2/2/13

"Orthodox Alexithymia"


In the previously posted link to the blog article by Evans, we see that she includes a link to yet another article, this one by Richard Beck addressing a phenomenon he calls "orthodox alexithymia." Here is an excerpt:

"What I'm describing here might be captured by the tag "orthodox alexithymia." By "orthodox" I mean the intellectual pursuit of right belief. And by "alexithymia" I mean someone who is, theologically speaking, emotionally and socially deaf and dumb. Even theologically sociopathic."

Now what does this have to do with the evangelical and/or fundamentalist view of the relationship of the bible and theology to science? Quite a bit, I think.

History is full of examples of 'theological sociopaths,' many of whom seem to me to have some serious pycho-sexual dysfunctions. Religion seems to exacerbate these. Sex is a major preoccupation with evangelicals and/or fundamentalists. One of Relevant magazine's most tortured and most extensively commented upon articles - and a followup - dealt with masturbation and the sinfulness thereof. Would you not agree that the more active members of the various smitten-by-God cultures in the Old Testament exhibit what we could call 'religico-psycho-sexual malignancies?' The crowd(s) in Genesis 19 would make guys like John Wayne Gacy feel right at home. What of the Ammonites, and their child sacrifices? Mere heathens, wallowing in simple deviate debauchery (is there any other kind?) or something more deeply indicative of the demons that gnaw at the souls of men? And what of Kugel's argument that the verses in Leviticus and Deuteronomy specifically addressing child sacrifice are an indication that this was at one time practiced among the Hebrews? Does this mean that many of the ancient leaders of the Hebrews were manipulative sociopaths? Detached emotionally from the masses, yet skilled in manipulating the emotions of those masses, working their social and cultural prejudices with a religious bent? The assassin in Angels and Demons (my favorite fictional psychopath) is a great example of this type of religiously-founded mental aberration, but not nearly so much as the church fathers willing to loose him upon the masses. The One True Church has for centuries harbored, even nurtured, these personalities. The Protestants of early colonial America, with their witchhunts and fascination with sexual 'misconduct' are a psychotherapist's treasure trove. And, when we get the likes of Brother Pat, and our brethren and sistren in the Concerned Nazarenes going on about "God's judgment" as the reason for almost incomprehensible suffering one immediately thinks "Aha! Orthodox alexithymia!"

But then we have this:

"When theology and doctrine become separated from emotion we end up with something dysfunctional and even monstrous. A theology or doctrinal system that has become decoupled from emotion is going to look emotionally stunted and even inhuman."

I think he's missing the main point here. There is no lack of emotion in the fire and brimstone version of God's judgment. Quite the contrary; it is full of emotion. Preachers rely on emotion. It drives the reaction and the purse strings of the congregants. Was the mob in Genesis 19 lacking in emotion? Were the mobs of Moloch emotionally decoupled? Of course not; mobs are ruled by emotion.

Televangelists, prosperity preachers ... the Hagees, the Pat Robertsons, the Huckabees ... all of them ... depend on the emotional state of the mob - their congregations - to make a living. The last thing such people want is an income source that believes in reason, that is capable of reasoning. But are such preachers emotionally decoupled from their own actions? Is that the basis for the theological perversion? And the bottom line ... if such Leaders of the Church - and I use the term very loosely - allow the reason of science to prevail, how does this affect their power over the masses and their purses?