While Waiting for the President

Several weeks ago, President Trump made a stop in Springfield, MO for a political rally. Since we live only 28 miles away, Kathy wanted to go see the President. She was able to get tickets and I said I would go with her.

The crowd was huge, and when we got in line the entrance was three blocks away. We had to stand for a little over four hours and were about the last people allowed in. The arena seated around 8,000 and that many more probably could not go in.
While waiting, we had a problem with crowd cutters. They wanted us to let them in so they would not need to stand so far back in line. I, and he men in front of me, and confronted these people on the unfairness of their behavior. We were able to hustle one man farther back in the line, but failed with the others.

Why am I writing about this? It is because everyone we challenged gave the same response. When we asked “Don’t you know cutting in line because you are late is unfair and makes it more difficult for those farther back in the line to move closer?,” the universal response was, “I don’t care!”
“I don’t care.” All I want is what I want, and I am not really concerned with anyone else. I was reminded of the response of Adam and Eve. They knew there would be consequences for their behavior, and they said, “We don’t care – we will risk it anyway.” It is the response of millions of people today.

“Don’t you know smoking can cause breathing problems, embolism, and cancer?” “I don’t care.”

“Don’t you know heroin is perhaps is a powerful, addictive drug that couldruin your life?” “I don’t care.”

“Don’t you know unprotected sex can result in venereal disease, HIV, or unwanted pregnancy?” “I don’t care.”

And on and on.

I think part of our problem is that we have lost sight of a sovereign, creator God. If there is a God, then I have a responsibility to relate somehow to that God. If there is no God, I have a responsibility only to myself. Like Frank Sinatra‘s song, “I did it my way.”

Sounds inviting perhaps, but there are elements in the universe over which we have no control – they are unconditioned. For example, we may choose when and how we die, but no one escapes dying; it is unconditioned. We might wish for a different DNA, but what we have is what we have. We might wish for different biological parents, but that is not going to happen. We might desire any number of things that are unconditioned and we have to live with them.

I suspect many who says, “I don’t care” about cutting in line would care very much if their personal space or personhood were violated. In Scott Peck’s book, “Makers of the Lie,” he states that whatever is not done in love is evil. By love, he means New Testament agape love – love that is not interested in reward for doing what is right. Jesus had a few things to say about evil in Matthew’s gospel: 7:11-17,9:4, 12:34, et al.

Just like the words translated “sin,” the word for evil has an ethical dimension of relationship between humans and humans, and between humans and God. One last thought: what things should we NOT care about? Let’s give pause and think before we say, “I don’t care!”

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Do We Have a Dark Side?

When the first Star Wars movie came out, I stood in line to see it (or, stood in queue since I was in London), with my wife and two kids.  This movie, and its sequels, have plots pitting good guys against The Dark Side.  Those on The Dark Side are consumed by anger, hatred, cruelty, selfish ambition, and a lack of love for others.

To the general public, the idea of a dark side of human personality may be relegated to the imagination of science fiction writers and not real life.  People go to costume parties dressed as Darth Vader, with no serious thought about what Vader represents.  The British rock band, Muse, released an album in September 2018 with a song titled The Dark Side, the idea taken from the movies.   The theme of the words is simple:  I am in pain and depressed, set me free.  Taken seriously, the dark side of Star Wars is an enslaving power of evil and not something entertaining or transitory.

Do we have a dark side, or is it just sci-f?  A recent edition of Scientific American has an article about the work of three European scientists. They have discovered a common core of nine dark traits they call the Dark Factor of Personality.  This is ethically, morally and socially questionable behavior and attitudes, accompanied by beliefs that justify the behavior and attitudes.  The traits are egoism, Machiavellianism, moral disengagement, narcissism, psychological entitlement, psychopathy, sadism, self-interest, and spitefulness. They have also developed a self-assessed Dark Care Scale that can be used to discover the degree to which a person is influenced by the dark side of their personality.

The idea of dark traits is nothing new for the Christian.  The Judeo-Christian tradition has always recognized the dark side of human nature starting with the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The potential for human freedom is always threatened by the potential for evil.  We desire complete liberty of thought and behavior without regard for anything and/or anyone else.  Like Adam and Eve, we want to become like God.  History and literature give us many examples of people who lost this battle with the dark side as did Adam and Eve.  In biblical literature, Samson, Saul, and David immediately come to mind. Literary examples come to mind, such as Shakespeare’s Othello and Hamlet as well as Stevenson’s story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Psychiatrist Carl Jung wrote about the shadow side of personality a hundred years ago. For him, the shadow is the dark side of personality, everything we have rejected, despised, denied, or never knew was there.  The fact that we are unaware of our shadow is the problem, for it is involved in everything we say or do.  Because of our desires, we wrestle against an unknown entity, our shadow. The Bible calls this iniquity, meaning crooked thinking: putting high value on the least valuable and struggling to know the difference.

In his book, Makers of the Lie, psychiatrist Scott Peck gives patient anecdotes of behavior that on the surface would seem to be good, but the results are evil.  In one case, a family was in therapy.  The son had been designated as the one who would be the scape goat to bear the guilt and suffer the punishment for the misdeeds of the rest of the family.  The boy was suffering intense emotional and physical pain as a result of his assigned role in the family.  The parents were convinced their treatment of the son was loving and for the benefit of the son, so the family was resisting treatment. Peck called this parental attitude and behavior the making of a lie – not recognizing and admitting behaviors done in the name of family love were destructive.  Peck calls this behavior “evil.”  Anything not done in love for the benefit of others is to be controlled by the dark side and results in evil.

Mental health professionals talk to patients and clients about personality integration as a way to be rescued from control by the shadow.  This means admitting their unconscious shadow exists and recognizing in what ways evil thoughts and behaviors are initiated from the shadow.  The goal is to bring the shadow part of personality into everyday consciousness and learning to deal with it positively.  I think this is valid as far as it goes.

I believe the Christian gospel aids in the integration of personality. Theologian Paul Tillich wrote that all people have an ultimate concern, but unless the content of that concern is God, it is not ultimate.  The dark side pushes our concerns toward things that are selfish, transitory, and not ultimate.  I believe our personalities can become fully integrated only when we relate to God as our ultimate concern through faith in Jesus the Messiah.

Let’s not go over over to The Dark Side!