Friday, October 14, 2011

Fearfully Made . . . Celebrating the Gift of Terror Part IX

We too often discount worrying as just an annoying habit, when instead it is sin. Jesus plainly tells us not to worry, so when we do anyway, we’re essentially saying, “Lord, I know you care, but I don’t think you can handle this one.”

The above quote form MacArthur's book is in a nutshell the view of Christians towards anxiety for ages. The  main point of my posts is that I have a very different view of anxiety and I think this traditional one has caused more harm than good.  It leaves the anxious person believing that their anxiety is all their fault, and what is even worse, if they were good Christians they would repent from anxiety today and live a life full of fearless confidence. The fact that fearless confidence doesn't come, is a constant reminder to them that they are failures as Christians . . . which in turn makes the anxiety worse.

I have to agree with the mainstream Evangelical view that anxiety disorders are the result of sin but that is our only common ground.  I differ first all, as the point which I've been trying to make, is that anxiety in its raw form is God-given. It is good.  God created our biological systems of perceiving danger and avoiding it.  The typical Evangelical labels all anxiety as sin and I disagree with that completely.  I honestly believe in my title here that we were made, by God, to be creatures of fear and anxiety. That is how we survive.  We avoid the cobra when it is ready to strike.  We don't walk out on thin ice.  The list could go on and on of how anxiety is God given.

The aberration of anxiety is the results of sin in the world.  The fall of Adam has cast a handful of sand in all the gears of the beauty of life, rendering it not ugly, but just not working the way it was intended.

There may be better theological terms to describe this, but I see sin on three levels. First is the big, impersonal influence of the fall of Adam on all of us. That is why we get cancer and why our cars don't start. Things just don't work perfectly . . . not necessary due to anything that we have done wrong . . . except to be born in this broken world. So, when we are born with errors in our cognitive interpretation centers, which cause us to mis-read benign   sensory input as dangerous, that is no more our fault than being born with blue eyes.  The same is true for being born with errors in our limbic system where our emotions don't work right . . . such as anxiety or depression.

The second level of sin is sin directed at us, personally, by others.  In my story about B, her father's sin was directed at her.  She absolutely did nothing wrong to deserve how her biological father treated her.  Leaving her toys in the floor didn't justify her drunken father's physical abuse.  Her stepfather's issues, which made him to be a superficial, un-nurturing father didn't help nor did her mothers coping skills (suddenly become superficially religious).  B didn't cause the girls at the Christian school to manipulate and bully her. It was their personal sin of jealously that drove them to do that.

None of us grew up with perfect parents because we are in an imperfect world.  Some parents are more hellish than others.  Those who have been seriously abused as children (and I certainly was not) are often broken deeply in their psyche's.

The last layer of sin is our person choices.  We can make choices that make our anxiety worse. I know that I have and I am fully responsible for those choices.

Speaking metaphysically again, I also differ tremendously from the Evangelical mainstream in the remedy for our fears.  If, as MacArthur suggest, that all our anxiety is the product of personal sin, and we are all born the same way but some of us choose (because we are just bad people) to sin and be anxious, then the solution is simple . . . repentance. It would be the same if wearing red shirts were considered sin so repentance is where one day you burn all your red shirts and never wear them again. It is solved once and for all. But this goes back to the notion that our souls are fluid and inhabit an empty skull with no relationship to the circuits of the brain. So it is metaphysical.

When you believe the above, you feel worse and anxiety then grows. If you fear people, like many of us do, then you believe that you are a bad person because you are anxious and then you become even more socially anxious because you are fearful that you will not measure up to the standard and they will find out that you are inferior. If your voice trembles in front of the church, they will see that you are a sinful, fearful person . . . thus you become more anxious.

I'm out of time but I will next post about what I think is a healthy way to approach anxiety.      


Eagle said...

MJ....I lost all respect for John MacArthur a long time ago. His comments and teachings about Catholics went through my noodle as I was burying my Irish Catholic grandmother. His recent comments about the Egyptian revolution were also over the top. So I really don't take anything MarArthur sasy seriosuly...

solarblogger said...

You drove me into some linguistic study. "Anxiety" has a Greek root AGKEIN, "to choke." Anger, Agony, and Angina all have the same root.

The King James has "Be careful for nothing" where the New American Standard has "Be anxious for nothing."

The English word 'anxiety' has taken on a medical or physical state meaning where the text seems to focus on behavior, or at least controllable mental behavior. (I doubt that the Philippians verse means, "Don't secrete adrenaline into your blood stream when you hear a loud noise.") "Anxious" seems a poor translation choice.

This is in some ways similar to what you would get if you took the warning passage "No drunkard will enter the kingdom of heaven" and rendered it "No alcoholic will enter the kingdom of heaven."

The various passages that are now translated with the term 'anxiety' do pose a challenge for me, but a very different one from what the 'anxiety' rendering poses.

jmj said...

solarblogger that's interesting. I had the hunch that "anxiety" was not a good representation of the original Greek or Hebrew.

Anonymous said...

Vyrso has many books related to this topic.