Tuesday, February 24, 2009

He restores my soul...

So, why did I choose the fragment of Psalm 23 for the name of this blog? I think that the ever-flowing tragedy of life is the destruction of our souls by the way we respond to life's vagaries and to others, by the way others' pain, fear and ambitions are wielded against each one of us.

Working in a military setting, studying PTSD and encountering those who need services, has surfaced what I consider to be a convenient "fabrication" about spiritual / mental health and personal responsibility that also shows up in our churches. It comes in the form of obedience to the authority which is above us in whatever setting -- military, corporate, familial, gender-based, social, economic, religious, ecclesiastical, etc.

Penny Coleman wrote of this phenomenon in her book, Flashback: Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Suicide, and the Lessons of War.

Why do we think that, just because someone else told us to do/say something (or not to do/say something), that we won't bear any consequences within our own beings for "following orders"? This isn't always or simply a matter of respect for authority. We each have the ability to choose to do/say or not, because we are in control of our own bodies (obvious exceptions exist). Given that we have a choice, and it is our "self" doing the action, our "self" will bear the consequences in our psyche and body. There are horrible double-binds into which soldiers are put in by the theater and the conduct of war, yet we need to recognize that they will and do bear the pain and psychic wounds of following orders in ways contrary to their moral compasses. "Following orders" may work when they're mentally assessing the situation, but it doesn't change how they've used their weapons and how their bodies remember that traumatic situation through flashbacks, anger, sleeplessness, emotional distancing from loved ones, avoidance, etc. There doesn't seem to be a disconnect button we can push inside ourselves between what we do in and with our bodies when another person gives the orders. Re-integration between actions and moral or psychic consequences seems necessary for healing the soul.

It is my experience that I feel less damaged and second-guess myself less after honoring the Holy Spirit and my conscience than suffering from regrets for having failed to be true within myself. Even the punishment and damage that others may try to inflict for "disobedience" (in their minds) doesn't sting the same way.

Why would we continue to default to this hierarchical fallacy -- even in churches? Each member of the Body, Paul told us in 1 Corinthians 12, has value and should be treated as indispensable, seen as made in God's image (James). Such an egalitarian message we're believing! Watch how we try to compromise that radical message in our demands for "order" and authority! Certainly God, the author of all, differs with our human methods of how order is to be achieved among us!

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