Friday, November 9, 2007

Psychological "Splitting" and Spiritually Abusive Patriarchy


Ever hear a child say, “He is a bad man”? I occasionally would hear this from a friend of my family whose son is a high-functioning adult with Down’s Syndrome. He’s so high functioning, that I tend to forget that he’s impaired until I hear him call something “bad.” For a small fraction of a second, I realize that he’s still unable to discern many things beyond the extremes of good or bad. When he’s speaking so well, I completely forget his limitations (something I find to be wonderful as a consequence of my great love for him). His identification of things and people as “bad” represents his healthy means of self-protection because he lacks the ability to safely discern.

Like children, adults often also study new concepts by their contrasts, first defining ideas in terms of extremes. They then develop additional ideas in perspective between those extremes as they discern the distinctives of each point along a continuum. But adults can sometimes lack discernment or the ability to discern things that are (for whatever reason) psychologically threatening. Paradoxes can be threatening because of their complexities. When an adult tends towards a view of seeing issues in contrast only and do not appreciate the continuum between the extremes (or if they can only comprehend the contrasts), this is called the ego defense or a cognitive distortion of “psychological splitting.” All adults to this to some extent, but many do not grow in their understanding, maturing to discover that there is a “grey zone” between the black and white.

Within spiritually abusive groups, and especially within patriarchy, there is a great deal of this type of thought. Nearly everything (ideas, practices, people) are seen in terms of “all or nothing.”


 This distorted thinking restricts an individual’s personal growth by restricting the development of the continuum of possible alternatives between the two extremes, usually because of the dictates of the ideological system. Generally, the authorities in the system wield a great deal of emotional manipulation, suggesting that merely considering possible alternatives is damnable as it portrayed as violating the most precious core doctrines of the system. Propaganda, connotative (thought-stopping) language, threats of abandonment, and fear are used against individuals to establish the group’s perspective as the only thinkable viewpoint. Cialdini (see the book list) points out that we humans like to be consistent and portray consistent character to others. Manipulative groups use this characteristic of their followers to obtain compliance with the group ideal, along with other inherent characteristics of social proof, reciprocity, etc. When strongly influenced by the group’s views about black and white, the true believer of the ideology is very unlikely to consider a continuum of possible alternatives. For one to do so is threatening, sinful or might even classify one as an apostate.

I think the preceding post on this blog demonstrates some of the splitting that goes on within patriarchy. I bring attention to the inconsistency of Pastor James McDonald’s blog post by pointing out an example from his own life, demonstrating the hegemony and lack of logic in his statements. It also highlights that Pastor James, who champions a pious and “salvific view” of family, has been previously married. I find it terribly ironic that in light of his stressing of certain scriptures and his strong opinions about family that he does not apply this approach to Scripture consistently. I guess that he’s got another creative hermeneutic for interpreting I Timothy chapter 3 and the guidelines that Paul documents concerning deacons and elders. (This continues to be a point of controversy in many denominations.) I made the case for hypocrisy concerning the pious, ex cathedra comments made by James in light of his own practices concerning one of the central themes of his aberrant doctrine (a discernment of many).

From the responses that I received, it seems that it is assumed that I am offended that these supposed “sins” of the past. When or where have I said that I thought divorce was a sin? When or where have I said that I thought that remarriage was a sin (despite the stance of my original denomination of record)? For that matter, do I protest all that promotes housewives, home, family, homeschooling and America? Do I protest complementarianism as a concept (which I observe)? (In case the reader does not realize that these are obvious, rhetorical questions, the answers are resounding: "Never!" "Nowhere!" “No!”)

What I protest is the promotion of a pious, rigid, legalistic ideology. Quite frankly, I’ll probably agree with and appreciate large portions of the “Passionate Housewives” book, but I clearly stated that this was not the nature of my concern about the book. I’ve stated repeatedly that I do not want Vision Forum and their concepts of patriarchy to have another wide platform from which to speak, enhanced by the notoriety received from the endorsement of these ministries.

Do I think any of these who I criticize are “bad people?” I clearly do not, for they are the righteousness of God in Christ and my brethren. I think that their ideas about so-called “Biblical Patriarchy” (far different from the true concept of patriarchy) are aberrant and misguided, certainly not entirely Biblical. I think that the various means used to carry out their ideology are dangerous because they represent concepts that are personal preferences (matters of individual discernment according to Romans chapter 14) as express and unequivocal mandates of Scripture. They deceptively institute their moral imperatives and teach that they are the only behavioral standards that informed exegetical study of the sovereign Word supports. I don’t share these presuppositions, and I probably would not care what they practiced personally if they did not focus on recruitment of the unsuspecting into their system. But because they represent themselves as God’s ideal and show distain for their white-washed brethren like they are filthy and unruly stray dogs on bath day, I protest. Not that I am a feminist (stray dog), but that's how "compromising complimentarians" are painted (for the purpose of milieu and information control through connotation and neologism).

Here I stand, I can do no other. God help me. Amen.”
Martin Luther, April 18, 1521

All are condemned who should dare to corrupt or change the word of God, either by adding to it, or taking from it. (Rev 22)
Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

I know... I know… They presuppose that I am taking away from the Book. But I don’t pontificate about it, manipulating people with guilt and performance standards either. They don’t disagree agreeably. It’s church discipline for me! (Well, I assume that the attempt is the next strategic move. That’s the typical M. O. within Patriarchy.)