Tuesday, February 9, 2010

It's Not About Taliban vs Catholic Lite. It's About Love vs Fear

John Allen's latest Friday column in the NCR has generated a great deal of commentary. In it he expresses his notions of Catholic Lite vs Catholic Taliban. Allen claims most people have a little bit of both in their outlook about Catholicism:

At least in my mind, the defining feature of "Catholicism Lite" is not a liberal or conservative outlook, but rather taking one's cues from secular culture rather than the faith. No ideological camp has a monopoly on that.

Similarly, there's a Taliban instinct on the Catholic left that can be just as noxious as its right-wing version. It generally includes paranoia about almost any exercise of authority in the church, coupled with derision of any attempt to defend traditional Catholic thought, speech or practice -- a liberal "hermeneutic of suspicion" that can easily shade off into rage. Try telling a certain kind of Catholic liberal that Benedict XVI isn't actually "rolling back the clock" on Vatican II, for example, and you'll want to duck and cover before the shooting starts.

Bottom line: When I talk about "Taliban Catholicism," I know I'm playing with fire -- but the point is to invite an examination of conscience across the board, myself very much included, not to slur one side or the other in Catholic debates.

I can't disagree with John's take that by his definition there's a little bit of both in most Catholics. Some people might refer to these traits a little differently. Talibanism can be considered holding passionate views and Liteness can be considered taking a more easy going approach. The problem is that both are illusions. They have practical implications only because they represent aspects of thoughts which are generated from programmed memories and those memories come with emotion as part of their information packet. Passion is generated from memories which have a large content of emotion as part of the information.
I don't really believe any spiritual system can adapt to the present and future of humanity without taking into consideration what we now know about human consciousness. Or more precisely, what it is we are talking about when we say "I" did this or believe that. That sense of I is not a product of our brains. Our brains and all it's attendant neuropathways are products of the consciousness we call "I". Consciousness supersedes material reality and constantly creates that reality. This isn't New Age philosophy. This is quantum neurophysiology.

There was an experiment conducted on kittens at Harvard Medical School in which kittens were raised in a room which had only horizontal stripes. A separate group of kittens was raised in a room which had only vertical stripes. Both groups of kittens developed neuropathways distinctly different from the other group. They adapted their behaviors to mirror the surroundings in which they grew up. Horizontal kittens still acted if their world was horizontal when placed in a vertical environment and vice versa. Their reality as determined by their brains was a horizontal world. The consensual reality of their cat ancestry did not apply, because it would not and could not compute.

Here's another interesting experiment. Researchers fed groups of rabbits high cholesterol diets in order to measure physiological responses to the levels of cholesterol. To their amazement they discovered that one group of rabbits did not develop cholesterol related diseases. The answer was that the lab tech who fed these rabbits also stroked, sang and petted them at the same time she fed them. These rabbits developed completely different sets of neuropeptides that in turn transmuted the cholesterol into a different digestive end product, one not harmful to their over all physiology. Her demonstrated love for them contained different information for the rabbits physiological system and that in turn changed how their cholesterol laden food was processed in beneficial rather than harmful ways.

Take the rabbit experiment and apply it to our theological information. It validates Jesus's whole emphasis on love. Love provides information which is beneficial to the material construction of the body. On the other hand, fear or indifference is not just controlling in a hypothetical sense, it is also debilitating in a health sense.

Here's a human example of this process. The Miami School of Medicine did a study with premature infants in which one group was given more tactile stimulation than the other. Although both groups were on the same formula and same amounts, the group given the extra holding and cuddling gained 49% more weight in the same time frame. A rational material view of energy in equals energy out would predict there should be no statistical difference in weight gain.

The group of babies which was held was found to have produced more human growth hormone. It appear the additional information their minds received because they were held was interpreted to be beneficial for growth, hence the release of more growth hormone.

Another interesting fact about the United States is we now have more cancer researchers than we do cancer patients, yet the incidence of cancer continues to escalate. Is this too an indication of humanity taking in and processing information which is interpreted in such a way that it generates it's subject matter? That rather than helping anything, all the cancer information is interpreted fearfully and the body slavishly manifests the information as cancer? Exactly the same way preemies who are held will interpret this information as beneficial and manifest growth?

I think we need to stop talking about spirituality in terms of traditional or progressive, truth or heresy, and start understanding the real categories are fear and love. Any concept which teaches about God in terms of fear is suspect and ultimately detrimental. Love and it's expressions are the information pathways that lead to personal salvation and growth. This is clearly written in our real biological natural law. Jesus knew what He was talking about. It's time the Church really listened. Science certainly is.


  1. Colleen,
    I read the original article and the commentary it stirred up. The "taliban" behavior of some was more than apparent. Just my opinion, but it's getting so that I really don't want to read the comments underneath the articles on NCR anymore. Some of the "anonymous" comments are just too narrow and uncharitable for me.

  2. David, I know exactly what you mean. I realized reading John's article that I had not been to the NCR with any frequency for months. It was precisely because the commentary.

  3. I went back and re-read John's article. From what I can gather from what he is saying is that he is trying to make sense out of the split in the Church. It seems his approach is Aristotelian or Platonic; a desire to label something. I noticed some of the comments also brought up this labeling aspect.

    Colleen, your blog here is so important to emphasize love vs fear. Jesus is all about love and not fear, all about transcending not descending into despair which is an effect of fear. If we are following Jesus, His is the way to our healing. God is Love and when we bring His love into the world we bring health and healing. Love will not show up on a radar screen, nor in the statistics of reasoning without love.

    Lately, I often am reminded of the St Francis Prayer: Lord, Make Me An Instrument of Your Peace.....

    Amen, Colleen, another great blog from you. Much appreciated!!