Musing 1.8.21


This musing is truly a musing in that I am thinking out loud. These are ideas with which I have been wrestling since Wednesday’s events in Washington. I believe most of us have struggled to make sense of them and wondered how we go forward as a people.

I watched the events unfold with an increasingly sinking feeling. I shall not describe what all of us saw. I felt that our country was bottoming out. On Thursday I spoke with one of our members about what we saw and our feelings. He hoped that our country will soon get over its political addictions. He didn’t think healing could happen until we acknowledge these addictions. I had not thought of it in those terms; however, my “bottoming out” language is close to the AA step of admitting addiction had made life unmanageable. To bottom out is a wakeup call that we need healing. It is very difficult to deny. In this sense bottoming out can be the first step to wholeness. That is hopeful.

Our addictions may go either way depending which cable news station we watch. There is not much middle ground. The addiction to either adoration or loathing of a candidate, a party, a president fills the time, thoughts, and energy of almost everyone. Sometimes the addictions to adoration and loathing occur simultaneously in the same group. These addictions meet a need to love and/or hate that one cannot live without. And as with any addiction, it can destroy our lives. We saw this addiction of adoration and loathing on display Wednesday.

To understand addiction, I pulled out my notes from a class Rick Gilson and I taught on Richard Rohr’s Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps. We tend to think of addiction in terms substance abuse, material things, grievances, and control, to name a few. Our addictions come to define us. Rohr writes, “Stinking thinking” is the universal addiction. Substance addictions like alcohol and drugs are merely the most visible form of addiction, but actually we are all addicted to our own habitual way of doing anything, our own defenses, and most especially, our patterned way of thinking, or how we process our reality. The very fact we have to say this shows how much we are blinded inside of it. By definition, you can never see or handle what you are addicted to.” (page xxiii). For Rohr addictions point to a deeper need. Rohr goes on to say that this universal addiction to our own pattern of thinking is dualistic.

This description of addiction fits neatly with our current climate. We are so locked into our thought patterns, systems, and reality that we cannot understand how anyone can think otherwise. The dualistic thinking clearly divides us. We talk past each other. Actually, we don’t even talk to each other. As our country moves forward, our leaders talk of the need for healing and recovery. How does that happen?

On occasion the Keeny children have been frustrated with my seeing things in spiritual terms. “Oh, Dad, God is not always the answer”, or “Not every hero is a Christ figure.” Maybe I am speaking only from my experience; but if our lives are not filled with one thing, they will be filled with something else. If they are not filled with the things of the Spirit, they will be filled with addictions. Just as nature abhors a vacuum, so our lives abhor a spiritual vacuum. Luke 11:24-26 is a great parable of this.

If we are not filled with the Spirit, we shall be addicted to stinking thinking. Where I am going with this is an opinion that our country engage in the 12 steps for the healing of our country. Although all the steps must be followed in humility, I won’t go through them here. I shall, however, highlight step 11. “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood [God], praying only for knowledge of [God’s] will for us and the power to carry that out.” Prayer moves us out of the idolatry of dualistic thinking. It moves us out of our world and into God’s. We get out of our thinking and think our way into God’s world. As we improve our conscious contact with God, we improve our contact with God’s world. This is prayer that does not reflect our hatreds and prejudices. It is prayer that humbly reflects God’s loves, reconciliation, and peacemaking. It seeks God’s world.

Prayer, the placing of our lives in God’s hands, the thinking our way into God’s world, is where the healing of the addiction starts. It is where our hope begins.

Be safe and well.