Thursday, August 27, 2009
Exorcising the demons of sheep fear
It's amazing how long really bad ideas can stay with you. It seems to me what when you considered some ideas to be true for long enough, even finding out that they were false and/or really bad things to believe somehow still fails to rid you of those notions completely. You reject them, you disbelieve them, you try to move on and yet they continue to sit in the darkest pools of your subconscious like warty toads, ready to leap up when you least expect it. I could be wrong but I would wager that ever semi-enlightened adult carries a few of these ugly ex-truths around, whether it be some latent bigotry, unfair stereotypes, utterly false pieces of pop psych or urban myth. I think I carry a bit of all of those in the dark clammy recesses of my mind and recently I became newly aware of the need to clean out these toads, these tenacious demons of ignorance.
On second thought, it hardly seems fair to call these toady remnants "demons of ignorance" because ignorance seems to be the wrong word. These are at at best remnants of former ignorance. Ignorance implies not knowing any better, but the things I'm referring to are instances where you most certainly do know better but you still have these ideas that you know are false tenaciously refusing to give up ground. A good example would be when I was recently doing some essays on various world religions and was surprised to find that a lot of my opinions regarding them were still based on what I read in various Chick Tracts as a child. There I was reading the fascinating tale of the birth of Islam and suddenly I recall the Chick "facts" about how Islam (as well as communism, World War 2, the American Civil War and pretty much every bad thing ever) was actually founded by the Catholic Church! I was stunned by my own mind, I just couldn't believe my (inner) ears! I knew Chick tracts were full of oversimplifications, misinformation and outright lies and yet some part of me still held on to the idea that the Great Catholic Conspiracy as revealed by Jack Chick could be true. Why was that?
I think it would be more accurate to call these toads "demons of double-think" because they entail exactly what George Orwell described - the ability to hold 2 conflicting facts in your mind and accept them both as true. The other shoe finally dropped when I started reading the brilliant page by page analysis of the Left Behind series on The Slacktivist. I was shocked to realise that I was reading in that blog the conclusions I should have come to while reading those books but just never did. I remember vividly that while reading the Left Behind series I kept thinking that "this makes no sense, this is not how the world works, this is not how people are, things simply can't realistically happen this way" AND YET at the very same time I was also thinking "wow, this is exactly how the end time events are supposed to be, these guys are setting it out perfectly, how can anyone doubt this?!" If that reaction makes no sense to you then imagine how I felt when I read someone discussing the books and making the same observations but instead drawing the correct conclusions - that the fact that these books seem so wildly unrealistic proves that all the ideas regarding a premillenial dispensationalist rapture is also unrealistic. If people don't act like that and if the world doesn't work that way and if it is entirely divorced from reality then that renders the entire premise flawed. Scratch that, it renders it impossible. That is the conclusion I should have come to myself, so why didn't I?
I guess one reason could be because these ideas are so incredibly deeply rooted. I grew up as a premillenial dispensationalist and I received endless amounts of Rapture porn from the pulpit for well over a decade. I remember one visiting preacher who taught exclusively on the end times (and we had many of these over the years) who had a giant end times chart that took up the entire front of of the church. I remember it well because amongst other things it clearly explained that Jesus would return for His Church in 1977. Somehow despite the fact that I was born in 1977 and was probably around 13 at the time, I still had no issues believing everything he taught. Honestly its because of things like these that I want to go back in time and smack myself for being so uncritical and naive!
It may seem as if I am overreacting to something small - after all what is the harm in believing these things, its not like it's hurting anyone. Ah, but it is not so simple. See when these toads of ignorance and these demons of doublethink set up shop they create a ripe environment for all their friends to come live in. For instance once you start buying into all the convoluted exegesis about the Antichrist being a man of peace then before long you have the demon of sheep fear in your life. You start disregarding everything that Jesus taught about "turning the other cheek" and about peacemakers being blessed and instead you start mistrusting everyone who actually turn the other cheek and want to make peace. Instead of heeding the Bible's warning to watch out for wolves in sheep's clothing you start watching out for everything that remotely looks like a sheep which usually (and absurdly) leads you to embracing the wolf instead! After all, you start to reason, when one candidate wants peace and the other wants war then surely the guy who wants war is the only one who can't be the Antichrist and so you end up supporting the guy who wants war!! Suddenly it is as if Jesus actually said cursed are the peacemakers!
Don't even get me started on the demon of demon spotting where you start ascribing everything that happens in your life to the work of some demon with a highly specialized name...