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Regis Nicoll Christian Blog and Commentary

Regis Nicoll

Regis Nicoll's weblog

Has someone ever told you that you are perfect just the way you are? It’s a lie. Ask actor Chris Pratt who told a crowd at the MTV Movie Awards, “You are imperfect. You always will be.” And deep down we know it. Every time we feel a twinge of guilt, shame, or plain misgiving over something we’ve said or done we betray a gnawing sense that we are not what we should be.

So what to do?

Fixing Us
According to folks who take naturalism seriously, we are creations of Nature by biochemical processes that direct our thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors along deterministic paths amenable to scientific investigation, prediction, and intervention.

Richard Dawkins has gone as far as to claim that we are genetic robots mechanically responding to the “desires” of selfish genes. Such thinking motivates the ongoing efforts to discover the genetic “causes” for sexual preference and bio-physical “remedies” for anti-social behaviors and mental illness.

For example, education advocate Stacey DeWitt credits Darwinian processes for child bullying, as does psychologist David Buss for adultery. Dr. Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, attributes “faulty circuits” in the brain for depression and various mood disorders.

Insel muses that treating mental illness may be “akin to ‘rebooting’ a computer that has become frozen.” His expectation is that our “science-based understanding of mental illness very likely will revolutionize prevention and treatment.”

In the “machine view” of human nature, improving the human condition is a matter of treating defective parts, scientifically and impersonally.

Against that view are a couple of Duke University neuroscientists. In 2010 Drs. Terrie Moffitt and Avshalom Caspi received an award for their research on the influences of genes and environment on human behavior. The summary of their key finding is that “you can’t choose your genes, but you face many choices in life which can determine how those genes will play out.” (Emphasis added.)

The late Bill Wilson would agree.

Wilson was a hardened atheist and struggling alcoholic who was frequently hospitalized for his addiction. It was during his fourth hospital stay that Wilson, at the end of himself, raised his voice in desperation, “If there be a God, let him show himself!”

Wilson would later say of the experience: “Suddenly my room blazed with an indescribably white light… I was seized with an ecstasy beyond description. Every joy I had known was pale by comparison.”

The following day a friend and recovering alcoholic convinced Wilson that surrendering to God was the only thing that could emancipate him from the grip of the bottle. That became the vision for the organization Bill Wilson founded over 75 years ago, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).

Success Secrets
At the core of AA’s method is its “12-Step” program. Of the program, addiction-specialist Drew Pinsky states, “In my 20 years of treating addicts, I’ve never seen anything else that comes close to the 12 steps,” adding, “In my world, if someone says they don’t want to do the 12 steps, I know they aren’t going to get better.”

While the 12-Step program has been credited by millions of addicts for saving theirs lives, its effectiveness is a mystery to many observers.

Against our “science-based understanding, there is the acknowledgement of a higher Power, God.

Against the culture of self-esteem and personal power, there’s the call for surrender to God and change through submission and prayer.

Against the view of man as a genetic machine, there’s the requirement to acknowledge and confess moral failures and make amends to those hurt.

Against go-it-alone individualism, AA is a community of “one-anothers” built on trust, accountability, and mentoring.

Another organization has remarkably similar features: surrendering to God, confessing our sins, reconciling with our neighbor, growing in maturity through the spiritual disciplines, and fellowship in the community of faith. And, like AA, many of its members credit those “steps” with their salvation not only in the here-and-now, but in the yet-to-come. Continue reading here.

The recent spate of suicides by the rich and famous is a symptom of our growing sense of gloom. We enjoy social, technological, and economic conditions that would have been considered utopian less than a century ago. Yet, unhappiness, and even depression, are at record levels. Why?

In his impressively researched book, The Progress Paradox, Gregg Easterbrook observes that by every measure of well-being, our generation is better off than any of our forbearers. We enjoy more leisure time with better health, less air pollution, higher levels of education, higher per-capita income, and greater personal and civil liberties than at any other time in history.

Even compared to the halcyon 1950s, our generation has it better in terms of real income, home and car ownership, not to mention morbidity, mortality, education, environmental quality, and the fair treatment of minorities. Whereas, in the past, these benefits were limited to the rich and privileged, today they are realized by a wide spectrum of society. For example, in 1960, 22 percent of Americans lived under the poverty line, compared to 12.7 percent in 2016.

All these material measures should add up to an increased sense of well-being. But they don’t. Instead, the incidence of depression has skyrocketed (up to one thousand times higher) since the Halcyon Decade.

Gloominess in an age of unprecedented progress is a paradox in need of an explanation. Continue reading here. 

According to a gay victim of the clerical sex scandal in Chile, Pope Francis told him, “You have to be happy with who you are. God made you this way.” It’s the conclusion reached by many Christians with same-sex attraction, whose stories share telling similarities.

They knew they were different at a young age. Throughout life, they struggled to hide their feelings and appear normal. After years of enduring rejection, low self-esteem, and depression, they learned to accept homosexuality as part of “who I am.” Eventually, they went public with their “true” identity.

Two Stories
In an editorial for The Huffington Post, country music artist and professed Christian, Chely Wright wrote about growing up in rural Kansas. As a young girl, she developed a love for God through the influence of her Christian home and community. It was also as a young girl—aged nine, as she recalls—that she realized she was gay.

At age nine? When I was nine, I had some knowledge of the physiological differences between boys and girls, no knowledge of sexual orientation, and as for same-sex orientation … you’re kidding, right?

Nevertheless, over time Chely came to believe “that God had made me exactly as I was supposed to be.”

More familiar in Christian circles is Ray Boltz. After a two-decade career of no. 1 singles, gold albums, and Dove awards, Boltz tired of living “the lie.” The lie. Despite a 33-year marriage that produced four children, the Christian music superstar was gay. SaysBoltz,

“I’d denied it ever since I was a kid. I became a Christian, I thought that was the way to deal with this and I prayed hard and tried for 30-some years and then at the end, I was just going, ‘I’m still gay. I know I am.’ And I just got to the place where I couldn’t take it anymore.”

Boltz talks of years in the hidden life, enduring depression, undergoing therapy, taking various psychiatric medications, and becoming suicidal. Then, on December 26, 2004, he disclosed the life-long secret to his family.

It was at that point, Boltz recounts “where I accepted my sexuality and who I was.” It was also the point where his marriage crumbled. (Within a year, he and his wife separated; three years later they divorced.)

Boltz eventually moved to Florida where, he says, he could be himself, free to date and live a “normal gay life.” “If this is the way God made me,” Boltz reflects, “then this is the way I’m going to live. It’s not like God made me this way and he’ll send me to hell if I am who he created me to be … I really feel closer to God because I no longer hate myself.”

Common to Chely Wright, Ray Boltz, and Christian gay advocates is the belief that our desires are fundamental to our essence, part of our God-wiring. Since that is the way God created us, they reason, satisfying our desires is not only not sinful, but sanctified.

The truth is that while some desires come from God—the desire for transcendence, for example—others come from an unsettled combination of nature and nurture.

Orthodox Christianity holds that creation, as God made it, was originally good and later became corrupted by man’s rebellion. Today, the whole world bears the pathologies of a virus that has been infecting planet Earth for untold millennia. So, when a person claims that an unbiblical desire is part of “how God made me,” they are conflating dysfunction with design. Continue reading here.