After “Thoughts & Prayers”

“In the last days World view will rise against world view” Jesus—Matthew 24

Has our culture become an infectious place to catch mental illness?
This is too serious to offer simplistic solutions except where simplistic is the obvious solution. Dr. Jordan Peterson a prof at Harvard and U of Toronto, whose book was selected for the Oprah Book Club, was asked why we are in the chaos we are. His answer—dismissing God. When God is voted off the island, the source and foundation of civility, laws and infrastructure of social interaction goes too.

I’ve been researching how we got to “bat shit crazy” to quote a Younger’s description of where we are. To enter a schools intending to kill with an attack rifle by definition is an act of insanity driven by frustration not necessarily hate. We must understand the paths that brought us here.

The Foreword to Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life—An Antidote to Chaos (©2018 Random House Canada) is written by Dr. Norman Doidge, MD, teacher at Harvard & U of Toronto, author of The Brain that Changes Itself. He and Peterson have a handle on how we arrived at and in this chaos. I quote here my underlinings and thoughts from Doidge’s Foreword:

(When our culture erased all “absolutes,” rules became unwelcome and “unnecessary.”)

“…without rules we quickly become slaves to our passions—and there’s nothing freeing about that.”

“…alongside our wish to be free of rules, we all search for structure.”
“The hunger among many younger people for rules, or at least guidelines, is greater today for good reason. In the West at least, millennials are living through a unique historical situation. They are, I believe, the first generation to have been so thoroughly taught two seemingly contradictory ideas about morality, simultaneously—at their schools, colleges and universities…. This contradiction has left them at times disoriented and uncertain, without guidance and, more tragically, deprived of riches they don’t even know exist.”

“The first idea or teaching is that morality is relative, at best a personal ‘value judgment.’ Relative means that there is no absolute right or wrong in anything; instead, morality and the rules associated with it are just a matter of personal opinion or happenstance, ‘relative to’ or ‘related to’ a particular framework, such as one’s ethnicity, one’s upbringing, or the culture or historical moment one is born into. It’s nothing but an accident of birth. According to this argument (now a creed) history teaches that religions, tribes, nations and ethnic groups tend to disagree about fundamental matters, and always have. Today the postmodern left makes the additional claim that one’s group’s morality is nothing but its attempt to exercise power another group. So, the decent thing to do—once it becomes apparent how arbitrary your and your society’s ‘moral values’ are—is to show tolerance for people who think differently, and who come from different (diverse) backgrounds. The emphasis on tolerance is so paramount that for many people one of the worst character flaws a person can have is to be ‘judgmental.’ And since we don’t know right from wrong, or what is good, just about the most inappropriate thing an adult can do is give a young person advice how to live.

“And so a generation has been raised untutored in what was once called, aptly, ‘practical wisdom.’

“Aristotle defined the virtues simply as the ways of behaving that are most conducive to happiness in life. Vice—least conducive….”
“By contrast, our modern relativism begins by asserting that making judgments about how to live is impossible, because there is no real good and no true virtue (as these too are relative). Thus relativism’s closed approximation to ‘virtue’ is tolerance.”

Want to see what a society looks like when morality is nothing but relative? Watch the evening news—network of your choice. Check out the video games, watch movies, listen to conversations—if all profane words of the “F-bomb” type were taken out, we would have semi-silent movies. I wonder if we have so many school shootings because the shooters do not know right from wrong. Mental illness becomes close to inevitable for some because there is a portion of the brain that demands virtue, a sense of wrong and awareness of inevitable consequence to live sane and whole. Life as we want it cannot be sustained under nihilistic rubric.

I have several friends who work in maximum security prisons and others working in less secure facilities. They concur that family has influenced lawless behavior—a generational pattern. I come away from those conversations feeling sad and borderline hopeless. Families with bad actors, or non-involved parents or parents whose energy is depleted by their personal attempt to survive, homes broken and unsafe. This healing vision would be about healing the culture of broken families—empowering single-parents.

All of this is bouncing around my soul at the same time I’m trying to make sense of God’s promise to Abram that he and his family (even into 2018 and beyond) would bless all nations. (Genesis12:3c)

I don’t think the public schools should accommodate Christian education, so I’m thinking some churches could become builders of change-agents and leaders. What would that look like? Revamp Education approach. Sunday school was started by Robert Raikes to feed and teach kids to read. He paid the students to attend. We need to build something with Raikes objective, but with a different name—something inviting and inspiring credibility. Such institutes (you will choose a better name.) would be about building a more civil and stronger cultural infrastructure. I’m thinking franchise with different churches specializing in different age groups. Each “franchisee” would hire or assign age-grade specialists with training and calling for their designated age-group.

Specialists: counselors/therapists, teachers, mentors and healthy family. Also, a tribe of men who will become companions like Native American Elders who teach boys to become men.

Driving Core Values—of a culture that develops whole persons:

Biblical worldview (in contrast to relativism), Family, Healing of memories, Training for thriving, Discovery of gifts, purpose, destiny, self-appreciation, God’s love.

The curriculum would include Emotional Intelligence. (This is a bare bones outline):

I think of Ishmael as the poster child for millions of people in our country who are touched by the potentially corrosive damage of instable families. Not every kid of divorce is marred or scarred, but their life-trajectory is shifted or refocused—sometimes out of focus.

On the mythical conference grounds—Southwood—we have built an octagon shaped building. Rooms open out onto a porch and open inward onto a balcony overlooking a performance auditorium. Each room is constructed and furnished to focus on one topic.

We have opportunity to disciple the wounded or the incomplete for a couple of years or five, maybe ten. What skills, knowledge, experiences, will they need to thrive? What do we want to produce during their tenure with us?
The biggest barrier to being a whole person is self-hatred, dislike or diminishment, therefore room one would have to be healing and deliverance leading to self-acceptance. Room two would contain education about Emotional Intelligence. E.Q. is more predictive of success and life fulfillment than I.Q., and it can be learned. To be specific, I call your attention to brain trust of Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman who outlines The Emotional Competence Framework.
Personal Competence

1. Self-Awareness—Emotional awareness, Accurate self-awareness, Self-confidence
2. Self-Regulation—Self-Control, Trustworthiness, Conscientiousness, Adaptability, Innovation
3. Self-Motivation—Achievement drive, Commitment, Initiative, Optimism
4. Self-Soothing—Stress management, Managing self-talk, Body relaxation
2. Social Competence
5. Empathy—Understanding others, Developing others, Service orientation, Reading a room.
6. Social Skills—Influence, Communication, Conflict management, Leadership, Change Catalyst, Building bonds, Cooperation, Team Cooperation (p 26-27 Working with E.Q. 1998, Bantam Books)

Financial education: how to give, save, spend wisely. I would want intergenerational groups to help build a healthy family mindset and available mentors, coaches, teachers. In our work with addicts, we notice how many would be helped to learn to make wise decisions. How about discovering personal strengths through Briggs-Meyers surveys and Spiritual gifts? A place to determine purpose, callings, life-missions.

In that performance center, we worship, we hear peers and models describe how God is working in their lives to show us how God can do so in us. We are taught Scriptural Principles through teaching, preaching and interaction.

The curriculum would include Ten Commandments using the principles behind the “rules.”
1. Truth—Basis, discernment, living decision-making
2. Reality—how to recognize
3. Power of words
4. Boundaries
5. Family
6. Value life
7. Sex—morality, intimacy, honoring
8. Empathy
9. Integrity—acquiring knowledge and wisdom, living honestly
10. Community—respect for racial, ethnic, religious differences without compromising your own.

Given the present feelings toward church, the place these gatherings, classes, seminars meet may have to be in neutral settings. Age-range: k-12.

Malcom Gladwell writes in Outliers about three groups of geniuses. There are lines in the description of the low achieving C group that grip me:

“What did the Cs lack? Not something expensive or impossible to find; not something encoded in DNA or hardwired into the circuits of their brains. They lacked something that could have been given to them if we’d only known they needed it: a community around them that prepared them properly for the world. The Cs were squandered talent. But they didn’t need to be.” Outliers, Malcom Gladwell, Little, Brown and Company, 2008. Page 111

That is how Abraham’s family can bless the nations.

This is a proposal. What am I missing? What grabs you? What is the next step? I would like to talk about this.

©2018 D. Dean Benton dean@deanbenton.org

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