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Friday, April 2, 2010

Objective and Subjective

How many times have we read or heard people attempt to analyze our thought processes and life's philosophies by using the terms objective thinking and subjective thinking? I submit that we humans utilize a blend of both. Our lives consist basically of the events or occurrences of each day, our appetites, and how we feel and react. Drama happens inside of our heads, tailored and personalized to each of us as individuals. It is, in fact, an integral part of what makes each of us unique and human. And, no way has ever been found to rid oneself of something so completely innate.

Nobody I've ever "met" is a 100% "objective" thinker, except possibly original Star Trek's Spock character, portrayed by the excellent actor, Leonard Nimoy. But, Spock is a fictional, hypothetical character, not a real person. What became painfully and often humorously obvious throughout the run of this TV series was that while Spock's contributions were often valuable, the fact that he was purely a creature of logic became a detriment. There's an axiom, originally taught to me by one of my managers about twenty years ago during one of my career opportunities: "Any strength, practiced to an extreme, becomes a weakness."

Seemingly, we humans must accept the fact that we are occasionally going to be able to detach our personal involvement and emotions from our thinking processes and to indulge in objective thinking, but since we are deeply invested in our own experiences, reactions, and governing beliefs, in most cases our normal patterns will involve subjective, or personalized thinking. This is one of the reasons why we sometimes seek the opinions of, or counsel of professionals, valued friends, or relatives who do not share our emotional investment in a particular situation. As with our Mr. Spock, their detachment is often beneficial in assisting us through some of life's difficult patches.

To eliminate the subjective is to divest oneself of one of the basic components of humanity. To suggest excision of it as part of our healing process is an indicator as to the graveness of our wounds. That would be considered to be an extreme measure. It would be preferable to concentrate on healing rather than excision, rehabilitating the damaged elements so that one can remain a functional human being with the full range of healthy emotions.

As victims of the Armstrong problem, not only was our concept of God misinformed and distorted, but also our basic sense of humanity, family, and community. Cause and effect. It has long been my contention that as a person reads a book, the parts which become memorable are largely a function of his or her own personality. When this is done with a book about God, the process becomes anthropomorphic. Herbert W. Armstrong, consciously or unconsciously, lifted from context and overly dramatized the elements of the Bible with which he personally identified, and which served his purposes. He taught us about a God whose primary way of expressing love was extreme punishment for the slightest hint of disobedience to His laws. This was a way of thinking that was not lost as it filtered down into the parenting skills of church members. HWA's distortions did not provide us with a full and accurate picture, and remain a source of the problems many of us have had with God throughout our lives. They were more of an intoxicant than an aid to mental or spiritual health. So, it is hardly surprising that in order to deal with this, some of our fellow travelers have explored and embraced the importance of objective thinking. I know a little bit about this, because it is a technique which I've explored myself. But, it's all too easy to take extreme measures in an effort to invalidate, eliminate, or compartmentalize activities and channels which have been used to hurt or damage us. Defensive measures often leave visible scar tissue, a remnant which serves as testimony to past injury. Others can sense this scar tissue, although they will not usually know the nature of the wound which produced it. Optimal healing involves regaining as complete functionality as possible, with minimal scarring. Hopefully with a dash of education seasoning the process.

For some reason, while I've been sharing this, the words to the Linda Ronstadt song (later covered by the Eagles) "Desperado" have been going through my head. (If you are unfamiliar with this song, Google it for the lyrics). In some way, they might illustrate the need and importance for healing which all of us share. I think it might even be a good soundtrack for this article.

Probably most people would agree that if there is a God, much of the way in which He could work with each of us as individuals would be through normal, healthy emotions, and a positive outlook towards spirituality. It would by very nature be a mental, highly subjective process, and produces passionate commitment. People of faith honestly believe that God is working in their lives, and many of us find evidence of this on a daily basis. Even while I was an atheist or agnostic, I was constantly amazed at the resilience and sense of well being and purpose of Christian people. This is awesome, and encouraging to watch sometimes, although there are some occasional cliff hangers! But, is what we seem to be seeing real? Isn't it subjective, and in the mind, possibly even imaginary? Some say that we would be better off in detaching ourselves from such subjective thinking, and focusing solely on objective thinking. They say that in so doing, we will become enlightened. But, is this true, or does it constitute yet another set of filters or blinders? How we treat it would seem to be a choice. The fact that some choose one course, while others choose the polar opposite proves this. Apparently, it's an area of our lives in which we can exercise some degree of control. And it would be a shame to make such a decision based on the hurt caused by false teachers.

We humans have five senses, recognized as being limited to specific areas of various spectra. And, if we're fortunate, we get to utilize these senses over a period of roughly 70 years. Science has helped us in building devices to help us perceive some of the events which are occurring outside of our human range, and over greater periods of time than a normal human lifespan. That seems to have expanded our capabilities and understanding, but we are still extremely limited in our perceptions. Seemingly, we are faced with two general paths to greater awareness. One is to look more deeply within. The other is to look to an external source, one more knowledgeable than our own species. One limits us to the here and now. The other would seem to expand infinitely. Each of us must decide which one has greater potential and reliability. Your mileage may vary.


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Wine & Cheese Tasting Party Begins........Now!

Wow! My two predecessors got this new blog off to a rockin' and rollin' start! Thank you, Allen and Ralph for an awesome job, and thanks to James for providing the venue! I'd like to see us continue to grow in numbers here, and to see if we could especially get some of the ladies to begin commenting. So (this is NOT an April Fool's joke!), April will be wine and cheese tasting month. I hope it will be a joyous celebration. Tell a friend!

I understand that we guest editors enjoy a modicum of discretion in these parts during our month, so here is what I have in mind. Basically, I'll cut the cheese and you cats and chicks can pour the wine! What that means is that I'll throw out some basic ideas, hopefully things of common interest that might deserve further exploration, and you folks go ahead and do most of the commenting. Bend it, stretch it, take it anywhere you want to go, as long as nobody gets the bright idea of slipping a little vinegar into one of the wine bottles! Freedom!!!!

So, settle down into some nice comfortable furniture, and let the fun begin. I've got some Stevie Ray Vaughan, some Jeff Healey and some Cracker cued up on the ol' ipod, and we'll be taking some requests for later on.

-Byker Bob

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Another post

My month is almost up, and I have thoroughly enjoyed my stint as guest editor. I want to thank all those who have commented and congratulate them on, as a whole, very substantive and well thought out comments. I hope you will have good points to add to this offering. Here it is:


by Allen C. Dexter

Just as my last article on hypocrisy appeared, the news coverage suddenly exploded about the new sex scandals bedeviling the Catholic Church – scandals which have since landed firmly in the lap of the Pope himself.

Worldwide wasn't the only entity immersed in hypocrisy. All religions, along with political parties, seem to be especially prone to the evil of hypocrisy.

Why is that so?

I'm sure we could dredge up a lot of contributing factors. However, I believe it all boils down primarily to the old adage that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Anyone who finds him or herself in a position of great power feels they have to do anything necessary to keep their followers and the public from noticing that they, like the famous emperor, might be lacking some necessary moral, doctrinal or intellectual raiment. They stand in danger of their followers and the world at large realizing that they aren't as perfect, wise and infallible as they claim to be.

When the claim is made that you and your organization is the only real representative of Christ, like the WWCG and the Catholic Church have maintained, the perceived need to deceive the faithful and the world at large becomes ever more urgent. When religion seizes control of political parties, the same phenomenon comes into play.

Thus, as soon as something unsavory rears its ugly head, damage control begins and “spin” sets in. If it can be completely covered up and kept from the public, so much the better. Otherwise, denial, obfuscation and questioning the honesty and integrity of the accuser is usually the next courses of action.

Of course, the possibility that the poor people might get offended, turn bitter and lose their salvation has to be emphasized. That gives a righteous and loving motive to the whole thing.

Any of us who spent any time at WWCG headquarters or were closely associated in any way with the ministry have witnessed this image building and deliberate fabrication in action. When we wrote letters to members and listeners and when we visited church members and potential members in the field, the image and welfare of the “work” was always foremost in our minds.

One graphic example of this occurred while I was assisting the pastor of the New York City church between late 1960 and the beginning of 1962.

There was one particular member, an African American young man, who didn't seem able to hold a job and support himself. He ended up homeless in the middle of a New York winter and caught pneumonia from the exposure. He ended up in the hospital, the very hospital where his sister was a nurse. I think she is the one who alerted the church to his condition and situation.

He refused antibiotics that he really needed to treat his condition and his sister appealed to the pastor to try to change his mind. This put him in a bit of a quandary, to say the least. He knew the adverse publicity and possible harm that could come on the church, but he had to uphold Herbert's radical doctrine.

His solution was to manipulate the man into saying he would not take the medication even if his minister told him to do so. He then told his sister that her brother had just told him he wouldn't take the medication even if he told him to. He thought it a rather clever way of taking the church off the hook. I often wonder if he still has that opinion. He seems to have disappeared into the ether, and I doubt he is or has been with any of the splinters.

No matter what excuse or justification may be employed, the fact of the matter is that religious organizations and political parties are first of all interested in their image. That image is the basis of their power and influence. Without that image, they fear they will lose their supporters and, ultimately, their lofty positions, power and income. Few have the moral courage to stand up and speak honestly and forthrightly under those circumstances.