Lesson 31- Tough Love and Daddys Hands
As I ended my last program, I said that I would spend some time during this talk discussing the harder side of Agape Love, because there is a harder side. We would like to think that God is a marshmallow who doesnt get upset by anything that we do. In fact, a few years ago, I was given a book by my brother-in-law who wanted me to evaluate it for him since it had left him very confused. It was written by a person, involved in New Age philosophy, who claimed that it was a conversation that he had with God. According to him, he hadnt even written the book. He simply sat at a table in a completely relaxed state and his hand automatically began to write out answer as he asked God about various topics. It was sort of like a literary ouiji board, only instead of the pointer moving automatically, it was his hand.
Over twenty five years ago I had had first my experience with this phenomena, which is known as automatic writing, with a student from CardinalDoughertyHigh School. He was very artistic and intuitive and practically lived by his feelings. He told me that he would sit at a table and that his hand would start to write things that were not in his conscious mind. At that time, I had never heard of the right and left lobes of the brain but based on what we now know about the brain, he was a perfect example of what I would now call a right-lober. People like him are drawn to paranormal and mystical experiences and would be prime candidates for the New Age movement with its involvement in spiritualism, channeling, crystals, and other paranormal, mystical experiences.
It appears that he wasnt the only Catholics who was influenced by this movement because it has invaded our convents and rectories where nuns and priests sound more like Hindu mystics and New Age converts than Christian clerics. In fact, I once read a book by Father Mitch Pacqua, a Jesuit priest, who said that he and many of his fellow Jesuits, were heavily involved in this type of mysticism which is associated more with Eastern Hindu philosophy, which is related to the personality of the right lobe of our brains, than with the more rational and left lobe Western Christian philosophy. In fact, this is the distinguishing feature between Eastern and Western mysticism. Eastern mysticism totally rejects the objective, rational side of our brain, declaring the objective world to be maya or an illusion, while Western mysticism, while being open to the mystical side of our brain, never rejects the rational side. In fact, it considers the rational side of our brains to be a necessary check on the mystical side. It wasnt until Father Pacqua started to see the inconsistencies between his Christian beliefs and these practices that he was able to break away.
Anyway, to get back to my original point, my brother-in-law asked me to read this book written by an author who claimed that the entire work was a conversation with God which had been written through the process of automatic writing. In fact, he even claimed that, in the future, it would become part of what we now call scripture, because, like Moses, he had spoken to God face-to-face.
It was one of those book where I found myself saying Yes! Yes! Yes! to statements which I found consistent with my Christian beliefs and then, suddenly, No! to something that contradicted those beliefs. It reminded me of the sales techniques taught to salespersons where they are instructed to get the consumer into a pattern of saying Yes! to routine questions so that they would find it harder to say No! to the sales pitch.
From a Christian perspective, the book was full of half truths and, because of this, I considered it to be very sinister because, unless someone was on his guard, he could easily begin to swallow the lies along with the truth. The scriptures warn us that the devil rarely ever appears as a devil because we would immediately reject him. Rather, he prefers to appear as an angel of light. And that is why we are warned to test the spirit. Fr. ODonnell, from Malvern, once said that the devil never tells a total lie because we would immediately see if for what it was. Rather, he deals in statement that are 95% true and 5% false. The problem is that, like two non-parallel lines in geometry, which begin close together, but separate the farther you extend them out into space, so the truth and half-truth begin close together but separate the farther you extend them, and so, before you know it, you have taken a path that is leading you farther and farther away from the truth.
Now, if some of the Jesuits and other clerics, who have devoted their lives to knowing and following God, can be lead astray by New Age philosophy, what chance does the average lay person have when confronted with it. That is why, it is necessary to have the gift of discernment so that we are able to separate the wheat from the chaff, the truth from the lies.
And what is the gift of discernment? Jesus had warned us about false shepherds who wanted to lead us down the wrong path. But He also assured us that those sheep that belonged to Him knew His voice. But we cant know His voice unless we have a personal relationship with Him through meditation on the reception of the sacraments. Without this gift of discernment, we are unable to distinguish between the voice of God and the voice of the devil.
Anyway, this book was a real test of ones power of discernment because it was full of nice sounding platitudes that emphasized the unconditional nature of Gods love. The God portrayed in this book was so loving and accepting that there was nothing that bothered Him. In fact, He accepted whatever we did and, in one place, He actually said that He didnt have any problem with Hitler, or Stalin or any of the mass murders of history. He sounded as though He was completely neutral about anything that any of us did. As I read the book, I started to get the sense that there was no such thing as sin, or judgment, or hell. Why this God accepted all of us just as we were and didnt place any expectation upon us. He was unconditional love taken to the absurd.
Then, to my amazement, near the end of the book, I discovered that there was one thing, and only one thing, that he opposed. It was drinking alcohol. Imagine that! Hitler and the Holocaust didnt bother Him. Stalins murder of over ten million Kulak farmers didnt bother Him. But taking a drink of beer, or wine, or whiskey did.
The author of the book, also amazed by this, said, But didnt Jesus drink wine? And God, answering through automatic handwriting, wrote Well, whoever said that Jesus was perfect?
That was it! Throughout the book, the voice sounded a little like the voice of the Christian God, who is Agape Love, but it always had a slightly unfamiliar accent to it. But now I definitely knew that this was not the voice of my shepherd. It was the voice of a false shepherd who was trying to lead me, and others, away from the fold. According to the scriptures, at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow, every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. And, the final test of any spirit is whether it will admit that Jesus Christ is Lord!
I called up my brother-in-law and told him that his confusion about the book was well founded because, to a Christian, it was sending a mixed message. On one hand it was portraying an all-loving God, which was compatible with out Christian beliefs, but on the other hand it was portraying an morally neutral God who denied that Jesus Christ was His only Son and Lord of the Universe, which is incompatible with our Christian beliefs.
This misconception about Agape, or Unconditional Love, is one of the most sinister traps that the devil sets for us because it has such an appealing attraction for our hedonistic, animal nature which loves pleasure and hates pain. The idea that God is so unconditionally loving that he will accept us no matter what we do, is the loop hole that we are all looking for as an excuse for not demanding more of ourselves and of others. We have trouble understanding how an all loving God and hell can be compatible and maybe the reason is because we neither understand God nor hell.
The misunderstanding comes from the fact that we are prone to base our evaluation on feelings rather than logic which, by now, you should know is the conflict which exists between the subjective right lobe which is more associated with the right lobe of our brain, and the objective left lobe which is more associated with our rational nature.
Thus, artistic people who, because of their intuitive sense and creativity, favor the right lobe of the brain, are inclined to evaluate reality according to feelings. Because of this, in their mind, love is associated with passion, need, like, and total acceptance. They do not like structure, or limits, or rules, censorship or judgment and, if they had their way, they would eliminate all of them. Statements like Whos to say?, Different strokes for different folks!, Let it all hang out!, and Do your own thing express their firm belief in total unbridled freedom of expression. Their attitude is best expressed by a billboard I once saw which showed an artists palette, brushes, and canvas in one corner and, in the other corner, emblazoned in large black letters was the statement, There are no rules! Therefore, their vision of God is the one described in the book which I just mentioned. A god of total acceptance, who is non-judgmental and non-punitive. In other words, an amoral god. It is not surprising that the New Age mentality finds a lot of followers among artist and entertainers.
Perhaps this is why artistic people in the art and entertainment world have a well deserved reputation for confused and erratic lives. The very source of their creativity is also the source for their impulsive nature which is constantly pushing them into decisions based on feelings rather than logic. Thus, whenever a society turns its moral compass over to them, it is headed for chaos and disaster because logic is not their forte.
The discipline of God is more merciful than the mercy of men.