'The following are the last three paragraphs of an insightful post written by Frank Schaeffer. Frank is the son of Francis and Edith Schaeffer who were both Evangelical leaders in the 70's and 80's. Both were instrumental in the rise of the right wing Christian political movement, as was Frank--especially in the rise of the vehement pro life movement. Today Frank is one of the Christian right's most astute critics. In many ways his personal story illustrates spiritual progression and just how difficult that progression can be in that it really does set up a war in one's mind between faith, reason, and observations about the real world.
The solution to that mental war is either to move on or to practice a rather vicious form of denial. This denial is usually given vent by projecting the conflict onto and into 'others'. Frank explains this process very well in the following:
The history of theology (Christian or otherwise) is the history of people desperately trying to fit the way things actually are into the way their holy books says they should be. And since the holy books -- if taken literally -- are filled with backward nonsense, something has to give.
What "gives" is decency, compassion, honesty and truth. Result? Some people do what my mother and dad did, spend a lot of time making excuses for God. The other result is the congenital sneakiness of fundamentalist religion pretending that it is more enlightened than it is or ever can be. Roman Catholic medieval dogma is rechristened as "Natural Law" and Creationism is re-baptized as "Intelligent Design," Islam calls the oppression of women the "protection of women" and so on. Proposition 8 in California is presented as something to "protect children" and so forth.
Why do religious fundamentalists hate "sinners" (in other words anyone not like them)? Answer: because otherwise they would have to blame God following the logic of their own theology. They have to say gay men and women chose to be gay or that the disaster in Haiti was "caused" by the Haitians themselves. They must say this because otherwise -- according to the logic of their own ideas -- they must blame God, for instance, for gay men and women even existing!
The past week or so has given Catholics plenty of opportunity to see this process at work in the Vatican. Cardinal Sconborn's truthful evaluation of Cardinal Sodano's behavior became an issue of Schonborn's insubordination. In papal 'logic' it made perfect sense in Benedict's mind to tell us that only the pope can criticize a cardinal. In doing this, Benedict absolves himself of really dealing with Sodano because Benedict the Pope did not make such observations and only he can. It was just totally wrong of Schonborn to make such statements about Sodano. The whole sad story has absolutely nothing to do with the real actions of Cardinal Sodano in the real world and everything to do with Cardinal Schonborn's violation of the rules in Benedict's fantasy world.
The same kind of thinking is operative in Benedict's creation of a new commission to Evangelize the west. The need for this solution is not that some of the intellectual fantasy he holds as truth is at fault, it absolutely has to be that the reality of the Western world view is at fault. Benedict is incapable it seems, of blaming the Church or God (equated in his mind) for the fact the West no longer sees reality the way the traditional church sees reality. It has to be the fault of society because other wise the whole house of cards comes tumbling down. It always has to be the 'others' fault when religious fantasy collides with reality. "Othering" is absolutely necessary defense mechanism when attempting to maintain faith fantasies.
The Phoenix abortion case is exhibit number one of how decency, compassion, honesty, and truth are sacrificed in order to uphold an illogical teaching. A reasonable person will not accept that it is better to let two people die to uphold an absolute teaching. When the truth is the fetus can not live, but the mother can, reasonable people will not throw compassion and decency out the window for the sake of a teaching based in an unknowable fantasy about when ensoulment occurs. For a believer like Bishop Olmstead however, it is absolutely necessary to uphold the reality of the fantasy because to do other wise starts chipping at the very foundation of his 'faith'.
The truth is, it's really not Olmstead's version of Catholic faith which is the fundamental issue. It's the fear generated by his ego. It's not God whose truth is at stake. What's at stake is one of the core foundations of Olmstead's ego construct. Ego, or the self aware sense of I, literally takes on a life of it's own. It's 'life' can actually become more important than biological life itself.
One of the traits of the left brain is it's ability to generate ideas specifically designed to protect the ego construct. It can be very efficient at this particular function. Intellectualizations, plausible deniability, rationalizations, and circular reasoning are the preferred defensive strategies of the left brain to shore up the illogical fantasies of the ego. When sense perceptual reality collides with the fantasy reality of the ego, the left hemsishere will protect the integrity of the ego. Ultimately the concern is not whether the defenses are credible to 'others', they must be credible to the individual's ego and they must serve to soothe the ego's existential fear.
Compassion, for instance, is usually not an attribute which fundamentalists extend to their own egos because it's judged to be a form of weak willed enabling behavior. Since self compassion does not serve to soothe their ego generated anxiey it's not something they will extend to others. Instead, anxiety is soothed by projecting the cause of the anxiety onto others. It's sort of like getting rid of one's own garbage by blindly bagging it up and tossing it on a bigger designated garbage pile.
I have written before that when Jesus said we must love each other as we love ourselves He was not kidding. Self love is a crucial component to spiritual progress. Our construct ego will not treat others any better than it's been constructed to treat itself. One of the biggest impediments to spiritual growth that Catholicism has foisted on it's followers is the whole notion of humanity's intrinsic predisposition towards sin. I have never been able to fathom how one can hold a baby in one's arms and think humanity is predisposed towards sin. (Well I can, but that's for another post and generally involves not actually holding a baby in your arms.)
The real truth is we actually are predisposed towards sin, not because we are failed humanity, but because we are raised to think we are failed humanity. I firmly believe that gay and abortion issues are so front and center at this time precisely because we are being asked to look at the theology which supports them. They are an opportunity to realistically assess some very potent belief structures surrounding human nature, God, and the foundations of religious authority. In a very real sense humanity is in a dialogue with itself about the basis for the religious reality of our future.
Lately our Catholic hierarchy has been giving us one concrete example after another to assess these core belief structures about Catholic reality. In some cases the almost desperate brazenness of the example demands we make this assessment. It does seem the Holy Spirit is beckoning us to growth and using our teaching authority to do it. That they seem blind to the consequences may be a necessary part of the process. I truly do honor and thank them for their efforts, but that doesn't mean I won't keep writing on why they can be so wrong and so counterproductive. After all if some of us 'others' didn't do so, their inspired efforts would be pointless.