Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Building Metaphor

I’ve spoken of my building metaphor before, especially in my manuscript, which I posted several months back. But I decided that I wanted to explain it once more, connect it to this whole concept of Christian Monism, and then put it in a sidebar so I can refer back to it from time to time.

I see the playing out of life, both on the Christian front and on the secular, as a building. It is a tall, 100 floor building. The floor that you live on in this building corresponds to how close you live to reality. Reality, in this sense, is real-reality. I’m talking about the very fundament, candid, emotional, psychological, sociological, spiritual and physical reality of this world as it is.

In my opinion, most of Evangelical Christianity is played out around the 20th to 40th floors. Many of the TV evangelists, like you would see on TBN or Daystar, play out their public lives up on the 70-80th floors. I think (speaking of the secular world now) that many politicians and celebrities also share those higher floors. The upper floors and penthouse are reserved for the psychotics (who are totally divorced from reality).

The reason that I even became interested in this issue has to do with my fall from Evangelicalism. Early on, I realized that my entire Christian life had been lived up on those middle floors (I believe that my days in the Navigators were lived up on the 40th+ floors always pretending to be very godly).

Once I started exploring real emotional honesty, I had a passion to take it down to ground level. I’ve never achieved that for many reasons. For one, it is very sociological hard to do. Once you venture beneath the 20th floor (and you are a Christian) there is tremendous pressure on you to keep lying (see my recent posting about Church games).

The bottom floor, down near reality, are some comedians, like the late George Carlin. I don’t mean to make him out to be a hero. He was talented and he tried to expose our society to its harsh realities. But I think he was a bitter and addicted man. No, he didn’t seem to know God. But he did know a lot of truth and did not hesitate to point it out. Freud (although wrong about many things) was one of the first to try and point to the “id” of the basement.

Many people either, A) are highly offended if I suggest that they don’t live near emotional reality, or B) believe that life only works well when we allow ourselves to live up on the twentieth floor or higher. I think my wife sees things from the “B” perspective, and I respect that. I do realize that most of society functions better where there is a lot of insulation between us and our fallen selves.

How Does This Relate to Christian Monism?

Okay, it’s complicated. But if God created both the physical (including the brain) as good (but fallen) then the brain is important. The brain, being anchored in the material, does not change easily. If you were born with a personality disorder (or acquire one through life) it doesn’t change the moment you become a Christian, but starts to take on disguises that would make it more accepted in that Christian sub-culture.

Dualist Christians believe that the spiritual is far more important than the physical, and some honestly believe that the physical is evil (“worldly” in other words). So if you disallow the role of the physical brain on thinking, behavior etc . . . you are left with a very fluid “spirit.” The spirit, theoretically, can change on a whim . . . just through simple obedience or choice.

So the typical Evangelical belief system is that we have the opportunity to grow to be very spiritual very quickly. We can leave a life of sexual exploitation, drug addition and in a matter of a few years, be pastor of a mega church, claiming to have been totally renewed.

This is why one gal in our Navigator training center could return to sex and drugs literally overnight, after having been “trained” and discipled as a “godly woman” for a decade. The old self was not that far from the new self all along.

However, when reality does not mesh with our belief system, we are forced to create an insulating façade. That’s what society does as a whole does (all of us pretending that we are much better than we really are) but Evangelicals are experts at this.

This is how the wonderful, godly, man who preaches to you each Sunday morning, can be abusive to his wife and children in the privacy of their homes. Sometimes this abuse is apparent but sometimes it takes more discreet forms (allowing the godly man to continue feeling better about himself) such as spiritual abuse. This is where you put people down or smash them like a bug with your Bible.

So, in conclusion, I thought I would describe this metaphor once more . . . stick it over to the side . . . and reference it in future discussions.


Don Hendricks said...

A very good metaphor and insightful observation. Have you read any of Byron Katie, Loving what is. She has a process for stripping the falsehoods out of our emotional reactions that has been interesting to think about.


MJ said...

No, I have not read Byron Katie. I will look it up on Amazon and maybe order it. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I really relate. I'm on the ground floor now, if not darn close. I hate it and I love it, all at the same time.

Honestly, if life hadn't slapped me upside the head, I'd probably still be comfortably dwelling in my cozy apartment many floors up. I go back and forth with that, alternating between anger at having to be down here...and gratefulness that God loved me enough to bring me down here.

Dealing with reality is messy and complex. I get why people find it safer and more pleasurable up higher. I get the arguments for it, too, for why it's where we're supposed to be, why it's better, etc.

The thing is, when God came in the flesh, He was born outside the building, on the ground level. He visited the people in the building, visited the upper floors too, but that's not where He chose to be born, nor where He chose to die. So I'm okay being down here. It is much more difficult, but at the same time, it feels so much more authentic. Real is better than fantasy. ...I think. :)

MJ said...

I have the same feelings . . . some days wishing I were back on the other side of the looking-glass, where life was neat and every problem had simple answers, that every person (including myself) were either the good guys or the bad guys.

Real life IS messy. I think that's why Jesus has been so misunderstood because he did live on the ground floor. I mean, good heavens, talking to a woman and talking about all her previous lovers. It must have been a scandal. Yet . . . she loved him for it.

So, other times I am thankful that I feel such much more connected to reality. The horrible non-christian people . . . now look like decent people to me (as decent as most of my Christian friends). I'm not saying that you can get to God outside of Christ, but I don't divide people up any more . . . you know, good guys vs bad guys, Democrats vs Republicans etc.

So what smacked you up side the head? For me, it was a failed missionary experience (the most "godly" man I had ever know, also being one of the most cruel.)

Anonymous said...

Yeah, mine was probably similar in some ways. My world was very conservative, black and white, we knew all the answers, had a verse for every problem, were in full-time ministry, yadda yadda...

Then, the years began to pull the covers off of the lies, the darkness, the things that can get hidden but can't stay hidden with the passage of time... The most godly man I knew was...well...my husband...who turned out to be abusive (my own personal cult leader, as it were) and he turned out to be mentally ill.

I'd been figuring out, slowly, for a few years already that something was NOT right and that maybe, just maybe, it wasn't all my fault (it was always my fault, you see)... It took him going completely psychotic and having to be admitted for me to finally finally finally SEE the full extent of what was going on.

It's been 6 months now...I'm still separated from him...sort of trying to figure out where to go from here... He's wanting to try again. I'm not wanting to go there (though "trying again" is the Right Thing To Do, where I come from, so there's plenty of pressure)... I'm single-mothering five kids and this is absolutely NOT what my life was supposed to look like back when I was a Bible College student and had all of life's problems all mapped out in black and white.

But God is here. So I love this place. I hate it, but I think I love it more than I hate it, if that makes any sense.

I really don't have any answers...more questions---and more problems than there are solutions. But God is here. I feel alive again after a long time of living in a fantasy land, trying to work hard to maintain appearances, to maintain my dream that never really did exist.


Anonymous said...

So, other times I am thankful that I feel such much more connected to reality. The horrible non-christian people . . . now look like decent people to me (as decent as most of my Christian friends). I'm not saying that you can get to God outside of Christ, but I don't divide people up any more . . . you know, good guys vs bad guys, Democrats vs Republicans etc.YES. Yes, exactly.

And it's weird, actually, that now I *am* one of "those people" to many people... Heh.

MJ said...

Adventuresinmercy, I am sorry for what you've been through. As a father of five myself, I can't imagine what it would be like. Life sucks when it doesn't follow the script doesn't it? And it rarely ever does.

I hope that you have a lot of people around you who love you, really love you.

jamie said...

Off topic side note...my great grandpa is the 3rd man from the right in that picture. That is our family's ONLY claim to fame :)

Great blog btw, I love how you think!