On June 5, 2017 I published a blog entitled: "On Becoming and Being Human."1 The essay closed with this statement, "Being human is not an accident of birth, but a matter of behavior." We modern humans are called Homo sapiens (intelligent man). There was a time when Homo sapiens existed at the same time as others of its genus. They are now extinct. Our nearest "relatives" in the genus Homo were: heidelbergensis, neanderthalensis, erectus, and floresiensis. If I am correct, there is a spectrum, or range, to human behavior, ranging from what is less human to more human. Since archaic Homo sapiens was inferior as a species when compared to modern Homo sapiens, the obvious conclusion is that there is always room for improvement in the humanity of the species. I will describe the lesser human as reflecting the archaic traits of the primitive still surviving in our species. The spectrum raises the question, how do we fully humanize the lesser human? The question seems reasonable, since there are those living among us who have behaved less human than humanity at its ideal best.
Modern society has developed institutional "treatments" for lesser human behavior in our species. For example, the penal system supposedly aims at the rehabilitation of inmates, those whose criminal behavior has necessitated their incarceration away from Homo sapiens' society at large. The goal of incarceration is to return them to society fully capable of following society's rules—in other words to "humanize" them, since their behavior previously was less than what we think of as ideally human. Society also recognizes that children need to be educated; that is, they should learn how to function and behave in human society. The public-school system in America is dedicated to the purpose of producing well-rounded human beings who will assume their places in society as responsible citizens. Both these institutions in modern society have the full support of Christian Churches as being necessary to society's wellbeing. In other words, the modern Christian Church, as a societal institution, has a vested interest in the humanization of society in the sense I have described it above. What the institutional church does in its religious educational programs is as much for the purpose of humanizing its members as it is for the purpose of religionizing them, since the ideal church member is also expected to be a responsible member of human society.
It might be surprising to learn that the idea of humanizing society had not occurred to Christians before the fourth century. The early Christians thought of themselves as already belonging to the "household of God" (Eph 2:12) rather than belonging to the present world, for that world was passing away (1 Cor 7:31). The time remaining to them had grown very short (1 Cor 7:29). They stood, they believed, at the very end of time, and hence the usual conventions of first-century society were no longer applicable (1 Cor 7:1-38). The end of the world was coming in their own lifetime (1 Thess 4:13-18; 1 Cor 10:11). Hence, they were not concerned with the betterment of human society. In fact, the Apostle Paul thought that even the created universe would need to be transformed to "be freed from its shackles of mortality" in order to "enter upon the glorious liberty of the children of God" (Rom 8:19-25, Revised English Bible).
The New Testament writers used a collective adjective to describe aspects of being human. A human being (a person) was an anthrōpos, and the adjective used to describe our species was anthrōpinos, "human" (1 Cor 2:13, 4:3, 10:13, Rom 6:19, James 3:7, Acts 17:25, 1 Pet 2:13). They never wrote, however, about humanizing an anthropos. In fact, their ancient texts do not even contain a word for "humanizing." The ancient Greeks, however, did have such a word. The word "to humanize" (exanthrōpizō) is used, for example, by Plutarch in a slightly different way than I have used it above. Plutarch described a humanizing of the divine: that is "degrading things divine to a human level."2 On the other hand, I am describing degrees in the quality of human behavior and am arguing for the need to humanize the lesser human as revealed by their negative behavior.
The earliest Christians, on the other hand, were primarily interested in divinizing the human. Here is how the author of 2 Peter puts it:
[God's] divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Thus he has given us, through these things, his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust, and may become participants of the divine nature (2 Pet 1:3-4 NRSV).
The Revised English Bible translates the italicized phrase above this way "and may come to share in the very being of God."
Only the most conservative of religious groups have retained the intense end-time expectation. The more moderate have adjusted to life in this world and explain the delay in the end as the author of Second Peter does: the end is delayed because of the "forbearance of the Lord, not wishing that any should perish" (2 Pet 3:3-10). Folks, this little blue and white planet so far as anyone knows is the only place in the universe that can sustain life, we had better get serious in caring for it and helping the lesser humans among us to achieve their full potential as human beings. This planet is all we have. And in my view a planet in the hand is worth two heavens in the mind.
Missouri State University
1Hedrick, "From the Jesus Tradition: On Becoming and Being Human," Unmasking Biblical Faiths. The Marginal Relevance of the Bible for Contemporary Religious Faith (Cascade: Eugene, OR, 2019), 57-58; see also, "On Being Human in the Contemporary World," ibid., 55-56.
2"Isis and Osiris" in F. C. Babbit, Plutarch's Moralia (Loeb Classical Library, 1962), 5.55-56 (360). Plutarch (AD 46 to after 119) was a philosopher and priest of Apollo at the God's cult center in Delphi, Greece.
What a monumental task you've laid before us!!! And all of this stuff needs to be considered within the nature/nurture influence continuum and the pro-social/anti-social behavioral continuum. Just think how many millions are caught at level 1.
"Psychologist Abraham Maslow (1943, 1954) stated that human motivation is based on people seeking fulfillment and change through personal growth. Self-actualized people are those who were fulfilled and doing all they were capable of...The original five-stage model included 1-4, 7, published in 1943
1. Biological and physiological needs - air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep, etc.
2. Safety needs - protection from elements, security, order, law, stability, freedom from fear.
3. Love and belongingness needs - friendship, intimacy, trust, and acceptance, receiving and giving affection and love. Affiliating, being part of a group (family, friends, work).
4. Esteem needs - which Maslow classified into two categories: (i) esteem for oneself (dignity, achievement, mastery, independence) and (ii) the desire for reputation or respect from others (e.g., status, prestige).
5. Cognitive needs - knowledge and understanding, curiosity, exploration, need for meaning and predictability.
6. Aesthetic needs - appreciation and search for beauty, balance, form, etc.
7. Self-actualization needs - realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences. A desire “to become everything one is capable of becoming”(Maslow, 1987, p. 64).
8. Transcendence needs - A person is motivated by values which transcend beyond the personal self (e.g., mystical experiences and certain experiences with nature, aesthetic experiences, sexual experiences, service to others, the pursuit of science, religious faith, etc.).
I was also thinking along of the lines of Maslow yesterday when I read the blog. I had a high school student in the seventies who “misbehaved” constantly in the mornings. I made a home visit – we did those things in the seventies, in the early days of PL 94-192 – had to watch my step to avoid stepping through the rotting porch, to be met by his grandmother, his guardian. I went inside, where there was no electricity, no plumbing. As soon as I realized what my middle classed mind considered utter poverty, I made arrangements with the principal of the (attached) middle school for the student to eat lunch with the middle schoolers, two hours earlier. (This was before schools began breakfast programs.) I also worked with Voc. Rehab. to get him on a work study program after school so he could earn some money. His misbehaviors disappeared. It wasn’t a matter of him being a “lesser human” because he didn’t abide by the code of conduct. The starving don’t focus on studies; their needs are more important. Because of the endemic poverty in rural Georgia, his basic needs were not being met. “Humanizing society,” learning codes of conduct is irrelevant on an empty stomach.
With large segments of industry collapsing, especially on the local level here (small businesses, hospitality industry, etc.), folks losing health insurance, their homes, their livelihoods, certain callous politicians suing to get rid of the ACA 20 million which provides insurance to about 20 million, this has and will continue to have an obvious effect on the basic needs of the country. When basic needs are not met, other needs in Maslow’s hierarchy can not be met. One can neither put a “plastic strip” bandage over a pandemic nor wish it away. When one’s life is at risk daily, survival undermines cultural and societal norms, making them largely irrelevant, certainly compressing the “distance” between being lesser or more “human,” which is defined generally by those with a full tummy whose rules are made in order to preserve their full tummy.
Dennis Dean Carpenter
By “humanizing” do you mean to attribute human characteristics to? Is there a difference between “humanizing” and “civilizing”? If so, what are those differences? Are they driven by culture or biology? Are they corporal or spiritual, or if you prefer, mental? Are they manifested only by behavior? No answers, just some random questions. Interesting topic!
Good Morning Gene,
I was introduced to Maslow's model back in the 60s in training classes with the LA county Probation Dept during my Probation Officer days 1965-78. It certainly puts a different slant on human behavior.
Thanks for providing us with his expanded list.
Thanks, Dennis, for sharing this experience from your teacher days. Your response to the young man's basic needs enabled him to make progress toward realizing his full potential as a human being. Did you continue to follow his progress for awhile after he left your class?
All humans are Homo sapiens but not all Homo sapiens act humanely--that is, some act in accord with the baser aspects of their human nature. In that sense they are less human--that is they are not acting in accord with the higher aspects of their human nature.
Good morning Marcia,
Thanks for weighing in. I use the term "humanizing" to describe helping those who act in accord with the baser aspects of their human nature to make progress toward realizing the higher aspects of human nature. I do not mean making people more civil, although I consider civility one of the higher aspects of human nature.
I discuss these issues more completely in the essays listed in footnote one in the present blog essay. What I mean by higher aspects of human nature is best stated in the essay: "From the Jesus Tradition: On Becoming and Being Human," which can be found online as a blog entry and in a later edited form in a print version in Unmasking Biblical Faiths, pages 57-58.
No, Charlie, that was at the beginning of my career and I changed to another district I think the next year, didn’t keep in touch with any of the high school teachers.
I see “human nature” as having one goal: Survival. Whether it develops into what could be referred to as “lesser” or “higher” (somewhat variable, depending on the culture) has to do with *how* we develop certain characteristics, like self-awareness, perception of others, ability to use and interpret language (verbal and non-verbal), environmental/social factors, stereotyping, and so forth. Even if those characteristics are developed, depending on behaviors that have been reinforced, they can be lesser (for the "bad") or greater (for the "good" of society). (Perception of others can turn to aggression, stereotyping to racism, self-awareness to insults, etc.)
The point I was making was that it is difficult to conform to societal rules (the “higher nature”) if one is constantly hungry, sick, homeless, not satisfying basic survival goals.
Dennis Dean Carpenter
Good Evening Charlie,
"On the other hand, I am describing degrees in the quality of human behavior and am arguing for the need to humanize the lesser human as revealed by their negative behavior."
1) I re-read the passage you referenced from pp. 57-58 from Unmasking Biblical Faiths... How does one turn fellow human beings into more unconditionally loving creatures? Any examples of this accomplishment being performed by the church or any other organized group? What's the word you used- humanizing them? Can you provide an example of someone you know being sufficiently humanized by the church?
2) Who are these lesser humans you seem to be so bothered by- and how is the quality of your life affected by them? Is your ability to live peacefully and prosperously hampered by the lesser humans around you? Is your home being invaded by them?
3) Human suffering is something we've all experienced and the desire to help those who are suffering is very noble and commendable. As you know, miserable people not only create suffering for themselves but for those around them. Suffering doesn't make us less human. At the same time, we can't help everyone... Only those who are open to being helped. No church or government has ever been able to change the behavior of a human being who wishes to do harm or live in a negative state. We can only change ourselves.
Going around complaining about the behavior of lesser humans accomplishes nothing except to elevate your own superior status... If you can explain how to humanize other people by forcing them to change their behavior, I'd love to hear how it's done. Dennis gave a good example of reaching out to another human and accepting their circumstances without judgment. My husband did the same thing when he worked for the state of Missouri counseling "juvenile delinquents." He went to their homes and saw the environment they came from and saw the challenges they lived with. By walking in another person's shoes and seeing life from their perspective- you may not always succeed in humanizing them... But you'll go long way towards becoming a better human being yourself. Many thanks, Elizabeth
I did go back and look at your previous blog entry, Charlie. This is interesting to me because I happen to be reading “at” several things right now that focus on love, friendship, altruism and civilized behavior. In her novel, “What are You Going Through, Sigrid Nunez quotes Simone Weil, “The love of our neighbor in all its fullness simply means being able to say to him, ‘What are you going through?’”
In “Holy Chaos: Creating Connections in Divisive Times,” Amanda Henderson writes of the necessity of making oneself vulnerable in order to build relationships with others, especially those with whom we disagree, whether it concerns family life, politics, religion, all the ways in which we interact with others.
I’m also finally getting around to reading Steven Pinker’s, “The Better Angels of Our Nature,” and it seems especially apropos. As you probably know, Pinker’s premise is that violence has declined precipitously through the ages, and especially so in western society since the Middle Ages, and he backs this up with impressive documentation and statistics. He attributes this to several factors: the consolidation of thousands of political units and the rise of larger states with central governing bodies after centuries of anarchy; mechanized warfare and defining murder as a crime against the king, both of which took vengeance out of the hands of the individual; and especially, an economic revolution from a zero-sum economy based on land to one that recognized a division of labor and the economic value of live trading partners, as well as the rise of a monied economy. For these changes to be successful, Pinker writes, people had to learn to exercise and value self-control and cooperative behavior.
If we look back at medieval art, most of which was religious in nature, it is full of blood and terror and threats of eternal damnation, so I don’t think the church can take much credit for the change in human behavior. I emphasize “behavior,“ because it happened too quickly to be called a change in human nature, and maybe that’s why we still deal with some of the same problems; biological evolution takes a long time.
According to Michael Wear, author of “Reclaiming Hope,” Martin Luther King’s quote, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” was a ”spiritual truth,” not a political statement. But I’m with you, Charlie, I don’t think we’re supposed to sit around and wait for the Second Coming.
I’m reminded of Dio Chrysostom’s “Oration 48,” written in the late first, early second century. Using the analogy of how bees and ants work together for the concord of order within their society, he states, “Is it not disgraceful, then, as I was saying, that humans should be more unintelligent than wild creatures which are so tiny and unintelligent?” Those who are not able to progress beyond the biological and safety needs, as described by Maslow and others, are those whose needs must be met by society and moral responsibility, if the society is to remain. Remaining insensitive, even callous to the peril of others is unconscionable.
Dennis Dean Carpenter
for calling our attention to these four authors. I will get a copy of Steven Pinker's book. It sounds like something I should read.
Good Morning Elizabeth,
1) As a matter of fact I can tell you of one person who was changed through the influence of the church: The Rev. Thomas Walker. In high school where I knew him he was a known bully, but later found religion and became a minister. He is one reason that I still believe in God.
2) A lesser human being is every person whose behavior can be described as inhumane, since human nature possesses the capacity for humane behavior.
3)If we can only change ourselves, why do we bother with public education?
In response to Thomas Walker and "bothering" with public education... Are you familiar with the phrase "You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink?" Providing the opportunity for growth and transformation is the extent to which we can humanize other people. Why isn't that enough to satisfy your righteous standards? What more do you want to be done- and why aren't you doing it? Elizabeth
When looking at how “lesser” and “more” “human” extends to morality, I have found Kohlberg’s stages of moral reasoning helpful. Level One, pre-conventional morality, is oriented toward pleasure, away from pain, cost versus benefit (of behavior) and the reciprocity of an “eye for eye” mentality. Level Two, conventional morality, is oriented toward gaining acceptance, approval, and following rules. Level, Three, principled morality, promotes society’s welfare, achieving justice and transcending social norms. Stated another way, in Level One is self-centered, the one who would break or follow the rules to promote his or her agenda , Level Two would include those who follow the rules to gain approval, centered around acceptance, and Level Three would include those who break with social norms to fight injustice and centered around improving society. Though most people seem to be at perhaps the lower stage of Level Two, examples of One and Three are easily found in the USA these days.
Dennis Dean Carpenter
Dennis, thanks for the Kohlberg lesson, had forgotten about him. As long as we're doing developmental theories, might as well look at Erickson's theory of psycho/social development. I used him in my master's thesis to get a read on the maturity level of folks who volunteered for a community 24-hour telephone helpline.
Infancy (birth to 18 months) // Trust vs. Mistrust // Feeding //Hope
Early Childhood (2 to 3 years) // Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt // Toilet Training // Will
Preschool (3 to 5 years) // Initiative vs. Guilt // Exploration // Purpose
School Age (6 to 11 years) // Industry vs. Inferiority // School // Confidence
Adolescence (12 to 18 years) // Identity vs. Role Confusion // Social Relationships // Fidelity
Young Adulthood (19 to 40 years) // Intimacy vs. Isolation // Relationships // Love
Middle Adulthood (40 to 65 years) // Generativity vs. Stagnation // Work and Parenthood // Care
Maturity (65 to death) // Ego Integrity vs. Despair // Reflection on Life // Wisdom
Thanks for introducing me to Kohlberg and his stages of moral development. I did find an essay on line critical of his research, however: https://www. simplypsychology.org/Kohlberg.html
I've been struggling with your phrase "lesser human" all week, trying to figure out what troubles me about it.
Thinking it over, we're all lesser humans, falling short of our potential, having blind spots and causing hurt. We all need to receive help and give help, I think, not because one is a lesser human than the other, but because we're just all human. We really don't know how much control we have over matters: is X the way he/she is because of nurturing advantages/deficits or because of hereditary advantages/deficits, or because of free choice decisions, and so forth. Does one seek to be a helper because of egocentrism or because of altruistic impulses.
I don't see any way to claim the high road for oneself and accuse the other guy of a lower road. That doesn't mean that the structure of society doesn't require legal boundaries.
Hi again Charlie,
I don't consider myself a particularly "PC" person, but I have to admit that I am not comfortable with the term lesser human. In fact, it's quite offensive and would not be tolerated by decent society. We just don't use those terms anymore- there are other ways to describe inhumane/negative behavior... Behaving in an inhumane manner does not make one a lesser human.
Erickson's theory of psycho/social development, Kohlberg's stages of moral development, Dio Chrysostom's Oration 48, and the many other enlightening books mentioned here can be helpful tools in the process of humanizing human beings. They do have their place in schools, libraries, churches, universities, and other centers of learning and training... For certain segments of society, that is. However, the young men at the Northwest Missouri Regional Youth Center who committed rape, drug deals, murder, theft, and assault would not be changed or transformed by reading those old fashioned books.
Oudated antique books are interesting and delightful to peruse (and I do collect them avidly, as I've stated in previous blogs) but technology has given people many other tools with which to reach humans who are suffering and in need of humanizing. Churches and schools have certain limitations and mostly teach a bunch of behavioral rules. If you don't transform a person from the inside out- all the rules in the world are meaningless. In order to be transformed on the inside, there has to be an openness and a willingness to change. For most human beings, their most effective spiritual teacher in this evolutionary transformational process is suffering... Suffering deepens you because it erodes the ego. Suffering can change you for the better or it can change you for the worse.
Here are some new spiritual teachers whose tools and techniques are amazingly effective in humanizing society... But most Christians would shy away from them because they immediately because they are afraid of the label "New Age:"
1) Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len and the miracle of Ho'oponopno... He wrote a book called Zero Limits. He healed a ward of criminally insane inmates and the facility was closed down because they were all released for good behavior.
2) Eckhart Tolle is teaching an on-line seminar right now called "Being the Light" and is my personal favorite spiritual teacher.
3) Byron Katie has a wonderful workshop, seminar, and school called "The Work." Her teachings are incredible in my opinion.
4) Abraham Hicks is an astounding teacher who has tons of videos on YouTube and is another favorite of mine. I like her interactive style in which she answers questions from the audience and it's unscripted and extremely uplifting and enlightening.
5) Sadhguru is a Yogi from India who is by far the most popular spiritual teacher in today's modern world. I don't mind that he is Hindu- doesn't bother me. He reachers young people in the millions and humanizes them far more powerfully and effectively than any moralistic, old fashioned church preacher I've ever seen... But I doubt anyone here would pay any attention to a mystic Yogi. It's a shame because he's so funny and quick witted and wise... and college students LOVE him. His teachings are more relevant today than anything I see in Christian bookstores.
All of these teachers have wonderful videos on YouTube if you are interested in a more modern up-to-date way of humanizing planet earth than conventional Christian teachings. Elizabeth Holmes in STILL Dry St. Louis
1) I don't know if I referenced this fact or not regarding the Missouri youth correctional facility- but the reason I mentioned those young men was because my husband worked there for several years right after he graduated from Missouri State. It was his first job out of college and it was quite a shock for him to find himself literally treating an open gunshot wound just weeks after being hired there.
2) I also forgot to mention Sadhguru's on-line and in person course called "Inner Engineering" which teaches people how to engineer their own well being rather than seeking it from outside sources such as drugs or alcohol or other negative practices. He has teaching centers both in the US and in India. Inner Engineering is a modern approach to humanizing the population.
Good Morning Elizabeth,
I hope you guys get some rain soon.
Thanks for the names of the spiritual teachers you have followed. I will check them out. But as an aside I looked up all four on the internet asking about their academic training or curriculum vitae (where I always begin with anyone I do not know). I found nothing.
I am not much interested in spirituality (Christian or otherwise). It is a world from which I escaped over the years. I authored an essay on "Is it possible to be Spiritual without being Religious." Pages 290-292 in Unmasking Biblical Faiths, which may help to understand where I am coming from on the subject.
But do you agree that some of us in the human family seem to have a finer sense of what it means to be human than others--by means of whatever standard you wish to apply?
Your question seems too broad. By the standard attributed to Jesus no one, or very very few, are human: "love your enemies." Are some humans more socialized than others - sure. Do some have more courage than others - yes. Are some more charitable with their possessions - of course. But I must ask, again, without sure knowledge of how one comes by those attributes so they can be replicated, we seem to be dealing in minimally helpful abstractions.
You're right about my awareness and interest in the New Age spiritual teachers - it's practically zero, not because of their deficits, but I'm simply not attracted to their teachings and strategies when I've listened to there presentations. I see it as people gravitating to what each finds helpful. Now being a Hindu Swami my brother would be interested particularly in the teachings and practices associated with the ancient practices of Yoga and its contemporary adaptations. From my time as a child my "inner life" has been "engineered" by the life of Jesus. That has satisfied me sufficiently that I'm not inclined to look elsewhere. I certainly would want every human being to find inner fulfillment that maximizes their outer contributions to humanity.
I disagree that all fall short of their potential, however one would define "potential" and measure it in one's life. Another problem is whether potential is measured by the person being measured or those who would judge the person.
Dennis Dean Carpenter
Thank you Charlie and Gene!
Charlie, many thanks for sharing your opinion with us that academic centers of higher education and religious seminaries are the only way to humanize our fellow citizens. People do enjoy reading your opinions and judgments regarding the state of humanity- supporting data would be helpful in legitimizing your opinion that only academically trained minds are qualified to humanize these pesky creatures we call human beings. If you have any data to support the reasons organized religious teachers are more superior and more qualified than a "self-centered" lowly spiritual teacher, this would be an excellent opportunity share documented accounts of changed behavior with all of us. (I am assuming the difference between a spiritual teacher and a religious teacher is a matter of certified credentials- correct me if I am mistaken) The example you provided of Thomas Walker lacked any detail and did not prove that his transformation was solely based upon academically trained teachers and preachers.
Today's generation is looking for another path. Your biased opinion of today's spiritual teachers is appreciated and understood, especially in light of your personal history and training.
Gene, please do not feel like I am "pushing" these teachers onto anyone who reads the comments here... Just mere suggestions. In fact, all of the people I listed actually do teach from the Bible and Jesus in their messages and platforms... They may have different interpretations and applications of his message, of course. So I hope I didn't come across as trying to indoctrinate anyone- just letting others know that the stale church message is not always the most helpful way to humanize the planet.
To get personal, I have had a long history of struggling with anxiety disorder and in recent years have started having panic attacks. I cannot even explain how frightening they are. Traditional Christian prayer and counseling did nothing to help this affliction, nor did modern psychology or medicine. And in fact made it worse. I began to seek other paths because I was suffering so intensely- as millions of Christians and non-Christians are with this malady. The teachers I listed above helped me more than any Christian doctor or priest or counselor, and I have had dramatically less panic attacks in recent months, thankfully.
Did these uncredentialed, unaccredited spiritual teachers have a "finer sense of what it means to be human?" No they did not- they just know how to help people without judging. That's why churches are growing smaller and spiritual centers are growing bigger... We pesky human beings also know how to judge. We judge the results of the teachings from our elders and betters and we gravitate towards the ones who are most helpful, as you wisely stated. That's why Jesus was hated by the Pharisees- no credentials and no authority to heal... Like me, the people who were humanized and healed didn't care what his training was. We judge by the results and the results speak for themselves. Elizabeth
Charlie, do you have an answer to Gene's response that your question is too broad? I think we're all trying to figure out who are you referring to when you speak those in need of humanizing. Inhumane behavior can mean a lot of different things- are you speaking of criminals? Or boorish social media trolls? Police brutality? Antifa? BLM rioters and looters? Put differently- can you name a single person on this planet who does NOT need to be "humanized?" Elizabeth
It makes sense to me. I understood it when you wrote, "I will describe the lesser human as reflecting the archaic traits of the primitive still surviving in our species." That's why I think theories of social & emotional development are important in the discussion, especially when looking at society, with its many cultures, as a whole, which has life or death ramifications as either a positive or negative force on the planet. Makes sense to me! Whereas Maslow speaks to the reality of needs, both Kohlberg and Erikson speak to the primitive "self" which doesn't see beyond the nose, much less the planet. (Gene, I focused on Erikson's resolutions which deal with perception or lack of, and the "self-indulgent concerns," which lead to inadequate resolutions.)
Dennis Dean Carpenter
I didn't feel pushed at all by your comments. There have been at least three or four times in my life, especially when younger that I sought out help with a psychologist. I didn't think of myself as a "lesser human" but a "troubled human," but I was probably saved from making some pretty bad decisions that would have put a black mark on some segments, however small, of humanity. I'm pretty sure that no one resource can take care of every felt need. Even Jesus couldn't substitute at those times for an empathic insightful psychological helper!
Since all humans still retain the archaic traits of the primitive in our species, then Charlie is therefore stating we all need humanizing. Of course, if there are humans among us who do not still retain these archaic traits, please reveal to us their identities. Are you one of these enlightened humans Charlie? I know I'm not!! I'm a work in progress- just ask my husband ;-) Elizabeth
Thank you Gene, that's why I appreciate your book so much about the Attitudes of Jesus and the fact that it's not a bunch of rules and do's and don'ts... And you are 100% correct that no one resource can take care of every felt need- very true!! Elizabeth
PS: One resource that helps my anxiety struggle is a website called AnxietyCentre.com. It explains what happens to the physical body when it becomes hyper stimulated by stress hormones and how it affects the nervous system and endocrine system. Just knowing that alone helps me to stay calm during a panic attack. That's not the only resource I utilize, but it's definitely one of the most helpful ones I've ever discovered.
(I'm assuming that Charlie equates as one and the same the two terms: *archaic traits* and *negative behavior.* And if there happens to be any human alive who does not display negative behavior from time to time, that would qualify as a miracle in my estimation.) Elizabeth
There is a whole field of psychology (developmental psychology) devoted to human development. Education uses developmental theory when it plans standards and incorporates them into curriculum, so yes indeed, the "humanizing" is important in any society. I was also thinking specifically of primitive and archaic behaviors like murder, robbery, rape, and other crimes against which run counter to societal stability, as well as culturally primitive values some societies cling to, like a patriarchal worldview and injustice, generally based on a "pecking order" of the dominant culture over other groups within the society.
Dennis Dean Carpenter
I’ve never thought of as “church” being a place where psychological problems are counseled. It must be something that has sprung up in the last half century in some sects to reinvigorate the dying church. (I haven’t attended in 50 years.) Christianity has been traditionally concerned with dying and the hereafter, not with living and the “here now,” except the sects that put the social gospel attributed to Jesus into practice, largely in the 19th c. Though the Roman Catholic church still practices exorcism, “directed at the expulsion of demons or to the liberation from demonic possession...” they consider “psychological illness” as “the concern of medical science” (Catechism 1673, Ratzinger’s update). Certainly, if a church claims to relieve psychological disorders, it is malpractice. It is like going to an auto shop to get a heart valve replaced or the hospital to get one’s car tuned up. That is much the same as I see searching for an Internet “specialist” without educational qualifications to seek psychological help. Aside from the visibility from the Internet (thus building their "business"), they don’t even have to be licensed.
Suzi Elliott has an excellent article which appeared in The Fourth R about pseudo-scholarship. Though it deals with biblical scholarship, I think it is applicable to all professional areas with the un-credentialed “practitioners.” It’s available at this address:
Dennis Dean Carpenter
In the third sentence, "against" should have had "others," after it.
The Bible has many scriptures referring to healing of physical and emotional afflictions. Why wouldn't a suffering human being go to church and seek healing? Is that an unheard of concept? In my situation I sought both- spiritual healing from Christian psychologists and traditional medicine from a medically licensed doctor. (The Christian psychologist I consulted holds a PhD in psychology and also a PhD in theology.) The doctors whose credentials checked all the appropriate boxes yielded less than satisfactory results. I don't need permission seek information and help from whatever source I can find. I don't limit myself to Christianity or to traditional medicine. How is it malpractice for a church (or a Yogi) to offer liberation from anxiety and emotional suffering? What else is a church supposed to offer? Pain? Yes, churches are indeed dying because people want to live free of emotional pain and suffering now- not in the hereafter. There are many people seeking to be healed- and some do indeed find it at church. I didn't.
Can emotional healing only come from a licensed doctor?? Why?
Good Morning Elizabeth,
You have understood me correctly that where health is concerned (mental, physical, emotional, or spiritual)I prefer to consult someone who has a proven record on success in the area in which I am consulting. Ways of doing that are viewing academic credentials if any (I always read what diplomas a person has on the wall), work experience (if available), curriculum vitae (i.e., course of life--i.e. what have they been doing before they came to the responsible position they now hold), and advice of trusted friends.
And you are correct that I am basically suspicious of virtually all religionists and self-proclaimed religious teachers and spiritual advisors. Particularly in the area of religion there are far too many opportunities for malpractice. Caution is always the better part of wisdom. One should rely on human reason in evaluating anyone who wants to provide spiritual or religious advice.
Charlie, when traditional medicine fails to treat anxiety disorder and panic attacks... Is it unreasonable to find a method of coping that works? You seem to have the opinion that your view of religionists and self proclaimed religious teachers and spiritual advisors is the only correct view. It's just your own biased perspective. There's room for other approaches, other points of view, and other ways of finding healing and relief from panic attacks. Please read my response to Dennis. Your belief that "One should rely on human reason in evaluating anyone who wants to provide spiritual or religious advice" is a valid belief... But it's only a belief, it is not a fact.
I found healing from panic attacks from a spiritual teacher led by inspiration and intuition- not from human reason. I'm not suggesting this for anyone else, just that it worked for me. My beliefs are not the only correct beliefs and neither are anyone else's.
Many thanks, Elizabeth
Yeah, they sure can get those demons out! And, that of course is the difference. Their "Word of God" attributes disease to the disfavor of God or the incursion of evil spirits, generally the latter when speaking of behaviors. I have known many Christians with doctorates, grew up in a college town, but none that practiced psychology from the point of view of Christianity. A few taught Sunday School, but none I knew commanded the unclean spirits into pigs, who then committed suicide (Mark 5). Not even close. That is biblical psychology in action!
I remember one faith healer in particular. All you had to do was put your hand to the screen (and send a love offering) and one could see the demons streaming out the chimney! Generic healing, right on the tube, regardless of the situation. Maybe not a you tube, but a tube, nevertheless. Faith healers, churches practicing "psychology" based on a worldview totally discredited, Internet self help salesmen... It's all the same. As a good friend told me, "Even a placebo effect is an effect."
Dennis Dean Carpenter
Forgive me for being dense, but could you elaborate further about demonic possession? What a fascinating subject that seems to be quite familiar to you... What caused you to become obsessed with demons? Sadly, I know nothing about it nor did the Christian psychologist I consulted. Bringing the subject of demons into the conversation is quite thrilling- would you mind sharing your experience with demons? We look forward to learning what demonic possession has to do with my anxiety disorder or with emotional healing.
"I have known many Christians with doctorates, grew up in a college town, but none that practiced psychology from the point of view of Christianity. A few taught Sunday School, but none I knew commanded the unclean spirits into pigs, who then committed suicide (Mark 5)." Who you personally know or do not know regarding the practice of psychology is yet another fascinating topic... I'm sure you've met many doctors and had lots of discussions about pigs and demons and suicide. Thank you for sharing that information because no one in my treatment of anxiety disorder/ panic attacks has ever mentioned the word demon and tried to tell me I was demonically possessed. But I'll take that into consideration the next time a panic attack ensues... And I'll be sure to keep an eye out for those maniacal pigs running around and hopefully steer them away from a giant cliff. And I will also pass along your nugget of wisdom that all Christian psychologists have a discredited worldview to the doctor I saw... What's your address so I can refer him to a higher authority where he can obtain a correct worldview? (I'd like a correct worldview as well, so be sure to send me a copy too!) Thank you so much, Elizabeth
The point is that Christianity is not equipped to handle mental illness any more than car dealerships, “faith healers” or un-credentialed practitioners . (Even, as I cited earlier, the Roman Catholic Church understands this.) If a “Christian doctor” is using best practices of psychology, that is secular, not biblical. Most doctors I have known are able to compartmentalize their faith from their practice. It is intellectually dishonest not to do this. The gods are not involved in the cure. Or the disease. Yet, I read somewhere that a large percentage of evangelical Christians consider mental illness as caused by sin, which blames the victim, the sufferer. That is odious.
From what I read about anxiety disorders, and from what I saw in a couple of students, it seems that behavioral strategies might be beneficial. (That is because the symptoms are intense physiological arousal without a specific circumstance, like for example a phobia.)
Dennis Dean Carpenter
I would pretty much agree with everything you've said Dennis. I would add that any positive relationship can have a powerful positive effect. Helping someone draw upon their potential for positive relationships is a great therapy tool. The best families, whether or not they are always available, provide this insulation against the slings and arrows of the world.
Very true. Christianity is most definitely not equipped to handle mental illness or emotional disorders. However a lot has changed in the fifty years since you attended church. (I don't know what denomination you attended) Many churches "sell" the idea that scripture can heal you of anxiety... "Cast all your cares and anxiety on me" They told me that if I prayed that scripture and had faith that I would be free of anxiety. It's a tricky complicated web of mixing up medical and religious instruction. Many many churches teach that prayer heals everything. Yes, as a young (and not so young) woman I bought into it.... And I'm now living the consequences of that misguided thinking. Behavioral strategies have indeed helped me tremendously such as avoiding alcohol. I'm not even close to being a heavy drinker but even one glass of wine can trigger a panic attack. Stress hormones really mess up the body's ability to regulate the natural rhythms and functions that I used to take for granted. And I hope anyone who may be reading this will be encouraged that there is help out there and there is light at the end of the tunnel. Elizabeth
I do not think that licensed therapists or people with terminal degrees in their field are the only ones who can help those in need, whatever the need. I know enough about my own field to know that some who have successfully completed difficult courses of study are not necessarily the most competent in the practice of what they have studied. That is equally true of others who are self taught. All I am trying to say, and apparently not very well, is caveat emptor (buyer beware). In other words, one should carefully evaluate those from whom they seek advice/help. One should listen carefully to what one is told and use common sense in acting on the advice that has been offered. Human reason is a better guide for accomplishing this critique than blind faith or credulity.
Yes thank you Charlie, I agree. I do admit that when the suffering gets to a certain point, you're much more willing to "think outside the box" of socially accepted norms and credentials. "Words don't teach- only life experience teaches." My own common sense and personal life experience led me to a different path than what someone such as yourself (and your own personal common sense) would choose to take. Spiritual teachers don't make any sense to you, so of course their teachings would have no validity because their lack of proper credential automatically disqualifies them from speaking to you- regardless of what they have to say. Since I'm open to trying different paths, I have received a huge benefit in my life from very unlikely sources that I myself would never have considered ten or twenty years ago. Elizabeth
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