Friday, November 30, 2012

Rom 1 reply, 21: Answering to the problems of rage addiction, the blame game, consequential self-justifying warped judgement and resulting closed mindedness

It has long been rightly said that rage is a blinding emotion that can make us lash out impulsively and foolishly. 

Put another way: rage, blame projection and self-justified revenge -- as opposed to justice and reconciliation -- are seductively sweet and addictive, but often carry a bitter aftertaste of consequences indeed.

Unfortunately, in today's world, rage and self-justifying blame projection are too often in the driving seat of our thinking, speaking and acting. (A point, sadly, brought home to me as I looked at comments by Ms Johnson I had to analyse yesterday, and as I saw her attempted, predictably distractive and dismissive retort.)

That means, however, that if we are going about the cure of souls, we must be able to give a good answer that allows the willing to lance and drain the abscess of rage before it induces spiritual blood poisoning. 

To do so, we will need to refer to the planks and sawdust in eyes, saw-pit principle:

A saw-pit in action, making planks
Matt 7: 1 “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye. [ESV]
 The idea here is that it is all too easy to lose sight of what it is like to be down in the saw-pit, with sawdust raining down. Especially, if the job is being done on your clock. But, to fail to put oneself down in the saw-pit is to get the whole log in one's eye.

 So, the lesson here is that of empathy, learning to see things the way they appear to the other. (The same, that is exploited in the statement of the Golden Rule that would follow a few verses further on: "whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets." v. 12.)

Once we have empathy, an awareness of the logs in our own eyes and some practice in moral eye-surgery on ourselves, we are in a very different position, in respect of helping others with their own challenges.

How does that relate to our world today, beyond the obvious, personal level?

A good place to begin is the global level, where it is now commonplace to think we live in a wicked white man's world and that almost anything in response to these blue- eyed- devils in the guise of human flesh is justified. After all, they are to blame for slavery and colonialism, apartheid and the plight of the Palestinians. Not to mention, our own troubles.

A man is not a bird to be driven to jump from
a building as the alternative to being burned alive
Hence, the ugly situation where some people in the Caribbean were seen to be applauding the mass murder-based Islamist terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Something is wrong. 

Seriously wrong, when we find ourselves applauding mass murder based on taking ordinary people going about the ordinary business of life hostage in civil aircraft and using these planes as cruise missiles to target other ordinary people going about their work in office buildings. Murdering thousands, and putting tens of thousands at risk. Not to mention, nearly crashing the global economy, potentially putting billions at hardship.

Soberingly wrong.

Especially, when it can be shown (cf details here and here) that the IslamIST terrorists involved are actually themselves serving a totalitarian global conquest agenda that would reduce us under a subjugation as dhimmis that would actually be worse than Apartheid.

A 100-year global conquest IslamIST agenda
Jumping from the frying pan into the fire is not a wise thing to do.

Now, about twenty years ago, the Jewish historian -- it's important to know that -- Bernard Lewis, in his epochal essay, The Roots of Muslim Rage, tellingly noted:
. . . The accusations are familiar. We of the West are accused of sexism, racism, and imperialism, institutionalized in patriarchy and slavery, tyranny and exploitation. To these charges, and to others as heinous, we have no option but to plead guilty -- not as Americans, nor yet as Westerners, but simply as human beings, as members of the human race. In none of these sins are we the only sinners, and in some of them we are very far from being the worst. The treatment of women in the Western world, and more generally in Christendom, has always been unequal and often oppressive, but even at its worst it was rather better than the rule of polygamy and concubinage that has otherwise been the almost universal lot of womankind on this planet . . . .
In having practiced sexism, racism, and imperialism, the West was merely following the common practice of mankind through the millennia of recorded history. Where it is distinct from all other civilizations is in having recognized, named, and tried, not entirely without success, to remedy these historic diseases. And that is surely a matter for congratulation, not condemnation. We do not hold Western medical science in general, or Dr. Parkinson and Dr. Alzheimer in particular, responsible for the diseases they diagnosed and to which they gave their names.
 These playing-field levelling words are at once balancing and sobering. For, indeed, "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God . . . "
Consequently, the underlying theme for this blog post is that under God we must face our common guilt, repent, seek renewal, revival and reformation, make moral progress across time, stumbling though it will be at any given point.  So also, we must expect a mixed bag of moral achievement at any point in the past, and in our present. 

As the reformers of half a millennium ago said of their work, the people of God are always under reformation -- and so (if we are wise) we must carefully build in an openness to correction and growth in light of firmly established core principles into our lives, institutions and the wider civilisation we are a part of.

 The slavery case that Lewis highlighted is particularly significant, as it is the one that leads ever so many to think that once the issue of race is injected, they need pay no further attention, they can dismiss those they disagree with as blue-eyed devils, or else as race-traitors.  And, who needs to listen to devils in the flesh or race traitors serving devils in the flesh?

This brings out, of course, the deceptive power of the trifecta combination fallacy: 
STEP 1: drag a smelly, distractive red herring across a track of thought headed in an inconvenient direction, leading it out to

STEP 2: a conveniently set up strawman distortion of persons and issues, then

STEP 3: soak in ad hominems [--> attacks to the man] and ignite with snide or outright incendiary attacks, creating a confusing, choking, toxic and polarising cloud of rhetorical smoke that triggers a blind fight and allows one to escape behind the cover of the smoke.
But they are blue-eyed devils!

Moreso than we ourselves can be, though our eyes are usually brown?

In short, let us realise that we too can go wrong and can justify ourselves in wickedness beyond belief that serves our perceived interests. For instance, how else can we explain a situation where in the Caribbean we now have several territories with murder rates that are among the highest in the world?

Let us think again.

And in so doing, we may find it helpful to ponder (and yes, I held back the link yesterday) what
>>. . .  we may read in The Oxford History of the Roman World,  [a work that is in other contexts not particularly sympathetic to the Christian view or claims; even by contrast with, say, sympathy to the rampant homosexuality in the ancient pagan Mediterranean world], under the sub-heading "The Church and the End of the Ancient World," on p. 471, that:

. . . there were questions about [Christian] compromise with the political and social system. Gregory of Nyssa boldly attacked the institution of slavery. Augustine thought the domination of man over his neighbour an inherent wrong, but saw no way of ending it and concluded that, since the ordering of society prevented the misery of anarchic disintegration, slavery was both a consequence of the fall of man and at the same time a wrong that providence prevented from being wholly harmful. Slaves were not a very large proportion of the ancient labour force, since the cost of a slave to his owner exceeded that of employing free wage-labourers. Slaves in a good household with a reasonable master enjoyed a security and standard of living that seldom came the way of free wage labourers. But not all slaves had good masters, and in special cases the bishops used the church chest to pay the cost of emancipation. Refusal on moral grounds to own slaves became a rule for monasteries. [Henry Chadwick, "Envoi: On taking Leave of Antiquity," in The Oxford History of the Roman World, Eds. Boardman, Griffin & Murray, (Oxford, England: Oxford University Press paperback, 1991), p. 471. Links added. NB: In the very next paragraph, the contributor goes on to discuss how the church also deeply disapproved of capital punishment [which in many cases of course would be by the utterly degrading death on the cross, and which would thus sharply contrast with Paul's remarks on the magistrates' power of the sword in Rom 13:1 - 7] and judicial torture. Indeed, he notes that "[a] Roman church-order of about 200 forbids a Christian magistrate to order an execution on pain of excommunication. No Christian layman could tolerably bring a charge against anyone if the penalty might be execution or a beating with lead-weighted leather thongs . . . Torture forced so many innocent people to confess to crimes they had not committed that the Christian hatred of it commanded wide assent . . ."  In short, the picture is far more complex than we might have thought.]
Thus, plainly, there is a longstanding serious question about the basic morality of slavery and similar institutions in the Biblical and historical contexts of the church from the C1 on, and the response to the status quo across the ages reflected an uneasy compromise with severe reservations by leading Christian thinkers, including no less a light than Augustine of Hippo. 
Then, in recent centuries, once democratising and reforming forces gained enough momentum to make a difference in the balance of power in relevant societies, a powerful [--> and eventually successful, but we must never fool ourselves that he success was easy or predictable . . . ], Christian-based antislavery movement emerged. 
The case of the American Founding is very important, for both negative and positive reasons; as Stephen McDowell (2003) aptly observes here:
America's Founding Fathers are seen by some people today as unjust and hypocrites, for while they talked of liberty and equality, they at the same time were enslaving hundreds of thousands of Africans. Some allege that the Founders bear most of the blame for the evils of slavery. Consequently, many today have little respect for the Founders and turn their ear from listening to anything they may have to say. And, in their view, to speak of America as founded as a Christian nation is unthinkable (for how could a Christian nation tolerate slavery?) . . . . 
America's Founders were predominantly Christians and had a Biblical worldview. If that was so, some say, how could they allow slavery, for isn't slavery sin? As the Bible reveals to man what is sin, we need to examine what it has to say about slavery . . . . 
The Bible teaches that slavery, in one form or another (including spiritual, mental, and physical), is always the fruit of disobedience to God and His law/word. (This is not to say that the enslavement of any one person, or group of people, is due to their sin, for many have been enslaved unjustly, like Joseph and numerous Christians throughout history.) Personal and civil liberty is the result of applying the truth of the Scriptures. As a person or nation more fully applies the principles of Christianity, there will be increasing freedom in every realm of life. Sanctification for a person, or nation, is a gradual process. The fruit of changed thinking and action, which comes from rooting sin out of our lives, may take time to see. This certainly applies historically in removing slavery from the Christian world . . . .

Some people suggest today that all early Americans must have been despicable to allow such an evil as slavery. They say early America should be judged as evil and sinful, and anything they have to say should be discounted. But if we were to judge modern America by this same standard, it would be far more wicked - we are not merely enslaving people, but we are murdering tens of millions of innocent unborn children through abortion. These people claim that they would not have allowed slavery if they were alive then. They would speak out and take any measures necessary. But where is their outcry and action to end slavery in the Sudan today? (And slavery there is much worse than that in early America.)
Some say we should not listen to the Founders of America because they owned slaves, or at least allowed slavery to exist in the society. However, if we were to cut ourselves off from the history of nations that had slavery in the past we would have to have nothing to do with any people because almost every society has had slavery, including African Americans, for many African societies sold slaves to the Europeans; and up to ten percent of blacks in America owned slaves . . . . [Moreover] after independence the American Founders actually took steps to end slavery. Some could have done more, but as a whole they probably did more than any group of national leaders up until that time in history to deal with the evil of slavery. They took steps toward liberty for the enslaved and believed that the gradual march of liberty would continue, ultimately resulting in the complete death of slavery. The ideas they infused in the foundational civil documents upon which America was founded - such as Creator endowed rights and the equality of all men before the law - eventually prevailed and slavery was abolished. But not without great difficulty because the generations that followed failed to carry out the gradual abolition of slavery in America.
[Kindly, read the whole article . . . ]
As can be seen from the relevant history -- including the text of the US Constitution [Art I Sect 9 parag. 1] -- the first effective target of that movement was the Atlantic Slave trade, then (especially in Britain) amelioration of terms and conditions of slavery, then finally when it became clear that the abuses and corruption inherent to the system were incorrigible and utterly at war with the Christian conscience, the struggle moved on to the difficult and perhaps impossible agenda: abolition. (We should not ever make the mistake of looking back and reading from the fact of eventual success, that this was foreseeable as an inevitable and obvious outcome of the mere balance of forces at work at the time! Also, given how deeply blind we can be to moral objections to our interests, we should also remember how hard it is to learn how to see what is now "obvious" to those who are not so blinded.)  
Moreover, we can see that the modern antislavery movement started from the logical first point of attack -- the utterly indefensible practice of kidnapping and transporting human beings into servitude under horrendous conditions.  For, such a target had some prospects of success, even in the teeth of how strongly Naval and commercial power were tied to that horrible trade. The reason was simple: there is simply no biblical or moral defense for "Those pirates, yes, they rob I. Sold I to the merchant ships . . ." and the resulting utterly corrupting and abusive chattel slavery imposed on our ancestors by the Europeans (who had the merchant ships) and the Africans, Berbers and Arabs who carried out so much of the kidnapping and selling in Africa.
These insights in turn easily explain the reluctance of the British West Indian planters to encourage missionary work, literacy and Bible reading among their slaves; and also their hostility and suspicion towards the dissenter missionaries who pursued just these objectives. But, greed for super-profits plainly blinded the traders to the serious moral and biblical issues at stake. So, instead of creating an indentured labour system, which the OT tolerates and regulates (and which was how for instance the Pilgrims settled in Massachusetts), the Europeans resorted to plantation chattel slavery and racism, backed up by unjust laws passed in the interests of the powerful. Then, they suppressed, ignored or twisted the scriptures and persecuted those who protested, to silence their uneasy consciences. 
Though, it should be noted that many who found themselves trapped as owners of slaves, had the integrity to still object to the system; in particular including the hopelessly indebted Jefferson, author of the US DOI of 1776. As McDowell notes, abolitionist and sixth US President John Quincy Adams observed on July 4th 1837:
The inconsistency of the institution of domestic slavery with the principles of the Declaration of Independence was seen and lamented by all the southern patriots of the Revolution; by no one with deeper and more unalterable conviction than by the author of the Declaration himself. No charge of insincerity or hypocrisy can be fairly laid to their charge. Never from their lips was heard one syllable of attempt to justify the institution of slavery. They universally considered it as a reproach fastened upon them by the unnatural step-mother country and they saw that before the principles of the Declaration of Independence, slavery, in common with every other mode of oppression, was destined sooner or later to be banished from the earth. Such was the undoubting conviction of Jefferson to his dying day. In the Memoir of His Life, written at the age of seventy-seven, he gave to his countrymen the solemn and emphatic warning that the day was not distant when they must hear and adopt the general emancipation of their slaves. “Nothing is more certainly written,” said he, “in the book of fate, than that these people are to be free.”
Thank God, many dissenting Christians dared to stand up stoutly for the liberating truths of the gospel in England, in America and -- starting with black American Missionary George Liele, who came to Jamaica in 1783 as a refugee fleeing re-enslavement -- here in the Caribbean. Fifty-one years after that date, "the Monster" was dead. Then through an endowment from the people of God in Britain, a network of free villages was formed, starting the process of economic liberation. And, within five years of "full free" in 1838, a hundred Caribbean Missionaries went to West Africa -- the land of our ancestors -- with the gospel.>> 
Clearly, professor Lewis -- a member of a minority that has repeatedly suffered brutally at the hands of the West's power brokers for more than 2,000 years -- has a sobering point. 

Perhaps, we can now begin to find the maturity to respond as he has done.

I think we also need to begin to heed the counsel of Jesus about planks and sawdust in eyes, and we may find it useful to look at rage and self-justifying projection as addictive, destructive attitudinal habits that need the twelve-step recovery process treatment. END