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Jan 20 2010

Spiritual Crack

By John Immel

For Audio click here

“We doubt you, why don’t you doubt yourself?” This gem of saint-equipping counsel was said by my favorite spiritual tyrant. On the surface it looks like he is trying to convey the general opinion of his partners in tyrannical pastor-ness about moi. I don’t remember the specific conversation, but I do remember this was a response to my confidence. But in actual fact, his words are really an implicit doctrinal statement. His words sum up many Christian leaders’ ministerial assumption:  the quest for Indoctrinated Self-Doubt.

Notice that my favorite spiritual tyrant’s pithy statement IS the logical conclusion of Augustine’s Pervasive Depravity. By Orthodox standard Humanity’s greatest transgression is self-will. Self-will is the sum of our corrupt appetites, desires, and aspirations that get lumped into the general category lusts. Corrupt human nature requires a sanctification then that is little a more than confining that nature, binding it, placing man in an ever more sterile circumstance to incarcerate his action. The logic being if he is not near bad things, he will not be tempted by bad things. Holiness becomes the absence of temptation enforced by a community of busybodies holding each other accountable to the social standard of the church leadership.

Therefore, a man’s greatest humility is self-doubt. Because only by self-doubt, by the power of that self-subordination, can he peaceably inhabit the jailhouse called the church. This self-doubt destroys any self governance because man is universally incompetent to do GOOD. He needs someone to tell him what GOOD is and then compel his lawless nature to that GOOD action. This means that man’s greatest ethical action is obedience to authority.

From the Pastoral perspective, the Platonist/Augustinian world view makes crushing out any ability or self-inclination a good thing. Said another way, my favorite spiritual tyrant thought he was doing me a favor. Crushing my confidence was the goal of his counsel, because my confidence was evidence of a lack of sanctification. I wasn’t dead enough. Under Platonist/Augustinian assumptions, the fivefold ministry is really nothing more than a bureaucratic spiritual death panel ever advocating that man’s lot in life is inability, insufficiency, and inequity. Their job is to police those who are smuggling too much life into their life and browbeating them for their selfishness. This makes Fivefold Ministry an endless appeal to individual self-destruction. How can we know if people are succeeding in self-destruction? The answer is to measure increased levels of subordination. What does this living death look like? Since Christians frown on the bullet to the head brand of suicide, the Christian definition of death means “Equipping the Saints” to ever increasing surrender.

To whom?

The current Church marketing and packaging says it is surrender to the Cross, surrender to God. But since He isn’t holding office hours and since you are incapable of getting to Him on your own, that leaves those He charged with governance in His stead. Men who stand in the very Stead of God are the manifestation of God’s Grace for your civil and spiritual life.

Man must subordinate his action to the guiding assertions of ‘authority.’  This seems sort of right. What better yardstick of human action than governmental authority that God appoints? But this yardstick makes the definition of right and truth the sensibilities of men, who feel it is their God-given duty to squash any dissent from those they lead. And never forget: Government is force. So put this together and you have defined Christian sanctification as death by bureaucrat: unelected and unaccountable authorities who by force crush those they administrate. In any other context, this would be called Despotism.

But in the Platonist/Augustinian world view, this Mystic Despotism is the logical progression of ideas. The progression gets called Biblical and everyone who is anyone knows that if it is in the Bible, man is supposed to believe it. To defy the idea is to defy God, and no one wants to do that. So man caves to his spiritual insecurities and accepts the premise unchallenged. This is the definition of Mystic Despotism:  the use of man’s spiritual insecurities combined with governmental force to control those ruled.

A Fivefold ministry of Mystic Despots are nothing more than bureaucrats of destruction responsible to drive people to the cult of Death that has become the cross. They beat people down the path of self-abandonment until there is nothing left to abandon. Individual destruction suppresses every desire, every want, every inclination, holding up as an ideal a man so stunted in restriction that he is unrecognizable as man. The individual–if it could even be called that–becomes a squat, square, rigid, sexless curmudgeon suspicious of any unapproved concept or pleasure, rabidly evangelistic against elements of human individuality.

The product is inevitable: a meek social conformity to all ‘authority.’ As John Stewart Mill correctly commented about the cultural effect of this doctrine perpetrated by one of Augustine’s leading intellectual heirs:  ”I don’t mean that they choose what is customary in preference to what suits their own inclinations. It does not occur to them to have any inclination except what is customary.”  Carl Marx referred to this narcotic-induced state of human existence as: “the Opiate of the masses.”

I call this Spiritual Crack.

Crack is cheap. The doctrine of self-doubt is cheap. It takes nothing to undermine a human soul by manipulating their spiritual insecurities. It takes no pastoral skill to rip out a person’s confidence. Supply the brute force of authority to crush ambition and turning a man into an empty husk of inert self-restriction is matter of course.

Crack is highly addictive. The outcome of Mystic Despotism is highly addictive. “We love you, so we care for you. You belong, so make our work a joy. If you don’t, God opposes the proud. Your self-assurance is a measure of your pride.” This is the beginning of the addiction as people go to bed feeling the warm heady rush of inclusion. The words “You belong,” inject ecstasy into their souls. The price of hearing those words over and over and over is just a tiny bit of self-doubt. Just a bit more surrender. And self-doubt is really humility, right? Surrender is spiritual, right?

Like the crack addict revisiting the street corner, people go back to the church building to get their fix of pastoral ‘care’ deferring one small choice, and another little assurance, chipping away at SELF, trading it for pastoral validation. At first the need for injected affirmation is infrequent. But as the SELF is eroded, the junkie jones grows until one day there is nothing left to exchange; the addiction complete, leadership opinions are the only opinions. Leadership passions are the only passions. And leadership’s mannerisms are the only mannerisms. Having lost track of their identity, they adopt the group personality. And then the collective. The hive mind is complete.

Man cannot live without an identity defined by a coherent world view because his world view is the source of his outward action. The fuel of outward action is values and a world view is the internal combustion engine of values. So when man is told that his inner world view is corrupt–and he chooses to believe that–he looks for something outside to fill the emptiness. He cannot help this drive any more than he can help needing to breathe. Left without power to originate anything, he turns to whomever will fill the void. Whoever supplies the coherent world view, the most compelling integration of values is who wins the empty person’s heart, mind, and identity. The result is an endless cycle of dependence driven by an indoctrinated addiction.

Any preacher teaching spiritual dependence is as much a drug dealer as any South American cocaine lord. His drug is Spiritual Crack. And the effects are equally horrific. People are robbed of everything that is dignity. The disaster is harder to see because people appear ‘respectable’ in their Sunday best, and live in neat and tidy houses, and retreat to the very sterile safe haven of steepled buildings.

But underneath the good church boy and girl façade is a destitution and spiritual squalor that makes a crack whore look noble. Indeed, we have all met these putrid souls, automatons of sanctimony, poster children for Paul’s “filthy menstrual rags” righteousness. For all of their insistence that by virtue of their submission to authority they have mastered life, terror rolls off them like a stench at the thought of venturing beyond a very narrow controlled environment.

They hide behind crosses like Bram Stoker’s Vampire hunter and spice their talking with scriptures like so much garlic, as if to ward away evil by the power of their talismans.

Hardship sends them to their knees in penance for the smallest perceived sins.  They cower and quake at the capricious god of the universe who piteously drubs them about the head and shoulders for his great ‘mysterious’ purpose. Every hardship is some divine effort to teach dependence and inability, a WWF smack down with God doing flying elbow drops from the turnbuckle, eye gouging and biting until man taps out.

Sinners in the hands of an angry god, more loathsome and vile than any serpent might be in man’s eye. This truth from the pulpit makes people detest their reflection, and sends women into campaigns of intentional drabness, ruining their beauty with all the energy of a flail-ripping flesh. Heaven forfend that they make their pathetic, weak, incompetent, hopeless, useless brother stumble with the skin of a shoulder or the flesh of an ankle. This self-detesting, self-loathing doctrine so castrates men from their drive to prevail that the smallest choice sends them to the to the pastor’s office to facilitate a decision. Should I nap or is that sloth? Should I watch G-rated movies or dare I see PG? Is it sinful to use a spoon or should I only use a fork? This produces men so absent that their ethical power is atrophied and cannot stand against ANY moral seduction. Their world is a bewildering endless dark tide of destructive hostile gremlins of bad that they are incapable of mastering.

Is it any wonder that the overriding emotion of that life is fear? Is it any wonder that they look at the sky in terror expecting it to fall? A life addicted to spiritual crack inevitably produces this outcome. The addiction is the affirmations and sensibilities of other men. Indeed, addicted souls were force-fed a substance more consuming than drugs. Drugs bind the body. Spiritual Crack binds the spirit and mind to a putrid state of anonymity that needs filled with any confident and able person pretending authority. Without this crucial substance, the world tilts and the boogie man of bad stalks in the shadows of insecurities.

How dare you miss church? Without a man measuring right thoughts, how will you know what to think? Without a man defining right actions, how will you know how to act?  Oh wretched man, who can save you from this world of death?

The answer: only those appointed by God to shepherd your stupid and ignorant and degenerate soul through this life of justified woe and pain and suffering.

Is there a way to Rehab? Don’t be absurd. In the Platonist/Augustinian world view, to even ask this question shows the measure of your deception. Your choice maker has been so atrophied, so shriveled, so bent and corrupt, that such an action is impossible.

Or is it?

Dear Spiritual Crack addict, here is your first choice.

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    29 comments

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    1. 26
      Gary K Slabaugh

      Hi John. You probably have an extensive reading list. I wondered if have heard of Iain McGilchrist http://www.iainmcgilchrist.com/

    2. 27
      John Immel

      I hadn’t heard of him until you mentioned him. I read what was available on the website … that is about it. Why do you ask?

      1. 27.1
        Gary K Slabaugh

        The Divided Brain and the Search for Meaning is a pretty good e book, is all. Reading it, I thought about your discernment blog

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