Friday, January 02, 2015

2-5-2008 spiritual warfare Part 3 part 4 commentary 8: besetting sins and the unintegrated self, a possible pivot point on the subject of spiritual warfare and secular psychotherapy

Then I ask them this, and this comes out of their homework: give me the two or three primary areas that are most troubling. If you want to deal with one thing, two things, three things, what's the big thing you wanna get rid of that's killing ya? What's the place we start? I start with the big issue rather than the little issue so that we can get off to a good start but they're not exhausted.

Now this may be the money quote if a person were to try to read into this Driscollian sprawl anything that might actually be useful if it were handled by someone else with a firmer grasp of theology on the one hand and psychological research on the other.  It is in this little moment that we have a window that might open up as to why people might go to someone like Driscoll, recurring problems dealing with besetting sin or a problem of anxiety.  Driscoll had at several points said that people only give demons authority to mess with them if they've been in unrepentant sin.

But how might we reframe this in a way that a secular reader might be able to appreciate?  Well, let's take a shot at this, that the common denominator in these anecdotes seemed to be that someone went to Driscoll with a lament, that there was something they could not integrate into their sense of self.  There were one or two things, maybe three, that could not be integrated into the counselee's self-perception as a Christian and it would seem to have been these things that spurred them to seek pastoral help.  The solution on offer was, in a word, a Christian identity more thoroughly integrated into the Mars Hill conception of Christian life, whether this entailed conforming more closely to Driscoll's advised roles and duties for men and women or on why not doing that might be bad, or approaches to other things.  Even though a case can be made from the Old Testament narrative literature that demonic attacks or spirits of chaos only tend to be released to act to punish wicked and self-serving Israelite rulers who arrogate authority in ways that harm the common good ... within Mars Hill there was in 2008 a push to have pastors consider demons more.  But what would that mean?

Practically speaking it seemed as though all references to demons could be explained in figurative and not necessarily literal terms.  IF a practicing Christian at Mars Hill had some part of his or her life that could not be integrated into an identity of "Christian" as defined within Mars Hill that could be the demon right there.  Whether the demon was alcohol abuse, chemical dependency, mental illness, or failing to conform to the sexual ethics and ethos of Mars Hill, it begins to seem as though the counseling sessions were a way to identify those points of failure.  The ways in which one's life and practice did not integrate with one's understanding of the self could be engaged.  A secular author could go so far as to suggest that the demons could be regarded as those things that can't be integrated into the sense of self that are figuratively and literally demonized by the subject in the process of confronting the crisis of realizing there is a part of one's life and practice that doesn't match the self-understanding. 

The way that the further integrated sense of self seems to have been arrived at (if it was arrived at) in the accounts of Mark Driscoll seems to have been a sense of self integrated by way of counsel given at Mars Hill.  Ostensibly making this all about Jesus the further integrated sense of self was mediated through the community of Mars Hill.  The pitfall here would obviously entail a risk that this integrated identity was predicated on social integration into Mars Hill.  But if the conflict or tension involved friends or family who were not part of Mars Hill and those outsiders were in any way implied as sources of demonic corruption then people might double down on isolation as an adaptive strategy.  This would seem to have anecdotally been borne out by people who have found that their family members who immersed themselves in Mars Hill culture began to identify them (i.e. the non-member family) in increasingly negative or even combative terms.  Was this in response to real problems in the relationship or problems perceived in the relationship only in the wake of an inculcation in Driscollian paradigms of male and female?

While those who received counsel at Mars Hill may have felt they benefited from a more integrated sense of self that they came to believe was more in keeping with what they understood to be a Christian identity, now that Mars Hill has dissolved and the constituent campuses are rebranding the end of the brand reveals, in some sense, an end of the identity.  People can no longer simultaneously be at a church that was once called Mars Hill and also identity either as still being part of Mars Hill proper (trademark/branding issues) or at a church that can no be considered in any direct way planted or co-planted by Mark Driscoll. 


One of the things that could be pointed out is that while many Christians subscribe to some form of the idea that secular psychology deals with some atomized less-than-whole person this is not a given.  The idea that psychology may not be of any help because there are competing schools of thought within psychology that account for human behavior is a canard.  Christians would not necessarily presume there's no value in Christian ethical teaching because synergists and monergists differe on the capacity of the believer to participate in the initial moment of conversion; or because Arminians and Calvinists differ from each other on these details in the ordo salutis here and there. 

And at ths risk of doing a Driscollian style prooftexting gambit, Ecclesiastes says it is good to lay hold of one without letting go of the other.  In actually Reformed contexts there's this notion of common grace that proposes that those who do not believe in Christ are capable of understanding true things about the world and the human condition because God has created the world in an orderly fashion.  By extension, knowledge of heuristics and shortcuts taken by the brain could help us understand the mistaken mental shortcuts we take to try to understand things. 

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