The Church’s Schizophrenia

the church's schizophrenia

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What is Schizophenia

Before I talk about the church’s schizophrenia, I want to make sure you are clear on what schizophrenia actually is.

Schizophrenia is a severe thought disorder that affects every aspect of the suffer’s life. It causes them to perceive themselves and the world incorrectly, to see things, hear things, perhaps even smell things that are not real. They will often attribute devious motives to people. Delusions of reference are common, where they believe random events are personal messages, or have personal significance.

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The Criminal Under Your Hat

“No man’s really any good till he knows how bad he is, or might be; till he’s realized how much right he has to all this talk of “criminals,” as if they were apes in a forest ten thousand miles away; till he’s got rid of all the dirty self-deception of talking about low types and deficient skills; till he’s squeezed out the last drop of the oil of the Pharisees; till his only hope is somehow or other to have captured one criminal, and kept him safe under his own hat.” – G. K. Chesterton, in The Secret of Father Brown

What My Perfect Post Would Say

my perfect post -- notebook

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I realized today that my obsession with blogging is actually a search for the perfect post. I want to write a post that can heal the wounds of all who read it, that can turn a selfish reader into a selfless one, that can convince every reader that they don’t have to worry about their lives and the world, that could somehow convince every person who reads it to lay down their burdens and live in peace.

I know it’s naive, and I haven’t even gotten started. I want to write a post that can help people see God, that can help them heal their relationships, forgive those who have hurt them, and feel like it’s okay to be human, to be vulnerable, to not know the answers to every question, to drop their defenses, to stick their necks out a little.

Of course what I’ve written so far is in itself impossible, but the perfect post would do so much more. It would eradicate fear and hatred from our world, and then teach people how to live in the fearless, completely loving world that would be left. It would convince people once and for all of the absolute, objective value of learning to meditate, of not fearing one’s own company, of becoming comfortable in silence and seeking it out more often, of learning — whatever it takes — to be much less reactive and much more proactive.

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Compassion vs. Approval/Disapproval

True Compassion is LOVE inAction

photo courtesy of Viking Karwar, licensed under Creative Commons

The Place of Compassion

If you think of disapproval and approval of people [and their actions/attitudes/opinions] as two opposite ends of a continuum, where would you put compassion?

It’s a trick question. Compassion doesn’t even belong on that continuum. Compassion is something wholly different.

You will automatically tend to sit in judgment on whatever you disapprove of. “That’s wrong.” “That’s inappropriate.” “That’s ridiculous.” Even saying these words out loud probably makes you feel a little bit negative, and you can feel in that negativity the seeds of judgment.

On the other hand, you will tend to elevate whatever you approve of. “That’s good.” “That’s right.” “That’s wholesome.”

For too many people, the whole world is divided and placed into either the approve column, or the disapprove column. Whatever column you put something in, you can, and often will, remain almost completely passive, rendering your verdict and simply declaring it and defending it from then on. You see people doing this all the time on Facebook and other social media. (Declaring and defending are also the basic fuel that fires religious fundamentalism.)

Compassion exists on another plane, a higher and better one. Compassion gets you off the approval/disapproval hamster-wheel, and moves you to action.

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The Best Way to Live

mandela - best way to live

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When looking for examples of the best way to live and move the world forward, is it generally best to look to people above us or below us? Smarter or stupider? Braver or more cowardly? Happier or less happy? More or less content? More virtuous or less so?

Nearly every universally respected person — MLK Jr., Gandhi, Jesus, Buddha, Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Vaclav Havel, Solzhenitsyn, Elie Wiesel, Dalai Lama, etc. — ends up not getting more disapproving and militant as they get older, but embracing love and compassion as lenses for living and stances for being better in the world, and helping to inspire, empower, and release others into better lives.

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