Again, we call it Christian Mysticism — with my eyes fixed on the Cross of Christ, I tell you in all seriousness that I find more kindred spirits among other types of mystics than I do among other types of Christians.
Less than a hundred meters from my front door is a tall iron fence. Within the cultural expectations of folks who live around here, you could examine the physical context of this fence and discern not so much it’s purpose as how it restricts your choices. You can probably guess that this fence is not now what it once was, because a pedestrian gate has been completely removed and the gap left open. There is evidence of heavy human traffic across the ground through that gateway. Next to it is a vehicle gate the is locked and somewhat rusted. So you can figure that pedestrian access is open, but vehicle access is not. You aren’t kept out, only your motor vehicle.
The business with fencing falls under the broad term of “physical security.” We imagine that a computer firewall serves as “cyber security” as a figure of speech. In our minds we tend to erect fences between things we can tolerate and things we cannot. A fence is passive security; it doesn’t require your constant attention. It probably does require some attention, in terms of placement and maintenance, because threats are seldom static. But we use a fence to prevent having to invest energy in a highly active defense against threats. At the least, it will slow the attack, and perhaps make the threat itself somewhat vulnerable.
A major element is asking the question: What constitutes a threat? A closely related question is assessing the vulnerability of what you guard.
In a post on my other blog, I referred to the increasing tendency of public schools to treat even parents of the students as a threat to the children as a whole. Actually, it’s not a matter of threat to the children, but a threat to the bureaucratic control over those children. Despite the propaganda, the school officials are not protecting the kids from anything. The kids are just the excuse for creating an adversarial atmosphere. The school officials are genuinely convinced that this conforms to reality. In their minds, parents have gotten increasingly wacko, exhibiting a declining competence at parenting, and seriously in need of their professional guidance.
This is not merely a question of risk analysis. I can point to a body of scientific research behind the business of risk analysis. Insurance companies rely on it heavily to make a profit. They calculate the broad net costs of prevention against loss, and set policy rates based on the estimated risk assessment measured in terms of money. Figured in is the cost of labor as well as physical property. Risk analysis builds on assumptions that it cannot supply of itself. Those assumptions arise from a valuation of what actually matters. Insurance reduces this question to a monetary figure, even as insurance companies train their agents to handle the highly emotional response of people who invested a value in something that cannot be be measured in monetary prices.
Companies that calculate on sentimental values simply charge a whole lot more coverage. They are assessing the fear of loss, which is frankly the real human value of just about everything in this world.
The bureaucratic hive-mind is founded entirely upon fear. A single emotionally painful anecdote outweighs ten million harmless transactions. The valuative price of terror is higher than the actual replacement costs of everything upon which the system relies. That is the nature of bureaucracy. There will be hell to pay from your superiors if you let just one thing slip, so you are actively prodded to build excessive security that makes everyone else your enemy. It serves in part as a self-fulfilling procedure, because the barriers create resentment and hostility that appears to justify their existence.
It’s cancerous. I can recall some years ago passing through law enforcement training that specifically aimed at deescalating tension. Today we see evidence that such training is rare, because police are now trained to demand total, degrading, dehumanizing submission at all costs. They are quick to pull the trigger these days. How do you make sense of shooting someone who is attempting to commit suicide? This represents the deepening paranoia of bureaucratic demand for total submission.
All of this reflects the Curse of the Fall; it is not a part of redemption.
If my fundamental frame of reference is the cultural fearfulness of bureaucratic systems, then God is frightening. Western Civilization draws upon a mythology whose chief deity is a grouchy sonuvabitch who torments people for his amusement. He bears no resemblance to the God of the Bible. Yet Western minds read that grouchy SOB back into the Bible. They tend to operate from the same bureaucratic fearfulness that characterizes the principle who called the police on a parent who walked into the school building to meet and escort his children out. To varying degrees, Western churches buy into this mindset when developing their theology and practice. They build all kinds of exclusionary barriers and refuse to explore what’s outside that fence.
It shows up in the work of Bible translation. Word choices are culturally derived, and a team of translators working with the the collected body of manuscripts that represent what’s left of the original texts of Scripture can make some horrific mistakes because they are working within that frame of reference. Despite what they might say about fresh rendering, they still work from the grounds of historic Western Christian religion that was long ago captured by secular concerns. They read that paranoid exclusivity back into the Law of Moses, for example. Blame it on the success of the Judaizers: Christian translators have bought into the fraudulent legalism of the Pharisaical Judaism that has radically perverted the ancient Hebrew mindset. Hebrew intellectual traditions presumed a heart-led orientation, and Pharisaism flatly denies it is possible, much less desirable. Never confuse any English translation with revelation itself.
What kind of evangelism is it that demands submission, despite the nicey-nicey covering? If you think about it, religious and cultural liberalism is loaded with its own paranoid demands for submission. What are you not permitted to criticize? Christ did not call sinners to a life of paranoid middle-class American culture. How can I reflect my Father’s glory if I deceive the world about His moral character? Self-deception does not excuse being deceived; it only makes you more culpable. The only reason we have so many people who prefer a non-Christian approach is that some part of them senses it’s not the real thing.
No, it’s not black or white. Only Westerners think that way. The God of the Bible portrayed Himself as One who grants divine privileges according to the measure of commitment. When some disciple of Aleister Crowley can cite a moral understanding consistent with the ancient Hebrew religion (some of them do just that), contrasted against mainstream Christians whose morality arises almost entirely from the likes of Beowulf, don’t tell me that such a disciple is my enemy. Paul flatly says in Romans that pagans can rightly discern God’s moral character from nature. We should expect them to mix in some moral confusion, if only because today they are looking for a path that is outside a mainstream Christian religion that is so obviously immoral. Creation itself witnesses to their hearts that bureaucratic paranoid exclusion is not right.
The power of my Savior’s blood and resurrection compels me to walk through any valley of death to seek souls hungry for the message of mercy and grace.