You Must Be "Born Again!"
Lately, there has been a little "discussion" involving JimV, Bill Fairchild, JohnO, and myself, with someone called PeaceUVLife. Peace, like many others who have written in to the Painful Truth, has taken great offense at many of the things published on this site, and has accused some of us of "blasphemy." Peace has been asked to discuss the matters at hand within a logical, rational discourse, and to defend certain arguments or assumptions, but all to no avail. The response has ranged from highly emotional written bludgeonings, to full-blown edge-of-sanity rantings, and to somewhat quieter, but no less judgmental accusations that we are blasphemers and "satanists." (Someone should inform Peace of the definition of "blasphemy" from the Bible itself, to prove that we are, even from Peace's own avowed religious perspective, being falsely accused.)
This whole back-and-forth with PeaceUVLife has perversely reminded me of an important theme from Robert Duvall's excellent film, "The Apostle." (For those of you who have not seen it, this movie contains nearly smack-on depictions of the save-your-soul evangelical fervor of altar-call Christianity as practiced by many simple, uneducated folk of the rural South as well as other regions of the country.) In the movie, Duvall's preacher-protagonist has established, along with an older black preacher, a tiny, fervent congregation deep in a rural area. As the little church grows, it starts to get noticed. A man, younger than Duvall's character, and played by Billy Bob Thornton, shows up at a meeting, and eventually makes threats against the preachers and the church-ostensibly because it has both blacks and whites meeting together. But, as the theme unfolds further, it becomes clear that this man has been fighting against his own inner convictions; his later attempt to destroy the little church building withers as "the apostle" talks him down, and works at "saving his soul." This man finally breaks down into "repentance."
Very few of us who read this site would have any agreement with, or sympathy for, the theology or soul-saving tactics of Duvall's preacher persona. But the story of the man who is out to destroy his "work" is highly instructive. Thornton's character is really psychologically identical to PeaceUVLife and others, who argue against the articles and comments within PT from an emotional basis, using preconceived ideas of god, sin, satan, etc., without considering that those terms do not register with us in the same way as they themselves are affected. Peace has reacted totally subjectively to everything we have written, simply going back each time to an idea that god is going to get us. Peace has not backed any ideas, conceptions, or assumptions with any evidence that might serve to provide for a real argument.
Just so, Thornton's character is internally torn by a conviction that he needs to be "saved." But rather than accept this, he rejects and projects. The rejection must have an outlet, and that outlet is anger-anger toward the preacher and the little church that are serving to "convict" him of his need for "salvation." So he sets out to destroy the church. But Duvall's words break through his resistance, until he crumbles into tears and "surrenders." At this point, from the perspective of altar-call types, he has been "born again."
PeaceUVLife may actually be in a very elementary stage of a "born again" conviction. But not born again in a Christian sense, or of any real religious sense (although if we apply certain psychological meanings to the term "religion," one could consider it to be religious). No, Peace may be beginning to be convicted of the need to be born again into freedom-from the shackles of dogma, from the image and threat of an angry, vengeful deity whose primary impetus seems to be to punish all who cannot understand him. Free from desperately seeking some witch doctor behind a pulpit who claims to be speaking for that god, and who demands that his parishioners be fearful (though they would not term it as such) of that god, and of that's god's messenger, i.e., the witch doctor. Peace has brought forth no argument whatsoever against anything we've written, but only lashed out with emotional invective and threats of our doom by the vengeful deity. Why would Peace even bother with the effort, except that it is a projection of anger resulting from the rejection of internal conviction? Peace may be rejecting an internal call for FREEDOM. Thus the anger and ranting.
Because we have been through years of mental slavery (not just from Worldwide Church of God and its branches, not just from other churches or religions, but also from the ceaseless propaganda we receive from the established, ruling order), we have literally made the layers of indoctrination a part of ourselves. But these layers are NOT us; they are stratum upon stratum of concretized, imprisoning, dried crud that have been encrusted around our minds, making it nigh impossible to see truth even blearily. These layers have been with us for so long that to begin to figuratively chip away at them seems equivalent to chipping away at our core self. But our core has been hidden away for so long, we may hardly be aware that it even exists anymore. We live within a dim light of comprehension of true realities, dimmed by the thickness of those layers. Once the chipping begins, the light slowly begins to brighten, until we can more clearly see the differences between our true selves, and the layers of deception.
But to get to the point of having the courage to chip away, and to achieve our own freedom, we have to listen to that little voice of conviction, telling us to throw off the crap and begin a new life, unhampered by someone else's prescriptions of what is "truth." We may react initially with anger, with great resistance (I can still remember my very first years of doubt while still in Worldwide Church of God, and how I felt such rage at those who were early on leaving the church); but if we can find the courage within ourselves to begin that long, slow, sometimes painful process (it IS the Painful Truth, after all) of throwing off the yoke of mental and spiritual slavery, we can make our way out into the light of freedom. We can be "born again."
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