Monday, February 27, 2012

Balance, Extremes, and Swinging Pendulums

All three are concepts which turn into crutches for religious addicts - particularly those in the halfway house phase of the journey.

I fear that a lot of people may have misunderstood the point or context of "balance" that Cindy Kunsman brought up in her review of Courageous...

"In real life, these formulaic practices tend to degrade into extremes of legalism which compete with balanced Christian living over time. As Vyckie Garrison notes, because the father-centered ideology redefines balance as sinful mediocrity and compromise to be resisted at all costs under most all circumstances, her family “did NOT want to be balanced.” This is a core symptom of dysfunction found in families affected by addiction, a pattern of behavior that Vision Forum teaches as God's ordained plan for godly living."

[I wrote a bit about it here - IMO one of the more important posts, to me at least, that I've written on this blog.]

The balance Cindy's speaking of isn't so much about religious ideology. It's about health and quality. 

The most common complaints about the stuff I write here come in some form of the "but you're just going to the opposite extreme" or "don't let the pendulum swing all the way to the other side" or "you're overreacting" persuasion. Only a religious addict would make that kind of complaint (or observation, if you prefer). I should know. I'm a recovering religious addict, and if the me of 5 years or so ago were to read the writing of the me of 2012, I'd probably be saying the same thing about a lot of the stuff on this blog.

Fundamentalists generally think I'm a heretic and mainstream evangelicals think I'm "going to the other extreme", but what they fail to realize is that there are plenty of atheists who still think I'm a religious nut for believing in a God at all. If I'm extreme, your world is pretty narrow, only as wide as the path to your next religious fix. Anything not on that path is extreme to you.

The balance, or imbalance, Cindy was highlighting was the desire of the religious addict for "something more", that something simple (at its core) can't remain simple and be sufficient - when faith should be simple, and should always remain simple. Any part of life loses its balance when it ceases to be simple, when unnecessaries become necessary. For instance, in my world, if someone comes into a recording studio with 100k ideas and a 10k budget, the whole deal gets thrown out of balance, people get frustrated, the process becomes a psychological AND physical grind, the workday becomes several hours longer than it needs to be, and the quality of the product suffers (sometimes the relationships involved do too). It's no different in matters of faith and religion. When faith becomes little more than a quest to be the most outwardly "godly", all bells and whistles, it's essentially ceased to be driven by faith in God, but by faith in works. All of these rituals and behavioral add-ons of the belief system muddy waters that should be as pure and clear as a mountain stream. That's imbalance, because it jeopardizes spiritual, emotional, and physical health, and often quality of life, all over things that God doesn't really give a rat's ass about. Balance, in this context, is synonymous with moderation. The opposite of moderation is indulgence (which is often synonymous with selfishness). With indulgence usually comes a lack of control. People get drunk when they indulge in more alcohol than their body can handle, and if it becomes alcoholism, internal aspects of the body are in jeopardy. It's no different with religious addicts who turn up the bible and pull from it as if it were a bottle of whiskey. It becomes an unhealthy indulgence and it can hurt people internally.

I take these appeals for not "going to extremes", et cetera, the same way I take it when people say "You need to be more graceful/gracious when you write." What they really mean is "Yes, what you're saying is true, and what you're writing about is wrong, but I still have an attachment to and affinity for it - so please stop." Crack addicts don't like to hear just how bad crack is for them. Same with religious addicts.

Make no mistake, there ARE times when life calls for imbalance - quality of life, at least, and not always for you, but sometimes for someone else in your journey. One of my quotes placed near the top of the blog says "When we become unwilling to risk everything for the sake of the right thing, our salt has lost its savor, and we no longer season our world." I believe that completely. Some may say "but that's a double-standard!" No it isn't. The right thing isn't necessarily the religious thing. I don't have to open a bible and draw intensive theological conclusions before I can make a decision about right and wrong. I've said many times that my standards have been simplified to love of God, love of my neighbor as myself, tell the truth, and do the right thing regardless of expense. This whole P/QF experience has helped to shape and define those parameters within my life. There are no extremes there. There are no pendulum swings there. If I can't operate within those parameters, not only is my faith a joke, but so is my human decency. If my religion forces me outside of those parameters, then I've become the extreme, the swinging pendulum. 

People should worry less about extremes and swinging pendulums and more about pursuing truth - and accepting truth in the form it presents itself. Truth isn't always "in the middle". Sometimes it'll take you off the preferred course to one side or the other. Let it. The quality of your landing spot and ensuing pathway should matter more than its ideological location. If you're worried about what people will think of your landing spot before you've ever landed there, you've pretty much defeated the whole purpose before you've given yourself a chance to get started.

Frankly, that last paragraph sums up the life of Christ more than anything I've ever written here.


  1. So well said. I know I've said it before, but I really, really wish your writing were around back when my parents got into the whole Patriarchy thing.

  2. One of my favorite Scriptures is"

    Proverbs 11:1 A false balance is an abomination to the LORD,
    But a just weight is His delight.

    1. It's not easy to examine oneself, be mindful of what are unhealthy ideas/beliefs/habits. To take stock is hard enough without actually taking steps away from the identified issues. Bravo to you Lewis, you have integrity and that's rare these days.

  3. I think this is a good follow-up to your previous post!

  4. "Truth isn't always 'in the middle.'"

    This is such a great quote in a nutshell. And so darned obvious when you put it that way, really. I'm going to quote this next time someone calls for "balance".