Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Lamenting Labors and Legacies

I always find great pleasure when speaking with Dr. John Weaver. As he waits for the upcoming release of his latest work, Technology, Management and the Evangelical Church, he's busy thinking about his next book – all of which became necessary for him to write after learning more about the complicated tapestry of abuses within the modern Evangelical Church in the US. I love how he sets me thinking about the language that I use, his rich sense of scholarship that drives questions about the origins of terminology, and how it affects us. 

He's currently chewing on the concept of hidden curriculum, and that set me thinking about Lawrence Richards and how I became familiar with the term. We all know the concept as part of the informal rules of conduct that are a part of all of our group (social) interactions. This study becomes quite interesting in high demand or cultic religion because of the wide disparagement between the informal expectations of members (and formal contacts) and the formally stated goals and values of said group. As we all do, I became aware of the concept long before I knew of the term which was introduced to me through the writings of Lawrence Richards. John's questions sent me back to Richards' work, and that sent me thinking about my own life and work.

I'm still settling into the post-childbearing phase of life when I was surrounded by Quiverfull Movement acolytes. Changing physiology marks my journey as opposed to the typical rites of passage enjoyed by my peers. If they've returned to work when their nest emptied, they talk about retirment plans. They also speak to me about their ever-changing role of parenting adult children or the difference between parenting a child and 'grandparenting' their children's children. Parents have the comfort of the legacy that they've invested in their children, and while I include the precious work that I did as a bedside nurse, I am left with the legacy of ideas that I leave in my wake.

With that reckoning of my life's meaning now operating so often in the background of my mind, the nature of the books that Lawrence Richards wrote caught my attention and piqued my interest. He did write several academic texts, but I would say that by virtue of the number of titles, he labored to make Scripture more discernible to a very wide audience. He wrote preparation guides that Sunday School teachers could find accessible. He wrote commentaries and user-friendly types of lexicons for the laity that would help them understand the language of Scripture more deeply without the necessity of learning Hebrew or Greek. He did what I think of as the best work of home missions (as opposed to foreign missions), and he aspired to help Christian Believers develop more profound knowledge of the Bibles that they already had. And I found that humbling and challenging.

I always aspired to be a missionary, and I wonder if it's not for many reasons. My maiden name derives from the Irish monks who transcribed the Four Gospels into the Books of Mulling, illuminated manuscripts that were distributed throughout Ireland during the Early Medieval Period. Missions may literally be in my blood. The efforts of these ancestors of mine differ little from those that Richards produced, and I think about what I've contributed in my own time. What did I set out to accomplish with my life, how does that differ from what I aspire to now, and how does that differ from the evidence that my life may leave? My grand desire and highest aspiration has been to glorify God by doing just what these other men have done: to share the Gospel.

I'm then reminded of an old, old interview with Francis Schaeffer. (He made some powerful contributions to the body of modern Christian thought in a sea of anti-intellectualism, and he also had his failings. Oddly, he also had what I think of as something of a cultic following, also. How ironic! Like the Bard writes through the words of young Hamlet, 
“He was a man, take him for all in all, I shall not look upon his like again.” Schaeffer taught about how a Christian could better engage non-believers about the Bible and what it meant to live as a Christian today. He said in the interview that he would have loved to have concentrated only on the richness of Scripture, as it is the most important aspect of the Faith, bringing us closer to God as it brings man closer to Him. But that wasn't what Schaffer said that he was called to do. What he 'found to do' was more along the lines of critical review, and his work didn't directly make the Bible more accessible. But he did what he understood to be his own calling and what was needful. I'll never be a Francis Schaeffer (I'm not supposed to be one!), but I identify strongly with what I recall of that interview many decades ago.

What do I leave behind?

The works of a bedside nurse aren't tangibly remembered, and so much of the critically important work blends into the recovery process of the person who seeks healthcare. We become a part of the team that helps a person find health and wellness, and our single acts of care become like droplets of water that flow into a stream and then an ocean of what is hopefully good helpful and healing work. Really, if we do a good bit of it right, we're not remembered. That nature of the work makes the opportunities to make lasting, personal impressions with patients and families that much more precious to us. We don't get a chance to think of things that way often enough, but I think of that work as perhaps the most powerful way that I worshiped and glorified God. I did a lot of teaching of nurses, too, and I hope that I made the most of those opportunities – and that others got as much benefit out of the experience as I did.

And that brings me along to this often too pedantic blog, all words and images on the internet which make a more indelible mark in life. I would have loved to have enjoyed a life of making music and sharing the Gospel to glorify God so directly with the most lasting and most precious, life-infused and God-breathed Word. Instead, I think of this blog and feel more like the Gadfly of Athens. I'm critical. The matters discussed on this blog are far more unpleasant than directly edifying. Scandalons of stumbling stones doesn't make for warm and fuzzy laurels to enjoy in old age. They aren't well-accepted in a patriarchal culture, either. Other people's memories redefine what I understood as a work of pure faith that was meant as a voice for the voiceless into egregious, disrespectful acts. I'd much rather have sung an exquisite aria instead of a thesis that exposed uncomfortable ideas and their consequences. I've lost count of the knives in my back that resulted from the 'survivor wars.' But here I stand – God help me.

So, here's to the hope that the good I may have done at least equals those things that missed the mark. I hope to have worked on the periphery of the goal to help people understand their circumstances, especially when they struggled against and realized undue influence. And as I understand all truth to be God's truth, and that truth helps all human beings transcend suffering and evil, if I didn't communicate the words and ideas of Scripture to others, I hope that I paved the way for them to consider them. Receiving those ideas is God's work in my understanding, so I leave that and all the rest with God anyway. (Paul wrote that we were created to do go works that were prepared for us in advance for us to walk in them, and I hope that I've stayed the course well enough to do that.)

One of the Sisters of Mercy at my (then) college used to pray a prayer before a lecture that I wish now that I'd written down. It was something to the effect that “every work, prayer, and study of ours” would begin with God, but it would also return joyfully to God in its completion. While I fear that this blog may have grown from the trappings of my own human trauma, I meant for it to bear witness to the true nature of the grace of God. Grace is not a thing to be merited through good works, nor can it by definition be. It is not a list of objectives meant to pull one's self up by bootstraps. Jackboots aren't the weapons of grace, either. I hoped that it would highlight the trappings of our nature so that those who read it would have cause to reconsider where they were going in their lives of faith and whether the paths that they found themselves on were truly the best way to take them to their intended destination. (For me, that means beginning and ending the journey with my Creator.) I don't think that I could ask for a better prayer for this blog effort than the one prayed by that Sister of Mercy in the lecture hall.

Please allow me encourage the reader to visit 
some other writings that will likely be of interest. 
They are important and timely.

From John Weaver:

At No Longer Quivering:

At Becoming Worldly – Thoughts of a Former Quiverfull Daughter:

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Remembering Sir Nicholas Winton and Hot Dogs on Independence Day

Image pirated from Despair.com
[ETA:  I learned the day after I published this that Sir Winton passed away in 2015, not 2019.  Though I'm glad for the error because of the common themes between what he did for innocent children and what many children currently suffer at the US/Mexico border.]

Today, we Americans celebrate the Declaration of our Independence from crazy King George III and the British Parliament's entitlement to our then colonial livelihood. Informed and misinformed by a host of influences, my understanding of it all and my cause to celebrate continues to change, but I don't hesitate to do so. I celebrate for sundry reasons and causes of heritage, lineage, religious freedom, and the precious gift of liberty. For those who are denied such blessings, I pray, grieve, and mourn.

I descended from a family of three French militia mercenaries who claimed Pennsylvania as their home and marched under a flag bearing a rattlesnake.  Dr Forrest Moyer who is known as the “Father of Pediatrics” in Allentown, PA spent three days and nights in a cot beside me after my birth, years before the advent of neonatal intensive care units there. He told my parents to expect my death, and I am proud that I was baptized as a Moravian that morning.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Continuing the Discussion of Cognitive Bias

Here we are, still plugging along in the ongoing discussion of cognitive biases. Track the progress here and via guest posts at No Longer Quivering to learn more about common CranioRectal Inversions that can put us at risk.

This focus aims at improving our habits to ensure our safety and self care, especially during recovery from a spiritual abuse experience. Further discussion of Judith Herman's stages of recovery from trauma await as we are still on the first one

I plan to update the index of related posts a few times a year, but please don't hold me to it. (Search queries are your friend.)

Sunday, May 19, 2019

The Culture that Created a Need for Rachel Held Evans

Rachel Held Evans( RHE) captured the attention of many – some who praised her, and others who are still bubbling over with miserable things to say about her. She was like a fresh breath of honesty, wrapping words around the frustrations of a whole generation of American Evangelicals. I find myself thinking of the analogy of breathing as quite fitting in light of her untimely death, reminding us all of the fragile and temporary nature of life itself. We are but a vapor. We know the exhalation of her creative expression which endures in her absence, but do we understand the culture which she drew into herself which prompted her message?

Consider that 70% of American adults identify as Christian with the Great Awakening revivals as factors that solidified the predominantly Protestant demographic. The First (1730-40) gave us many Puritans, Presbyterians, and pietists, and the Second Great Awakening (1790-1820) produced Methodists and Baptists.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Self-Justification's Role in Cognitive Dissonance

Whether we consider memory, our personal history, or a decision we made today, without our notice, our trait of consistency likely rules us. If anything was truly an innate trait that we humans suffer because of the Fall of Man, surely it is the illusion that we are independent, self-sufficient creatures. Self-justification rests the heart of our struggle to comfort our egos and acts as comfort's right hand. We strive to be enough on our own, free from a Creator, and our very own brains write the narrative to convince us that it is so.

Knowledge of how our minds work and why they work the way that they do can mature us. We can learn to slow down the knee-jerk self-justification process to give us more time to respond to life instead of just reacting to it. Whether we seek to minimize our own culpability for an error or craft a history that softens our regret, if we are aware of this very human quality, we stand a better chance of circumventing its pitfalls. We will never break free of bias, but we can learn to be better stewards of our own thoughts, feelings, and behavior. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

External and Internal Expressions of Cognitive Dissonance

The last post left us wondering about the results of Leon Festinger's study of forced behavioral compliance. Participants were placed into two separate groups, one of which was well paid, and the other which received a nominal amount to compensate them for their time in the tediously boring hour and the request to lie to the new test subjects on their way out. 

(Note the adjustment in the value of the reward in this blog post to approximate a contemporary value.) Only one group described the test as unpleasant, and the other claimed that they enjoyed performing the study, expressing positive feelings about it. But which group enjoyed themselves?

Monday, April 1, 2019

Studying the Stress of Forced Compliance

Read Part I here.

What evidence exists to support the claim that a person will change their thoughts and even their record of events to assuage the distress of cognitive dissonance? For that, we must travel back to Stanford in the 1950s to examine Festinger's study.

Students at Stanford were recruited with the understanding that they were helping the school to streamline their study design concerning “Measures of Performance.” The students did not realize that they were being observed to determine how they would handle the stress of cognitive dissonance, believing the study to be a measure to improve the research method that the school employed. Each student was paid for their time.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Revisiting Cognitive Dissonance

In our last discussion of bias, we took note of the human preference for consistency. Not only do we build upon previous learning and decisions with new choices when they are consistent with past behavior, we also strive for personal consistency in our thoughts, emotions, and actions. A lack of consistency and continuity among these three aspects of self causes an intensely uncomfortable mental distress. Information that challenges current thought, required behavioral compliance that contradicts thought and emotion, or the induction of intense, unpleasant feeling can create this disruption in the consistency of self. The experience of that painful stress is called cognitive dissonance. 

Elizabeth Loftus on the Memory Illusion

Saturday, March 30, 2019

When Swimming in Biases, Try Not to Drown

Heuristics or those 'rules of thumb' that we use to cut through dense amounts of information to help us make timely decisions often involve availability biases. We remember ideas and select rationales based on how available they are to us – how close to the surface of our conscious thoughts those rationales lie. (We humans will grab the ideas that are most "available" to us – and sometimes, they are the most absurd.) When we lack enough information about a chain of events, we also draw on heuristics to 'fill in the gaps' between them so that we can better comprehend them. But they are shortcuts, and when we use these methods, we run at least some risk of falling into error. 

Friday, March 29, 2019

Freeing Memory from Bias by Bringing it Captive

More About How Cognitive Bias Can Influence Memory

The process of memory awareness and noticing discrepancies and errors was named metamemory some forty years ago. We may recall something and have our memory of a place or an event in time, only to discover years later that we've misremembered elements of the narrative. Metamemory helps us understand the way that our self-justifying cognitive biases code and influence what we store as memory (which always differs somewhat from objective reality).

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Disparagements of Perspective or Lies of Malice? Be Free Indeed!

Totalist religion affords us a very tidy view of the world where little if any ambiguity exists. Some enlightened other came before and figured out all that people would need to know to guide themselves with great ease through the rough edges of life. That's how things were sold to me in my group of record as an adult. Critical thinking gets handed over to a religious overseer of souls, creating the illusion of moral blamelessness for members – a process dubbed 'moral disengagement'. 

But there are no pat answers to life's complex problems, and we complex and conflicted human beings make things all the murkier. If you live under a totalist religion, you can skip over the murkiness into a view of black and white, and life becomes a zero-sum game. If someone 'wins' an argument, it means that 100% of the spoils of merit go to one sole survivor, and there can be no merit spared for the other contenders. That all-or-nothingness bleeds over into other areas, too, like power and love and care. If a contender gets some of those valuable commodities, it means that there is less comfort and accomplishment left for everyone else. 

Monday, March 25, 2019

Thinking the Unthinkable: A Challenge for the Botkins

I thought about the Botkin daughters today – and it's approximately six weeks since I received their letter. As cognitive dissonance teaches us, all people find it uncomfortable when others believe unpleasant things about them, and it occurred to me that dissonance itself is something that I definitely share in common with these young women. 

Sunday, March 10, 2019

In Remembrance and Honor of John and Halcyon Botkin

John and Halcyon Botkin are no longer with us on this side of the veil. They raised three sons and a daughter to carry on in their absence. They were proud members of Tulsa Christian Fellowship for many decades, and they raised their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. They were dearly loved by many.

I am grateful to those who have written to me, heartbroken and offended about Geoffrey Botkin's claims that he was raised in a Marxist home as he publicly repudiates his Christian upbringing. I am also grateful to those who worked to shield Halcyon Botkin from distress, as she was quite advanced in age during the time that her son claimed that his family of origin was something other than a God-believing, God-fearing home.  I am moved by those who contacted me to attest to the Christian witness of John and Halcyon Botkin, for it speaks powerfully to their good character and their love for God and family.

For those who have questions as to why their son Geoffrey has made so many claims to have been raised as a Marxist and in a family that did not attend church, I would suggest that you contact him directly. He teaches a doctrine that was once called multigenerational faithfulness, and it is heartbreaking to think that he would have any desire to deprive his own parents of the honor that they are due, in both life and death. 

Geoff Botkin talked much about his 200 Year Plan for his own descendants, but he didn't seem to show much honor to his own family of origin and their own fine heritage.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Cognitive Biases and Cranio Rectal Inversion Index

Just a reminder that the purpose of this discussion aims at stimulating thought and self awareness as tools to help those in recovery from trauma learn how to make safer choices. To make the discussion a bit lighter, we've defined Cognitive Biases as “CranioRectal Inversions” (CRI).

There are more posts to come which will first be featured at No Longer Quivering where you might want to watch for them, and they'll eventually find their way back here. For now, here are the posts on the subject through 2018. This list is not comprehensive, nor is it organized in a particular manner, save that they are loosely organized by general type (social, attributional, etc.). There are at least this many more to come.

Zelophehad's Daughters

Originally appeared in 2010 at Quivering Daughters.com

An acquaintance of mine asked me what I knew of some of the ideas that neo-patriarchy had about unmarried women living alone. I explained that some sectors within patriarchy maintain that Numbers 30 requires unmarried adult women to have an assigned male overseer who is accountable for her and her affairs. Others in these circles maintain that all woman require a male as her a protector at all times to remain both spiritually and physically safe. Some actually extend this concept to support their idea that a woman who works outside the home (for a man other than father or husband) commits a form of adultery by serving the vision and efforts of another man.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Extremes in Postmodern Religious Addiction and the Childhood Roots of Victimization

09Sep19 NOTE:  If I had to write this over today,  there are several things that I'd change.  I have moved away from so much owing to postmodernism, accepting that it is just due to old generation gaps as the causative factor.  Human nature, too.  Menopause will do that to a gal, I guess.

Revisiting Imbalance.

Originally posted  27Feb12;  Reposted 25Aug12.
Updated with restored graphics 04Mar19

Lewis at Commandments of Men has written a post that's inspired me to write a bit more about imbalance found within spiritually abusive evangelical Christianity.

In January, I wrote a synopsis of the core emotional issues of childhood in a series of posts that lead to dysfunctional living.  (The series didn't, but the core emotional issues did!)  If we come through childhood and our very nature as children is not honored by our our parents (likely because of their own interrupted emotional growth), or if we suffer a great deal of trauma which may have nothing to do with our families, we tend to have problems in adulthood which surround these core emotional dilemmas. Children are valuable, vulnerable, imperfect, needy, and immature., and we carry all of these traits with of into adulthood to some extent, revisiting them from time to time. This is a normal occurrence in a healthy adult, but healthy adults don't remain in these states of recalling the sense of being childlike for very long.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Always Follow the Money

While I am loathe to give them any additional free advertising, given recent events, I believe what I saw there deserves some attention. (While revising old blog posts to remove a term to which the Botkin's objected, I happened to notice something interesting.) The link took me to their revamped website which features a slider – a ribbon of material at the top of the screen which automatically scrolls snippets of new content across it to catch the reader's attention.