Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Awe Inspiring Height of the Greater Good: Who Becomes a Spiritual Abuser?



To point out the powerful influence of the ideology of the greater good, I ask the reader here who is likely familiar with it to consider the "ethos of family" that has sought to overtake the homeschooling community in recent years. Think about that mix of American nationalism, Christian principle and love of wholesome living and the joy of family that comprises patriocentricity as somewhat analogous to this following statement. Pay attention to what you feel as you read this passage from Robert Lifton and ask yourself if it sounds like a foreign concept.

I’ve taken out key terms and replaced them with ones that typify homeschooling and the ethos of family.

"Consider the more or less typical homeschooler, interested in patriarchy, who sought from the movement a form of national renewal; who laughed at the more extreme claims of the hard-line complementarians in the gender debate but was drawn to "Biblical manhood" with its emphasis on Christian unity; who considered the Christian faith generally superior, and feared ecumenism; who considered himself a rational rather than a fanatical homeschooler and was critical of the growing number and prominence of women in leadership in Christian churches; who had not marched in the streets with the more zealous homeschoolers but came to offer them obedience and service in exchange for social significance and a sense of Christian unity; who volunteered no great personal sacrifice on behalf of the cause of "Biblical family" but respected those who did; and who sought maximum professional and personal success within this newly dominant national movement. Such a homeschooler, despite a seemingly restrained relationship to ideology, could experience the mystical power of the Christian family ethos. He could also respond in some degree to the call of militant fecundity."


Now, read the original passage that describes the process of the acceptance of a foreign ideology and ethos from page 434 of Lifton’s book:

"Consider the more or less typical Nazi doctor who sought from the movement a form of national renewal; who laughed at the more extreme claims of the Nazi racial party but was drawn to "scientific racism" with its emphasis on German unity; who considered the Nordic race generally superior, and feared racial mixture; who considered himself a rational rather than a fanatical anti-Semite and was critical of the number and prominence of Jewish doctors in German cities; who had not marched in the streets with the Nazis but came to offer them obedience and service in exchange for rank and military uniform; who volunteered no great personal sacrifice on behalf of the Nazi cause but respected those who did; and who sought maximum professional and personal success within this newly dominant national movement. Such a doctor, despite a seemingly restrained relationship to ideology, could experience the mystical power of the German-Nazi ethos. He could also respond in some degree to the call of Auschwitz."

Lifton points out that doctors were especially vulnerable to these influences within the Nazi system because of their professions prepared them to be prideful. Doctors also become somewhat adept at learning to separate their personal emotions from intimidating or disturbing aspects of their work and from intimacy with their patients. They likely had pre-existing idealistic reasons for pursing medicine that could be tapped and manipulated as well. So they provide an interesting subject for study of the psychology of ideology and how it can twist us.

Here, we have men reaching for that which is greater and higher and more than what they are in and of themselves. Each passage sounds a similar call to nationalism and unity. The dynamics of the ideology of man – any ideology whether Biblically-based or fascist – all eventually degrade into some form of ideological totalism, something that Christianity clearly does not advocate. The end never justifies the means. It is through a drift into legalism and the traditions of men that such good outward signs of a life dedicated to the Lord become corrupt. And because of human nature, all systems become corrupt in similar fashion. The deadly logic of the sacred science eventually overtakes all that is good and the end justifies whatever means necessary to accomplish the idealistic goals when pursued apart from mature, balanced service to God. When the greater good becomes greater in our hearts than anything else and out of balance, we can be so easily pulled off course.

Second quote taken from Robert Lifton's