Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
February 12th, 2015 by Joel Watts

erecting walls around the mind

John F. Kennedy

Cover of John F. Kennedy

I am forever the recovering fundamentalist — reminded of those times and that system by various things in my life. Further, I am trying to prepare a post about orthodoxy (again) and why it is healthy. I heard something on the radio this morning and it struck me as something pertinent to mainline Christianity. It got me to thinking…

Fundamentalism is about walls and restrictions — the aim is to control even the thoughts of the Christian. Indeed, how many of us have heard of “tearing down the strongholds” of the mind. If you search that phrase, you will find commentary regarding this. What does it really mean? Ironically, it often means the exact opposite. Rather than helping to clear away the selfishness of our human side, this phrase simply means that any hint of independence in the individual believer must be destroyed.

Fundamentalism builds walls to keep people in. As a system it rejects science, Tradition, change, and introspection. These things provide doors and windows for people to see the outside world. And like these governments, it terrifies them that they cannot control the mind of every individual. And yes, like the Berlin Wall, there are guards, gatekeepers, and watchers in fundamentalism that serve to prevent people from leaving.

I rather enjoy Mainline Christianity (and I won’t even begin to tell you what that is) because it is Christianity that reaches back into Tradition but forward into the unknown. Maybe it is not the best, but to borrow something from John F. Kennedy —

Our Christianity is far from perfect but we do not have to erect walls around the mind to keep our people in…

I hope the sides in our current UMC debate understand that. We see the sides becoming more rigid. We see threats and mistreats when one person steps away from their side on particular issues. We see walls being built to keep the sides clearly defined and to keep people in their respective sides. Indeed this is why people deny that a middle, a via media, can exist — because there is no wall that keep us in.

Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

Comments

9 Responses to “erecting walls around the mind”
  1. I still like what I heard from Bart Ehrman on a YouTube about Fundamentalism. No fun, too much damn, and not enough mental.

    • Know More Than I Should says

      Much like mass education, mass religion exists to keep large numbers of people from being able to formulate troublesome questions about the status quo. Both are socialization schemes.

      That’s also why corporations are frantically trying to gain control of the internet.

      Likewise, it’s why issues are NEVER discussed on corporate television news. Stories are ALWAYS about people and events. Likewise, most programming is essentially one gigantic pacifier — unless someone is trying to sell something!

  2. Know More Than I Should says

    The following is adapted from an illustration found on page 385 in Christianity Is Not Great: How Faith Fails published by Prometheus Books in 2014.

    Gatekeepers
    • Church
    • Family

    Blockages
    • Culture
    • History
    • Politics
    • Psychology
    • Science
    • Sex

    Acculturations
    • Fantasy
    • Fear
    • Guilt

    Practices
    • Isolation
    • Perfection
    • Punishment

    Retardations
    • Critical Thinking
    • Emotional
    • Intellectual
    • Sexual
    • Social

  3. I cannot even imagine a world without the “gatekeepers” and the mind formation that mainline Christianity provides. If one wants to see how the world would end up without such gate-keeping and mind formation, please, take a look at ISIS, but not what they do to outsiders; but read those who escaped their philosophy and mentality and check what they do to each other!
    Nowhere, unless you have fantasies of your own, you would find in mainline Christianity as, I think, it is proposed by Joel.
    Also, in the text cited above, the Apostles is inspired to write: “tearing down strongholds” continues as such:
    “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;”

    Believe me, the tearing down of strong holds and the bringing every thought to the obedience of Christ is a good thing. a benefit to humanity.
    I really wish that anyone who attacks religion at every mentioning of “mainline Christianity” would live in a society that, even as a godless society, has not been influenced heavily by Christian morals or somehow “the obedience of Christ”. Thankfully we won’t see that kind of society anytime soon other than in the news!

    • Know More Than I Should says

      For millennia, a fear of knowledge is the curse of Christianity. Because of ecclesiastical prohibitions, the study of anatomy began with grave robbers. Likewise, the pharmaceutical industry began with witches. More recently, stem cell research was forbidden for much the same reason — God would be offended.

      If that weren’t enough to give cause for pause, there isn’t much good news telling a child he’s going to hell because some woman supposedly talked to a snake! Now, while others may differ, I’m not sure a girl claiming to have talked to a snake would be one I’d have taken home in my youth to meet my mother!

      As Joel can probably attest, breaking away from this lunacy is often a gut-wrenching experience. In fact, victims of religious indoctrination and long-term hostages have much in common. Among the commonalities are anger, confusion, depression, loss of personal identity, reconstruction, and search for a meaning in life.

      There has never been any in depth research into the damage caused by Christianity because the religion has a stranglehold on American society. Every effort to meaningfully explore the issue is met with charges of religious persecution.

      Still at least one researcher has discovered that those with diminished capacity in the prefrontal cortex tend to be less able to resolve issues of doubt. Thus, they lack an ability to ask critical questions. Other research found that children raised in religious environments are less able to differentiate fact from fiction in other areas of life.

      Religious faith may very well turnout to be a product of cerebral activity of multiple levels within the context of social interaction as derived from evolutionary development.

      As occurred in Europe, it will quite likely take the United States losing a major war before the nation rethinks its love affair with Christianity. On a number of levels, from both a conservative and liberal perspective, one of the worst things that happened to the United States was winning World War II. It ushered in everything from the military-industrial complex to radical feminist social engineering.

      Meanwhile, according to one source that tracks these things, the real threat to the United States isn’t IS/ISIS/ISLS. Rather it’s much closer to home. For more on that threat, follow the link below.

      http://www.splcenter.org/sites/default/files/downloads/publication/lone-wolf-splc.pdf

  4. “Still at least one researcher has discovered that those with diminished capacity in the prefrontal cortex tend to be less able to resolve issues of doubt. Thus, they lack an ability to ask critical questions. Other research found that children raised in religious environments are less able to differentiate fact from fiction in other areas of life.

    Religious faith may very well turnout to be a product of cerebral activity of multiple levels within the context of social interaction as derived from evolutionary development.”

    Every oppressor, evildoer that I ever studied in history believed the above notion! Obviously no one has any proof of what it would be of a totally Christianity-influence-free society because… well, there hasn’t been very many, but those who attempted to be have their history pinpointed by evil despots who murdered millions…

    When someone believe that those who have cooperated with society for the greatest good of humanity, with very rare exceptions are somehow “stupid” (if “diminished capacity” is taken to its logical conclusion) then the notion of a crazy man who refused to be discharged from the mental institution he lived for a while because he claimed that “those out there are crazy” is applicable here. Very much so! It is always the “others” who are crazy. Funny that if one man starts to call the world crazy nothing changes… no harm done. But wait until the whole world starts calling him crazy! Then change happens! That is true of the few who call believers somehow suffering with a certain degree of “diminished capacity”… Nothing will ever happen until… well, no need to repeat the concept!

    • Know More Than I Should says

      Christianity has a marvelous capacity for avoiding self-examination as well as ignoring it’s own history — such as Christians killing other Christians!

      One of the true tragedies of Christianity is its eternal search for enemies within and without. This usually occurs when someone doesn’t see their imaginary friends the same way they do.

      Oppressors come in many forms. History quite clearly shows some have been Christian. Not all have been mass murderers. Nor are they ancient. A few years back, school officials in Mississippi forbade a student of Jewish heritage to wear a Star of David because it was a gang symbol!

      Having “diminished capacity” in one part of the brain does not lead to the logical conclusion of being “stupid” or “crazy” any more than walking with a limp leads to being a quadriplegic.

      • “Having “diminished capacity” in one part of the brain does not lead to the logical conclusion of being “stupid” or “crazy” any more than walking with a limp leads to being a quadriplegic.”

        I am sure that the “one” researcher that you mentioned meant it that way as much as I am sure that there are little green man in the moon! I am as positive that he spent years of research just to come up with a conclusion that he meant it as something light and harmless as much as I am positive that the sun rises in the west…

        Even when Christians depart from the teachings of Christ, I will take Christianity historically and currently over any other option anyone can present! There will be shortage of bandwidth if I begin to mention the benefits of Christians and the Christian faith, but, unfortunately for reasons that God knows, you prefer to emphasize and focus on the really bad examples. I am not going to second guess your motives for such a stance, but often one focuses on the (without using insincere euphemisms) on the EVIL practiced by humans who happen to confess the name of Christian only to develop a resistance for his own internal attraction to Christianity; it is a defense mechanism.

        • Know More Than I Should says

          Nothing on this earth is totally good or all bad. Even the most despicable criminal has his or her redeeming qualities. For example, Al Capone established the first soup kitchen during the Great Depression. Joseph Stalin was reportedly a good father.

          Yet, far too much Christian groupthink is still rooted in the First Century — when Christianity had no history. During the Intervening two millennia, Christianity has acquired a great deal of history. Much of it is unflattering.

          Because Christianity has been thoroughly reluctant to admit its mistakes, others have shouldered the responsibility. Had Christianity been more honest, none of this would have been necessary.

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