because it serves their purpose to trivialize what they find contemptible to begin with.

Wild Iris said: If, for the sake of discussion, I must try and condense down the essence of the Christian faith to just a few words, what I would say is this, “In the end, Christianity is not about how we are to treat each other, nor is it about how we are to conduct ourselves in this world; Christianity is about how God treats us.”However, I would carry it further, to include the daily, lived experience of Christ in our lives. Here’s how someone put it many years ago: “Being a Christian means that love is possible, evil is reversible, and we can live freed from our past.” The speaker was right. The paradox for the Christian is that his faith is both crucible and contents; faith-hope-love is the response to the question. The Christian as hound of Christ and one who is hounded by the questions. 

Our source documents and holy books, the gospels, are themselves the creations from other documents and from oral traditions. Mark is the earliest, written to give hope to the persecuted church in Rome. Matthew was motivated by a desire to “prove” Jesus’ legitimacy in Jerusalem; it is the most Jewish of the synoptics. Luke is actually Luke/Acts -- two books -- and was designed to allay the fears of the Romans of the day. John, from different sources and a different place and time, is the last gospel to be codified. Leaving aside even earlier journeys (say, Paul’s Epistles), the road which began with the creation of Markin Rome, about 55 AD or so,wandering to the stop sign at the end of John on Patmos circa 125 AD, and then onto the major highway of the final codification of the books some two hundred years later, the Church was always ‘on the way.’ It is a pilgrim’s way, never done and never meant to be done.

Even the codification must be re-written in order to be intelligible. There are those who will never, ever leave their “real” bible, i.e., the cadences of the King James Version of scripture; there are others who would long have given up reading the gospels were the KJV their only source. It is all words but it remains The Word…as in, “In the beginning was The Word…” Who can translate any more the resonance and breadth of Logos? Pneuma? Kairos? And who, in five hundred years, will know what we mean by “saved”?

In the end, the gospels can only mediate the original experience of being loved, of being held unconditionally in the gaze of God. Surely justice and mercy follow …and from them follows all else.

Thus, the idea that the church is lost, has lost its way, or is in need of reformation is our futile worry about security. All of these things have been true of the Church since the first moment of Pentecost, since the day before the Resurrection, since the words of Jesus hit the anvil and cochlea in Peter’s ear and he left his fishing boat to follow…The Via Christi is not a secure place, it’s a dark and winding road. When it’s leveling off, going downhill, or slogging through the marshes, it’s still the Via…

rejoice, oh friend, and sing in
the darkness of sorrow:
     Night is the mother of day, Chaos the
neighbor of God.
 
      -----Erik Johan Stagnelius

wildiris said...

Wow, Dymphna, there is enough here in your post to start a new whole separate blog site.

Thanks for the list of resources. I’ll be making an effort to find and read them. As for your observations on Jerry Falwell and the MSM, I agree completely. I realize that my comments on the essence of the Christian faith came across as somewhat incomplete, but to put my point of view in context; one must appreciate that out here on the left shore of the left coast, there are many people who would not hesitate for a moment to take the Cross down from atop their church and replace it with a peace symbol. …“I mean, after all, as Christians it’s not our place to judge but rather it’s our duty to be open, loving, caring and accepting of all people and their choices of life style and, you know, the Cross is such a judgmental symbol”...

…/Wild speculations approaching put tin-foil hat on now.

1).. The 60’s saw the rise of a youth-centered subculture that elevated of the rejection of adult authority, in all of its forms, to the level of a moral imperative. But the 18-year-old hippie of 1968 eventually has to grow up sometime. So how does one mature into adulthood if one’s sense of self identity has been built on the very rejection of all of those notions that defined adulthood?

2).. Two distinguishing hallmarks of maturing into adulthood are the adoption by an individual of the following traits: a sense-of-self where one is no longer the emotional center of one’s universe and the accepting of personal responsibility for the consequences of one’s actions.

3).. The civil rights movement that grew out of the 50’s saw the appearance of a line of thinking that said as victims of society, individual members of a victim group should not be held personally responsible for their actions, that as victims of society, individual members of a victim group were due special considerations and that it is a moral obligation on society as a whole to take care of the individual members of said victim group.

4).. Somehow the hippie youth of the 60’s that couldn’t grow up found their answer to the question raised in #1 above, by becoming a part of or identifying himself or herself with a particular victim group.

5).. The resulting merger of these two disparate ways of thinking has somehow spawned a new, seductive and addictive species of human consciousness, that basically says “you can have your cake and eat it too, since society owes it to you” and that has, unfortunately, been adopted by a critical mass of individuals in our modern society.

6).. It’s undeniable that there is a strong society-as-parent to victim-as-child dynamic going on in our society today. But this is a fiction that a free society can only sustain for so long before reality, in some form, must come crashing back. And I would suggest that much of the political positioning as well as the efforts at social engineering we see coming from the politically liberal-left side of out society can be viewed as attempts, by that critical mass of individuals in our society, to prolong this fiction as long as possible.

…/Wild speculations past take tin-foil hat off now.

In other words, what I think happened was that sometime around the 70's a critical mass of individuals within our society made a devils bargin. In exchange for the opportunity to live in a state of perpetual adolescence, one gives up the right to be an autonomous empowered individual member of society and becomes a "child" to society's "parent".

Baron Bodissey said...

wildiris -- once again, I agree with you entirely. As a card-carrying summer-of-love baby-boomer, I can attest to the difficulty of wrenching one's mind out of that seductive hippie rut. Laying off the pot for a few years made the transition easier.

I have a theory that there is a fairly strong correlation between marijuana use and the political positions you describe. No way to test it, of course.

wildiris said...

My parents grew up in the 20’s and meet and were married in the early 30’s, the Depression years. Then just as the economy and life in general was getting better for everyone, and because of my father’s unique, for the time, background and experience in electronics, he was immediately drafted into the war effort and did not get his life back until his discharge from the Navy in 46. Their generation was one whose collective human consciousness believed overwhelmingly that “one’s individual choices did matter”.

Beginning with the early post WW2 years, a segment of our society seems to have undergone a process of im-maturing. Until today we can see a clear bifurcation in our society between those who believe individual choices do matter and those who think that individual choices shouldn’t matter. For example, think red state, blue state. If you think choices matter, then you probably also believe that results are more important than intentions. But if you believe that choices shouldn’t matter, then results would be irrelevant to you, while intentions would be all that was important. The reader can fill in further here with his or her own examples…

Baron, I propose as a candidate for your “Enemy Within” this aberrant form of human consciousness that wants to believe that choices shouldn’t matter and is not capable, in it’s immaturity, to grasp the nature of the conflict that is about to engulf it. And, unfortunately for society as a whole, its sole mechanism of self-defense seems to be a turtle like withdrawal into world of unreality, while, at the same time, sucking as many other people as it can, along with itself.

As for my quest, what I seem to be looking at is the following. Traditional Protestant Christianity seems to require as its base a society where members have a strong sense-of-self as empowered and autonomous individuals. Having a personal relationship to God means also being personally responsible to God. But this also, by extension, implies accepting personal responsibility for the consequences of ones choices. Think adult maturity here. But by accepting personal responsibility for the bad choices we make, by which we end up hurting ourselves and or the ones around us, we also open ourselves up to feeling the pain of being less than perfect. And it is only when one finally sees oneself as such an imperfect person, can the Cross finally take on its true meaning. And here, in this final step, I think, lies that emotional connection that “Bill”, in his post above, was trying to get at between the words in the scriptures to the rational individual reading them.

But for those in our society that believe that choices shouldn’t matter, there is no personal responsibility for anything. Think current popular western culture here. This is a concept of self, which cannot support the notion of sin or the notion that one may be less than perfect. And unfortunately, by cutting off from their consciousness, any feedback about the consequences of their actions, such individuals cannot grow either emotionally or spiritually.

I think I’ve said enough now. Baron and Dymphna, you strike me as more than capable of filling in the rest of my train of thoughts on your own. It’s time to close this thread, so this will be my last post here. Thanks for sharing this forum with me for a while.

Dymphna said...

And thank you, Wild Iris, for joining us for a while on this road to Emmaus. You were a good companion...

~D

Doug said...

"I think I’ve said enough now. Baron and Dymphna, you strike me as more than capable of filling in the rest of my train of thoughts on your own. It’s time to close this thread, so this will be my last post here."
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I see no reason for that to be your Final Answer!
I've been victimized!
boo hoo.
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...in truth, I think this should go on as long as folks have something to add.
A great thread.

amba said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Baron Bodissey said...

Annie -- yes, I think we are on the same page. My spiritual search (to borrow a meme from Baba Ram Dass) is like the man searching for his lost car keys under the streetlamp "because the light is better here."

I'm a Christian because I was born a Christian and because I feel the presence of the living Christ strongly. But God gave me the ability to reason, and not everything in the Bible can survive the test of reason.

Just as today's Bible (both the Jewish and Christian versions) knits together a number of formerly separate and disparate doctrines from various traditions, I think that in a hundred years, or a thousand, or ten thousand, the New Faith will have absorbed Christianity and Hinduism and Judaism and Buddhism (not to mention the faith of our age, Science) just as seamlessly.

But I'm not so sure about Islam in that regard...