All People Are Real

I’ve mentioned a couple of times now that I have a dissociative disorder. A derealization disorder, in fact. Which means that when my dissociative disorder is triggered, nothing around me seems real. Sometimes things literally look like movie sets and sound stages to me. I can’t even watch movies when it’s bad because when everything already looks fake, bad acting takes on a whole new meaning. When it comes to dealing with people, it’s like being locked inside a glass bubble where sounds can get through, but they’re muffled and removed from much of their meaning somehow. I read an article about it once which described disrealization as the loneliness disease. Obviously you can’t connect with anyone when you have a hard time even seeing them as real.

Because my dissociative disorder started by the time I was 17 months old, I grew up with no conscious experience of being able to consistently see other people as real. I just assumed that this was what it was like to be human. It certainly explained the way people treated each other; if the people around you feel like objects, then you’re going to treat them like objects, right? But I knew that other people actually are real, even when they don’t feel real. And I knew what it was like to be treated like objects. I didn’t want other people to feel like that, so I decided that part of growing up and being fully alive must include learning to see other people as real rather than as actors in my environment.

Probably around age 11 I started just watching people, trying to imagine what it must be like to be them. I would watch the way they reacted to things and think, “why did they have that reaction and not a different one?” After I became a committed Christian in early adolescence, I became more intentional about it. I’d pick out people who seemed the least real, the most scary or the least appealing and think about what it might be like to be them. I’d look for things to love about them. In the process, I learned to see people as real. And to this day, whenever I notice that they don’t seem real to me anymore, I make myself really look and think about and try to imagine loving them.

Of course, I wasn’t diagnosed with the dissociative disorder until the summer of 2014, so I didn’t know that the rest of y’all didn’t need to spend nearly so much time thinking about other people in order to remember that they are real. Apparently it’s happens instinctively and unconsciously for some people. Who knew? Thankfully, I was motivated by the teaching to love our enemies and the least to really work at dealing with the problem. And then some, because I am an American after all. If a little is good, more must be better. Continue reading

The Quiet Secret to Global Revolution

Well, look at me! Posting for the second day in a row. I told you I’d be back! 🙂

I actually have a guest post up at Dr. Chuck Crisco’s site that I wanted to invite y’all to go check out. It’s on a topic near and dear to my heart – overcoming the “us vs them” dualism of the past in order to embrace a more humane, holistic understanding of humanity as “just us”. I’m sharing the introduction below and I hope you’ll head on over to Chuck’s site to read the rest:

The Quiet Secret to Global Revolution: “Us vs Them” or “Just Us”

In talking with my fellow countrymen, it has become increasingly clear that there are two competing and seemingly irreconcilable mindsets at work in the conflicts being played out around us. On one side, you have people who see the world in terms of “us vs them” in which humanity is divided between those who are on our side and those who are not.  On the other are those who see the world in terms of “just us”, as in there is no “us vs them”, there is only a broad “us” which encompasses all of humanity. “Us vs them” thinkers see our differences as a cause for division, while “just us” thinkers seek to transcend our differences and recognize our deeper, shared humanity. READ ON . . .

Also, I am still collecting money to fund necessary surgery for a 14 year old Christian Pakistani who sustained serious injuries after being kidnapped and tortured by a man his father had a financial dispute with. I shared the story here yesterday. If you missed it, you can read it and find the link to make a donation here. 

Hope For the Human Race?

Back in 1973, the author EB White received a letter from a man who had written to him saying that he had lost hope in humanity. I’m not entirely sure why he’d chosen EB White to seek counsel from. But yesterday I read White’s response to him and I’m glad he did and I wanted to pass on a portion of his response to y’all. Because losing hope in humanity is a very easy thing to do and sometimes it’s good to get a bit of reassurance:

Sailors have an expression about the weather: they say, the weather is a great bluffer. I guess the same is true of our human society — things can look dark, then a break shows in the clouds, and all is changed, sometimes rather suddenly. It is quite obvious that the human race has made a queer mess of life on this planet. But as a people we probably harbor seeds of goodness that have lain for a long time waiting to sprout when the conditions are right. Man’s curiosity, his relentlessness, his inventiveness, his ingenuity have led him into deep trouble. We can only hope that these same traits will enable him to claw his way out.

The good we were created with, that lies beneath all the sin and error, is more powerful than we understand. We should never forget that.

You can read the entirity of the letter, along with some background and links to other interesting things over at Brainpickings. 

 

Who Are We? (Your Answer is Probably Wrong)

If a man mints many coins from one mould, they are all alike, but the Holy One, blessed be He, fashioned all men in the mould of the first man, and not one resembles the other. ~ Babylonian Talmud

I am not the first to say it, nor is this the first or last time I will say it, but one of the foundational errors of most Christian theology is that it begins with the fall of man rather than with our creation. When we start with the fall, we ground our identity and understanding of ourselves in sin and brokenness. And the Christian walk which comes out of this foundation is duly oriented to this sin and brokenness. But this is a grave error. The story of you and me and every human being ever doesn’t begin with the fall, but with an almost breath-taking premise: that we are made in the very image of God. This is reality. It is who we are. It is our true identity.

If we believe that we are defined by our sin and brokenness, then the claim that who we actually are is the very image of a mighty, loving God is absolutely scandalous. “Oh no,” we say, “I’m merely a sinner saved by grace. A lowly worm in whom there is no good thing. I am nothing and God is everything.” But go back and read your bible from the beginning. God’s purposes are clear and no where have they been changed or removed: “Let us make man in our own image.” If we are not in reality the very image of God, then God’s work has been destroyed, The enemy has stolen what belong to God and taken it for himself. God is not an all powerful, victorious God if we aren’t walking, talking, living, breathing images of God.

The problem we have – and which scripture makes clear – is that we do sin and others sin against us. Continue reading

Moving From “Me” to “We”

If you are an American Christian, odds are really, really good that at some point you have been told that as you read scripture, you should try inserting your name for the word “you” in parts of scripture where Israel or God’s people are being addressed. So, I could read, “Rebecca shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of her God. No longer will they call Rebecca Deserted, or name her land Desolate. But Rebecca will be called Hephzibah, and her land Beulah; for the LORD will take delight in Rebecca, and her land will be married.” (Isaiah 62:4) It’s not a terrible idea; sometimes we do need help personalizing scriptures and realizing that the love expressed applies to ourselves. Of course, if you do this, eventually you will end up with something like “Rebecca also took her beautiful jewels made of My gold and of My silver, which I had given her, and made for herself male images that she might play the harlot with them.” (Ezekial 16:17) Which is a little too personal maybe.

Now, if your pastors/teachers are any good at all, they have probably also taught you that in nearly all of the places where God speaks to “you” or even where Paul and Jesus address “you”, unless a specific person is being addressed, the word used indicates a plural you. So it’s more of a “y’all” than “you, Rebecca, sitting over there eating jelly beans.” This ought to be obvious as usually the word “you” is being used to address the nation of Israel or an entire church or the group of people being spoken to. But we Americans are notoriously hyper-individualistic. So with or without a anyone’s encouragement, we do tend to read scripture as if it were speaking to us individuals rather than to a collective group.

A while back, I became convicted that the hyper-individualistic programming of our culture isn’t compatible with Christianity. I matter as an individual, but I am also part of a larger body. My life is not for me alone, but for the good of God’s Kingdom – a Kingdom which encompasses all of creation. If I see my life and my faith as primarily about me, I am very much mistaken.

What I came to realize is that countering hyper-individualism isn’t just a matter of prioritizing social justice or even church fellowship. Rather hyper-individualism hides very deep truths about our identities, our purpose and even the meaning of our lives from us. Because the truth is that my life isn’t about “me”. My life and your life and the life of every other human on the planet is about “we”.

Now, that might sound like some new-agey, mumbo-jumbo, but it’s actually very deeply embedded in scripture. Continue reading