The ‘D’ Factor

No, this isn’t a post about breast size.

Psychologists from the University of Copenhagen have identified a core trait in personalities that project the “dark side” of human behavior. These include narcissism, psychopathy, sadism and spitefulness.

They label this core trait the ‘D’ factor, ‘D’ presumably standing for ‘dark.’

Out at Love Returns, in developing a definition of “sin” by contrast against a mature description of the nature of love, I came up with another term. A term that was also promoted by the Catholic theologian Thomas Merton.

How much money was spent discovering the obvious fact that SELFISHNESS is the root of all evil? And why the adoption of obscure terminology?

So that the researchers can “maximize personal utility?”

Religious Anomie

Comment in response to this:

One of the secrets of managing chronic pain is to learn to focus on what feels good rather than what feels bad.

We all tend to be born with the prejudice that our initial system state is all that is important, and evaluate what is good or bad based upon the trends. Conversely, institutions serve to establish continuity across generations and locations. So what helps is to reflect on what it was like before they existed.

Dog ate cat ate mouse ate cockroach ate… Sucked for every creature except the peak predators, didn’t it? And even sucked for them when all the prey were gone.

But it goes to illustrate that “can’t we all just get along” won’t suffice in a reality of resource limitations. Sooner or later there’s only one grape on the table, and forty hungry people around it.

So back to institutions: religions are institutions that propagate wisdom gained about spiritual experience. The best of them seek to liberate the flights of the mind from cultural and material constraints. Fundamentalists, in my experience, work to the opposite end. That’s true whether they are Dawkins and his friends, or Wahabbists or Christian Crusaders. They want us to be animals rather than humans.

Which brings me to God, or Source or whatever you want to call it. The Gospel of John expressed the tautology most directly: God is Love (and conversely Love is God). Love seeks infinite variety in relationship – it is not chaotic, but it always stands on the side of responsible exercise of liberties. It does not rejected those that make errors, for love provides them the skill and motives to heal the wounded. Everything is a lesson that leads to greater maturity, and ultimately to union with Source itself, carrying with us immunity to the selfishness that wounds without purpose or cause.

Humanity isn’t an ugly spot on God’s creation. We are the adaptive agents – a medicine, so to speak – that recognizes and heals its ills.

Deviangelicals?

Evangelicals voted for Trump with the narrow goal of the repeal of Roe v. Wade. Their position is absolutist in this regard: since we cannot know when the soul enters the womb, they insist that every fetus is an unborn child, and thus that termination of any pregnancy is murder. This absolutist position authorizes them control over a woman’s body. Rape, incest and threat to the mother’s life are rejected as justifications for medical termination of a pregnancy. Even birth control is seen as an usurpation of God’s authority to decide when life is brought into the world.

Naturally, as did the slaves before them, women desire autonomy. So they fought for the right to family planning services, a fight that reached its culmination in the Roe v. Wade decision. Having attained autonomy over their bodies, they waged a determined fight to guard their right.

Against that resistance, for forty years the evangelicals have waged a war (sometimes literally) to overturn Roe v. Wade. Joining forces with the Republican Party, they became a powerful engine for fund-raising.

So they voted for a man who famously treated his romantic conquests as pieces of meat – because he promised to nominate judges that would revoke the right to abortion services.

What saddens is to hear them now characterize allegations from other women denouncing other men as a “Democratic conspiracy.” They rely upon the testimony of other men – “friends” of the accused – who admit attending the parties in which inebriated youth engaged in sexual shenanigans.

Here is the fact that you should attend to, my coreligionists: those men have a vested interest in lying, because they also engaged in the same behaviors. If their friend goes down, they all go down.

What should happen, of course, is that fathers should counsel their sons to temperance. Those guilty of youthful indiscretion should recognize and apologize for their transgressions, and by their withdrawal from public life make it clear that such behavior is intolerable and costly.

The alternative is to subscribe to deviancy.

You despise the Catholic Church because it hid pedophilia from the public eye. How can you now support a party that hides sexual deviancy from the public eye? Because the perpetrators were drunk, or politically expedient to the cause of forcing women to bear unwanted children? Under just what conditions, pray, are those children going to be conceived if you tolerate drunken debauchery?

The sad truth is that you are now being used by the political elite in the GOP in the same what that pedophiles used the Catholic Church. They mouth support for your closely-held moral goals, using those assurance as a fig-leaf to cover their history of deviancy.

Universal Contrition

Millennial shares a Twitter feed describing the raw searching underway in the Catholic Church.

I’m currently attending morning men’s meeting at a local non-denominational congregation. Many of the men are ex-users, ex-cons and ex-adulterers. The most vulnerable break down in tears when confronting the consequences to those they love. As we are studying Revelation, I offered this yesterday:

Among the great consolations of the Book of Revelation is this: every tear is a promise from God to touch our lives.

We forget that we are in a great struggle against our dependency on sin. Often, that struggle comes to focus as a failure to recognize that others suffer. As Martin Luther King, Jr. observed:

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

Do not let your anger with the Church destroy the humble men and women that have devoted their lives in service to Christ. Stick your nose under the tent of Church administration. Insist on having a seat at the conference table with the prelates, bishops and cardinals. But don’t destroy the institution commissioned by Christ.

White-Washing

Paula White, one of Trump’s “spiritual advisors,” claims that refugees that break the law are not entitled to the same empathy given to the Holy Family fleeing to Egypt with the infant Jesus. White goes so far as to claim:

If he had broken the law, then he would have been sinful and he would not have been our Messiah.

The entire Old Testament is the history of how the seminal grace of Abraham’s covenant was subjugated by temporal authority. Jesus came to liberate the covenant, responding to “Are you king of the Jews?” with the simple plea:

You: say I am.

This is to remind us that true authority does not come from man-made laws and institutional arrangements. It comes from loving unconditionally. It comes from being willing to surrender your entire being to bring grace to those you cherish. Only the beloved can grant that authority.

Dear Mrs. White: run, don’t walk. You have taken up company with the anti-Christ.

 

God and Guns

At the NRA conference yesterday, attendees were happy to assert that “Jesus loves me and my guns.”

No. There will be no guns in paradise.

Jesus accepts your fascination with Death, and recognizes that Death asserts its sway over you in our consumer society. But he also understands that your fascination is locked in the weapons that you worship, so that when you die it evaporates when the metal is reclaimed for something useful – like making surgical implements or machine fasteners.

Eventually part of you will get to heaven, but it will only be the part that “fears not,” as the Bible commands so many times.

Jesus forgives your fear, but is determined that it be separated from you so that you may enter heaven. That is the measure of his love for us.

One Hand

My friend Steve is dying of cancer. He doesn’t think of it that way – he believes that he’s surviving. But he’s lost 50 pounds, is in constant pain, and is going in for major surgery that is going to permanently disfigure his face. The chances of recurrence in the next two years are above 80%.

I’ve bought a lot of art from him over the period. Some of the other artists on the Art Walk in Santa Barbara get testy about it. I explain that Steve has this magical ability to paint my love for the world.

We got into a long text dialog yesterday about Ezekiel. He had read that passage about Ezekiel’s vision of God, and offered that while there was “wisdom” in the Bible, if it was published to day it would be in the Science Fiction section. I tried to correct him, explaining that Ezekiel wasn’t describing a physical manifestation, but rather sharing his perception of a spiritual community.

This led into observations that he’s put his faith in a mechanical process of healing under the control of medical doctors, and surrendered his responsibility for the psychic aspect that I have been telling him is critical to his recovery. His last life ended in a mass hanging of an Native American tribe. He finally testified that he was unable to forgive himself and the perpetrators.

Himself. That was helpful, and I shared my perception that forgiveness is critical to the flow of love, because until vengeance and judgment are foregone, the power it offers to us will certainly be turned to creation of more victims. But as in every case when I’ve raised this, he ran away from it, saying that he needed “a guide” – to which I responded that his heart was the only guide worth following.

The day ended with a long series of texts in which he deflected the insights I had offered.

The famous Zen koan reads:

What is the sound of one hand clapping?

On the human scale, the answer is obviously “silence.” The teaching is that we have meaning only in relation. So how am I supposed to feel about the fact that I have no one to share my faith with? Christians reject me because I use science to understand the Bible, scientists reject me because I see proof of scripture in their theories.

I could go on, but the point is that I’m not alone. The sound made by my one hand is the wind in the air, the sunlight on the leaves, the rain on the waters.

People confuse themselves with their inflated self-importance. At root, we have only two choices: to testify as to the presence of love in the world, or the have our expressions swallowed up in the noise of the mob. Choose the latter and be inconsequential; choose the former, and become a leader of things that need our understanding to guide them into the embrace of God.