In a recent “Q” seminar hosted by Dr. Mark Yarhous, Philosopher and Clinical Psychologist and Theologian speaking of the issues of Transgenderism utilizes three lenses through which people, especially Christians see and define those suffering from gender Dysphoria, Identity, Disability and Diversity. I found the arguments compelling and attempted to match these three lenses of understanding to the larger issues of estrangement from Gods plan for us. Of course this goes well beyond Dr. Yarhous’ original thesis but I felt, intuitively that there was a connection that could be explored.
In doing so, I came to the conclusion that the three lenses made perfect sense but were also too limiting to address the full challenge of understanding and then defining the different ways we become separated from God. As I delved deeper I came to identify an additional four lenses. I also discovered something curious. The seven lenses were more than ways we see, they were also logical stages that can be traced from the garden to the modern era, and through various movements of human history, political, social and religious. I don’t claim these seven stages to be ironclad rules, or fixed points nor do I suggest there is a specific biblical foundation for these stages. Instead my thesis is that the seven stages are identifiable only looking backward and once identified can be used as a yardstick looking forward. Let me be clear up-front. I do not claim these stages are final, or set in stone. The seven emerged after careful consideration and I have no doubts that some people may find alternate ways to define a given stage. Also, in careful analysis I identified other stages that initially seemed to expand the list but I felt that, after prayer and scrutiny they were mere sub-groups under one of the seven stages. Perhaps I was drawn to the number seven because of its symbolic power. Of this I confess possible guilt and ask the reader only to be open and forgiving.
So dear reader, here I present the seven stages of estrangement from God. As a word of caution I want to remind the reader that as Christians, indeed as human beings we are all suffering through these stages because we are all to some degree estranged from our Lord and Savior. Therefore this list is not meant to be a hammer by which to drive others into submission but instead a mirror through with we may see reflected where we are, culturally and personally in relation to where God would like for us to be. As in all things, use it wisely… Use it prudently… Use it with humility and always use it in service to the Kingdom.
Integrity – The level to which we are integrated into Gods purpose for us, through Jesus Christ emotionally, intellectually, physically and psychically.
In the garden man’s integrity was complete through his direct connection to God. Man was gods beloved created being, tasked with the care of the garden and the naming of and thus care of animals. Once Adam Fell, the integrity of humans was compromised. The fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil created man’s first division. Good and Evil, or to put it more accurately, the knowledge of Gods plan for us and the knowledge of a world unleashed form our creator, surrendered to absolute autonomy. Because we are created beings, autonomy is not the state of being we are meant to be in and so we are divided first within ourselves, then within our families and communities, then against our fellow human beings.
Disability – Our state of living in a world that is broken through Adams fall, and our inheritance of that failure of obedience.
Man, is made aware of his nakedness. This means more than simply a sudden awareness of being naked, it means that for the first time we felt our nakedness, from hot and cold to the sting of thorns on our flesh to the weariness of our bodies through exertion. Man’s mortality was manifest first in this stage. Our fall disabled us just as the limb severed from the body disables the whole body. But this disablement, though painful and fatal is also part of the corrective for just as a phantom limb is still felt so too is the phantom presence of God felt by all generations of men. This is what was only recently called the voice of our conscience and that today is largely ignored as irrelevant to the psychological state of a human being. Through this we have become conscience disabled.
Disorder – The state in which we begin to justify our disablement at a self-centric level.
The state we come to when we identify by our differences and not by our common or shared realties, specifically the reality of our creation by and dependence on a creator God. Through modern arrogance we have ceased to see our fundamental disability, instead choosing to call it a specialness, making even our brokenness a thing to be celebrated. We relish in being different and in taking our own way. Radical autonomy becomes a pathological urge to utterly self-reliant, self-dependent and self- centered. When we speak of the right to choose through abortion or the right to be gay, or the right to pick your gender as being a right to choose, we are in fact speaking through the disorder of our broken nature.
Dysphoria – Allowing natural disorders to become pathological. Sickness becomes disease.
When we enter the dysphoria phase of our estrangement from God we begin to see the breakdown of our conscience. What we know to be right conflicts with what we want to be right, and being self-centered beings we ultimately choose what feels good to us, if we are left to our own devices.
In the days of the Christ, the Pharisees faced dysphoria and chose ultimately what felt good, what was comfortable and what didn’t require making sacrifices rather than accept the truth as it was then revealed to them through Jesus Christ, God on earth. Truth became an obstacle to comfort because disorder had been justified by so many and for so long that it became pathological.
Diversity – The one who is disordered seeks to create diversity, reducing normalcy by refusing to accept any single norm by which to live.
Moving from Dysphoria in a steady evolution we arrive at diversity. The conscience is still present, and still at work but at this stage we have determined that conscience is itself the enemy of our desires. What makes us feel good becomes the central focus of nearly all our efforts. But because we are thinking animals, we recognize that what makes us feel good is not the same as what makes another feel good so we invent diversity to explain the differences. Suddenly all morality is completely relative, there is no right or wrong, only subjective degrees to which the individual interacts within a society. Humanity created enclaves into which those of similar self- interests seek asylum. By this stage the choices that we invented the stage of disorder shift and become innate traits and protected classes of human kind.
Diaspora – The removal by degrees of groups that are different from a culture that defines itself as morally neutral and radically -autonomous.
In our brokenness, we strive to find unity and absent the integrity of a truly divinely centered life, a life lived in the shadow of the garden we find unity only in what makes us feel good. Because this is motivated by self-interest it doesn’t take long for other enclaves within our society to be viewed as the enemy and a threat to the self-interest of your group. Once this happens individual enclaves are dispersed further and further apart, either by force, coercion or through a desire to set themselves further apart, to be purer in thought and action. This happened among Gnostics in the Early Church, it happened to the ancient Israelites, to the Jews from the middle ages to the modern era and to Christians in communist states, and today to an ever-increasing number of groups that do not fit into the mold of radical autonomy. Why this happens is not clear but I believe it is to do with the need for morally autonomous groups being unable to face the reminder of the previous levels of estrangement. It is far easier to maintain self-interest if you have no reminders that there may be other ways to live.
Eventually wee stretch ourselves further from the source of our creation and the font of our happiness, creating more and more sub-cultures to fit a growing list of types of people, each one needing to maintain the illusion of its integrity by eliminating reminders of the presence of the other. For ancient Gnostics it was the need to retreat into the desert, to be free of conventional Christianity, for ancient Jews it was the emergence of the different sects in power up to the 2nd century BC and the fall of Jerusalem. For Christians at various times it was the radical movements within the reformation and counter-reformation and the denominational schism that still occur up into the 21st century over issues such as abortion and gay rights. For sexually liberal sub-groups this has been the steady evolution from the lifestyle choice of only a few years ago to the innate traits or genders as we term them today. For the issue of abortion this has evolved quickly from a woman’s right to choose not to be a mother, to the termination of an unborn baby as a matter of a woman’s general health.
But most important for this stage of estrangement is that each of these sub-groups find themselves estranged from all other communities. So called gay affirming churches in almost every case become churches that focus exclusively on social issues that relate to the gay community, with all other biblical teaching either removed or reconciled to a lower status. Equal rights groups ted to focus on the rights of single groups, often at the expense of others as happens with groups like the NAACP, which fights to deliver greater rights to black communities even as the rights of other groups are diminished. It becomes easy to ignore pleases of religious discrimination when your sole focus is on minority discrimination.
When all else fails, if we don’t fit we simply create a new sub-culture and invent a growing list of acronyms by which to ourselves. As is seen in the evolution from gay rights to the rights of LGBTTQQIAAP people or lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, ally, pansexual. And the list continues to grow.
Entropy – The state in which we have allowed ourselves to become so defined by our brokenness that we are unable to see what is wholesome and good and normal.
By this stage of estrangement even the complete emersion within our own sub-groups is insufficient to alleviate our latent feelings of estrangement but we have move so far from our foundation that we no longer have sight of or understand what we have lost. Because radical self-interest is hungry it must be fed and it is fed through hatred and animosity. In the absence of other groups, we begin to hate the groups we belong to. They no longer do enough to protect us or serve our needs, they are not sufficiently committed to your being at the center. Groups like Black Lives matter, the Tea Party, grassroots socialist movements within the DNC, all represent splinter groups that exist to feed off the groups they broke away from. Their primary motivation is to feed the exclusivity of the sub-group. The emergence of these in large numbers also represent the near end of the larger cultures from whence they evolved, in effect they become harbingers of the greater cultural decay in its final stages.