Wednesday, March 29, 2006

A Besetting sin

(I know the word is taboo to most of society; however it is indispensible to me theologically. If it offends you too much, just go somewhere else.)

Many have read about the crude and vulgar expression called "frightened at an early age by a fundie". In my mind this represents a very large category of 'young' people disenchanted and alienated from a form of Christianity that does not permit a critical faculty in approaching the faith.

A fair number of this kind of person have found their way back to the church, usually in a more enlightend form of the church (such as the Society of Friends).

However many such people remain under the baleful influence of their fundamentalist experiences. Sometimes an exorcism (another taboo!) may bring about fundamental healing. Others will labor with the blight until they die. (If you suffer like this you need to confess (another taboo) it-- to yourself and even more creatively to someone else. Doing this has a liberating and healing effect. (We all need healing!!)

Turning from problems of the faith we note an even more terrible blight on the population at large, the experience of violence.

I know a man who grew up in a benevolent environment; However at the age of 12 he was whipped for some offense. He became introverted and negative toward life in general. With growing awareness he became able to relativize that experience and share it with others, but the experience continued to cast a shadow on his life.

We all know that violence to children is extremely common in our culture. Internalized, it expresses itself in a great many ways, for example the popularity of war. People subjected to violence need a radical form of healing. Does the church exert sufficient spiritual power to address that terrible problem. (Unfortunately the church has almost invariably supported every war that came down the pike. Was it really the Church? Did it represent Christianity?)

Quakers, among the brightest and most enlightened children of God either escaped the bane of violence or were (to some degree at least) healed from the curse.

Peacemaking requires an awareness of these psychic dynamics. We have to address it first within ourselves and then in those whom God has sent to us for healing.

(I sense that some will not find the title of this post appropriate; but I also know that if we can't acknowledge that war is sin and violence is sin, then we don't have very much spiritual power.)


crystal said...

Hi Larry. That last reading at our scripture study blog is still bothering me ... there's an example of violence. Good post :-)

Meredith said...

It seems that many people experience violence in childhood, sadly inflicted by family, and, abhorrent that this would be true, from their own church community. War, as you say, is a blatant form of child abuse, and is rarely separated from religion, per se. You touch this topic with an apologetic tone here, and wisely suggest that the healing for this comes individually.

I don't think that the Religious Society of Friends is so much more enlightened than other faith communities, but rather its structure is more individual, and therefore offers this opportunity for individual healing from violence. Second, non-violence is a highlighted topic for most Meetings, fundamental to our very Faith and Practice. In this way, peace and non-violence is explored and integrated into our everyday lives - the political becomes personal. Peace and non-violence cannot be separated for us; this is interpreted as a fundamental teaching of our faith tradition, and matches an interior value stemming from violent experiences in our own lives. With healing and integration of the value of non-violence, this concept is essential to who we are as conscious and realized beings.

Larry said...

Kind of incredible that you and I, Crystal, responded at the exact some moment to David's last comment. Is that synchronistic? Is it providential? Is God dealing with us all. Yes, he is, every moment!

Meredith, your comment contains a lot of insightful ideas; I want to respond, but I'll have to spend some more time with it (preferably early in the morning) to prepare adequately.

I thank both of you, dear friends.

Larry said...

Meredith, encouragement of individuality makes Quakers IMO closer to the gospel than the requirement of conformity found in all too many religious groups.

Aside from family violence tribalism almost necessarily leads to various forms of violence. Tribalism is endemic in our culture and the very opposite of individuality.

Members of the tribe are respected, honored, and may be loved, but those outside the tribe receive all the negative affect. This kind of coercion to measure up to our standards is of course an incipient form of violence.

Tribalism has become more and more repugnant to me through the years. I reserve for myself a certain level of individuality and honor it in others.

Of course there are political reasons to insure conformity of all sorts, which leads to the established church becoming the most 'super patriotic' and hence bloodthirsty.

God bless individuality and 'live and let live'. As a boy I found this the most pronounced thing about New Orleans culture, which I loved--- after I got famliar with it.

Meredith said...

I agree with you about tribalism, Larry. Tribalism is insidious, and although there may be many positive aspects of tribes in promoting a sense of belonging, unfortunately tribalism most always leads to an 'us versus them' mentality.

It is not a value of the majority of cultures to promote the individual over the tribe.

This past week I watched a powerful film, Osama. It deals with human rights issues under the Taliban in Afghanistan, and most specifically, child abuse. Because of my work with children in social services, I am aware that the issues you speak of here are very pertinent, not only in places such as the Middle East and Africa, but right here locally where we live.

The local Meeting that oversees our worship group had a difficult dilemma a few years ago. A man who had recently been released from prison for issues related to child sexual abuse asked to become a part of the Meeting. The Meeting was split on the issue - half wanted to accept him, the other half could not abide with his history of abuse, which triggered their own issues of victimization. What to do? The Meeting added an additional Meeting time each week in a neutral location for those who wanted to Meet with this fellow. Eventually the dispute lost its power, and I believe the additional Meeting fizzled out.

In this, we need a "critical faculty approaching our faith", even as Friends.

Larry said...

Re "we need a "critical faculty approaching our faith", even as Friends."

Absolutely, Meredith; there most of all. But it's dangerous: to criticize the tribe will make you a pariah in the eyes of some, perhaps most. That's one of the primary taboos of tribalism. Note the response to those who have recently criticized the American tribe re the war.

And to the Quakers? yes!. They're by no means perfect, and the tribe claims perfection. "This is the best possible religious group": nonsense. I tell people I'm looking for something better, and I'll never be in good standing.

Jesus criticized his religious group, and was crucified. All the 'heretics' in their turn followed his lead, down to the Quakers. They had their turn of violent persecution.

Now they've been domesticated. Thought well of by almost everybody. That's a sign of something; I don't know just what.

But we desperately need criticism. I am so tuned to this tribalism business that I evaluate just about every Quaker I know in terms of "how much Quaker? how much Christian?"

Christians are perfect--ideally.

Meredith said...

I am so tuned to this tribalism business that I evaluate just about every Quaker I know in terms of "how much Quaker? how much Christian?"

I know you hold being a Christian very dear. Yet, do you see how calling oneself Quaker, or Christian, is ascribing to a tribe?

Larry said...

I do, Meredith, but I define Christian as loving "God" and your neighbor as yourself". By that criteria I hold it a little higher than Quaker, and in fact as far as I'm concerned that makes it pretty universal.

Monday night we had our usual intimate get together with the "brightest and best" Friends of Gainesville and Ocala. Part of our study was the last chapter of A Testament of Devotion.

During the discussion I took the freedom to point out that Kelly's chapter began Quakerish, but ended Christianish.

I'm always picking at them about their tribalism.

Meredith said...

Yep, "loving God and your neighbor as yourself" is pretty universal. We need to let this go very deep, and simmer in us until we lose the separation between us, till we allow the boundaries to blur, and our hearts to meld. Only then do we let go of Christian tribalism, and move into territory where there is no best and brightest, but rather only one of us.

Larry said...

OTOH God may want someone to identify with Christian. I can think of two possible reasons:

To try to move the tribe away from their tribalistic exclusivism.

To adorn the role in such a way that those alienated or just indifferent to it may be attracted.

I would hope that the best Christians are moving toward universal love.

anonymous julie said...

"I would hope that the best Christians are moving toward universal love."

Me too, Larry... me too. Best Christians, and anybody by another name too...

Confession; I really just scanned the rest of the comments. Read, later, I hope.

Lorcan said...

Hi Larry:
Unfortunately, we Quakers, when a survey was done a few decades back, had close to the national average regarding violence towards our children. It may be changing, I think the survey was done in the sixties, and then, hitting kids was not seen as violence, and the more universal change in this attitude may have some effect, I don't know. My Quaker dad was horrifically violent.

And the outcome is not always predictable. Some few children learn that it is their violent parent to is at fault, and some of them grow up to seek peace. I agree, that war is a sin, and a violence which is not in anyway Christian, but today, I think it is more than tribal or mistreatment as a child, it is more like a state sponsored mugging, a theft. It is big business without the control of government, as it is government empowering business through large scale murder. I am not totally rejecting thy light on all this, but I think there is more as well. We have to stop governments doing business by killing, I think.