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Monday, October 28, 2013

How hard it is to discuss happiness...

There are several reasons that I am posting this article about a TV producer, Gavin McInnes, who is in 'trouble' for his criticism of feminism.

For one, Vice Media has produced a number of videos that have helped draw attention to the underworld of addiction throughout the globe.  To be honest, there are a whole lot of things I have learned from those documentaries, and so I thought it would be appropriate to hear from Vice's chief on at least a little bit of his view of life.

Interestingly enough, Mr. McInnes identifies as an atheist-turned-Roman-Catholic.  In a world that is used to the opposite paradigm, that alone is worth a second glance.

But, more especially, I think he has some important observations about happiness, or rather the lack of it among those who demand a single, unalterable path to self-fulfillment and meaning, particularly for women.

Warning: strong language (i.e. bad words)...

My theory is that the overall breakdown of modern culture is largely responsible for the modern phenomenon of addiction, and feminism, as Mr. McInnes points out, has featured rather largely in modern life.  My opinion is that feminism has fought against the social structures that has, for countless centuries, provided both men and women with security and affirmation that modern culture lacks.  Having been torn from our natural moorings, men and women are adrift.  While a few non-conforming-type people may find this liberating and thrilling, a vast majority of normal folk do not.

People want stability and security.  This is why we build houses with doors and windows and locks.  We don't sleep with the door open just to see who we will wake up with.

Feminism has not only destroyed the social security that women and men once enjoyed with universally-recognized social expectations and standards, but it forces many people into patterns that preclude them doing what they really want to do.  Mr. McInnes points out how silly feminism really is as it preaches freedom while bullying women who make their own choices.

Don't think for a minute that feminism's assaults on sexuality have not been detrimental to everyone.  The porn industry (the equivalent of the brewery for the alcoholic) has benefited greatly from feminism's overturning of society's sexual guide-rails.  Now, thanks to the idea that women don't need to refrain from bestial rutting, they can freely give their bodies over to all kinds of objectification and misuse.

By destroying true femininity and replacing it with a weird hodge-podge of masculinity and just plain hedonism, feminism helped idealize the destruction of the family.  This has led to the insecurities of an entire generation of children raised with adults only moderately committed to their well-being.  Now, your insecurities are on steroids.

If we are going to talk about recovery and addiction prevention, we need to be able to discuss everything.  Christians are used to being challenged, and even insulted for their beliefs.  Feminists have to put down the petty insults and histrionics, and instead engage in a reasonable dialog.

People are suffering, and all the anti-depressants in the world are not going to change that.  It is time for a new approach, lest we lose the good things that have come about in the modern era.

We need to put real human happiness ahead of ideologies and political strategies. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Doorknob God

I have touched on this before, but since it comes up rather often in conversations with new readers, it is worth returning to.

Those of us who have hung around enough meetings have heard that old saying, "You could even have that doorknob as your god."

I always wanted to slap people for saying that, and not just because it is stupid, but it is contrary to everything the 12 Steps teaches.  I put it on the level of telling alcoholics they can go back to drinking after their 10th anniversary and nothing bad will happen because they'd be cured by then. 

Just for clarification, I have not slapped anyone since childhood.

Anyway, I have posted an article about how God is described in the Big Book.  This precludes any notion that the definition of God is somehow up for interpretation.  In AA, God is 'anonymous' but He is not 'amorphous.'  He does not take on the shapes of our imaginations.  Rather, we take on His shape.  He changes us.

We do not necessarily say 'Jesus Christ' or 'Consubstantial Trinity' in a meeting, but that does not mean that we can just make up strange deities  with attributes and characteristics of our own choosing.  The God of AA has definite characteristics, independent of our own desires and opinions: He is loving, He is able to change us, He is present with us, He forgives... read your Big Book again and see.  A doorknob does none of these things.

Of course, my good friend Red said it best about the topic:

"The best thing about having a doorknob as your god is that it is probably the first god you've had that wasn't trying to kill you."

Touché.  That's definitely an improvement.

But, the danger still remains that the 'Doorknob God' will then become a recipient of all the attributes the addict wants a god to have, but that the doorknob itself does not actually have.  Addicts in recovery realize that one of the biggest challenges there is is to accept God on His terms, without projecting false attributes to Him.  This means that the doorknob becomes more in our minds that what it really is.  This is an impediment to sobriety.

Isn't that kind of departure from reality what gets addicts into their addictions to begin with?  Why indulge in more fantasy?

The sad truth is that we can often apply these false attributes to God while calling Him by all the right names.  That's why lots of good Christian folk end up getting addicted.

Christians will often mistake God for some kind of monster that is out to destroy humanity and is seeking every opportunity to condemn us.  Sure, they mouth all the right words at the right times, but their in their heart of hearts, they are terrified.

Hyper-religiosity is another symptom of this.  Not long ago, I was asked to evaluate a certain local church figure who is known for his views and as being a very strict person.  Unfortunately for me, I've had to deal with some of the wreckage of his presence in addition to being his neighbor.  So, when asked, I said this:

"He was a spoiled rich kid who snorted a lot of coke and slept with a lot of girls, and after his father abandoned him, he got Calvinism and has spent the rest of his life trying to prove that he is one of the Elect."

I've oversimplified him, but not by much.  Some of the listeners were familiar with this guy's background and could confirm my characterization of his younger days, but they were all astonished that this fellow's early profligacy would lead to such a weird guilt complex.  Well, it often does.  And, that's because at a profoundly deep level, this man who deems himself a greater teacher of things religious is rather something of a heretic.

He can't accept that God is a God of love, not of punishment and condemnation.  He takes his own self-condemnation and applies it to God.  He yanks the Cross away from those who are struggling to find God in the mess of their lives, and tells them they are hopeless until they 'earn' God's mercy... by following his instructions.

This man is worshipping the Doorknob God, because the real God is not like that.  The real God visits us and has mercy on us even when we are unworthy... because we are always unworthy.  We are constantly falling short and disobeying, and yet God loves us and struggles to free us.

If we are at all honest, then we must admit that all of us have, to some degree, a bit of heresy within us.  There are times when  we doubt God or assume the worst of Him.  This is part of our fallen nature, and this makes theology such risky business.  It is about the constant battle over misunderstandings and projection and justification of our failings.

To understand theology, we must return to the purpose of it, which is the knowledge of God that is witnessed by its healing power.  Christ comes and confirms His teachings with healings.

Until doorknobs start healing people, they are off the list for potential gods.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Sisa (Σισα): the Greek Plague

If you think heroin and its evil twin, Krokodil (К˜рокодил), are alone on the European drug front, think again.  The Greeks now have a new path to Hades (AKA 'hell'), called Sisa (Σισα).

Below is a recent documentary that is probably the first to attempt to explain this growing phenomenon.  Because of language a subject matter, I am not going to 'hot link' it so that nobody complains later that a priest 'showed' him/her a video with some bad words in it.  You need to copy and paste into your browser:

In a nutshell, Sisa is a cheaper 'synthetic' of meth.  And, as with all of these new drugs, including 'Spice' and 'Bath Salts,' the effects are worse than the previous generation of street drugs.  The description of Sisa given by the users is that it is bad news, but cheap.

Of course, the Greek government has no idea what to do, but then again neither does the Russian government with Krokodil or the US government with all of our drugs.  I think it is pretty funny, from a US perspective, that the activists are complaining about the police rounding up addicts in Athens, without handcuffs and tazers, and asking them demographics questions (along with offering them some food and potential treatment).  They ought to come over here and see how American police deal with public intoxication.

What is sad is that the Orthodox Church is not a major player in the Greek drug treatment scene.  It could be, and should be.  The Greek state is failing on all fronts, and so the Church has an opportunity to step up.  I do know there are lots of local parishes making efforts to help the poor, but I have no information at all about the Church of Greece doing anything with drug users.

As with most of Europe, churches have taken a back seat to state efforts to treat social ills, and the effects have been pretty much a disaster.  Oh, yes, we feel so much better handing out needles and subsidizing meals while people remain imprisoned by addiction.  As I have said before, 'harm reduction' is not about helping addicts, but assuaging our own guilt.

What it really says is that there is no hope.  And, from a militant secularist perspective, there is no hope for the Sisa addict, because the militant secularist has no God to turn to for help.

If one of our readers has information on what the Church of Greece is doing about drug addiction, I would be more than happy to post that information and give credit where credit is due.  As I have said before, the Romanian and Russian Orthodox Churches are taking action.  I would like to see that list grow.

Frankly, I don't think the American bishops will take any action until it becomes 'fashionable' overseas.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Death of Adulthood

In the New Testament, Christ refers as times to His Apostles and those following Him as 'children,' and He extols the innocence of children.  The Apostles also address their communities as 'children' and reminds them that they have much to learn.

Yet, this childlike state is not intended as a permanent condition.  We often see how this state is to be transcended by the maturing process:

We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. (Ephesians 4:14)

Brothers and sisters, do not be children in your thinking; rather, be infants in evil, but in thinking be adults. (1 Corinthians 14:20)

They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children! (2 Peter 2:14)

Because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.  If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you. (James 1:3-5)

As for what fell among the thorns, these are the ones who hear; but as they go on their way, they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. (Luke 8:14)

Yet among the mature we do speak wisdom, though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to perish. (1 Corinthians 2:6)

Let those of us then who are mature be of the same mind; and if you think differently about anything, this too God will reveal to you. (Philippians 3:15)

It is he whom we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone in all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ. (Colossians 1:28)

Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you. He is always wrestling in his prayers on your behalf, so that you may stand mature and fully assured in everything that God wills. (Colossians 4:12)

But solid food is for the mature, for those whose faculties have been trained by practice to distinguish good from evil. (Hebrews 5:14)

Children are in need of discipline and self-control.  Otherwise, they cannot follow God.  Children are also easily scared, and it is only a mature adult that can confront the assaults of this world with confidence in God and knowledge of both his own strengths and weaknesses.

Yet, as the previous post points out, the death of culture begins with the death of adulthood.  More and more Japanese are rejecting their adult roles in favor of being 'cute,' thus in a state of perpetual immaturity.  So, they do not grow up, but continue to indulge in fantasy and, in a growing number of cases, child pornography.

Europe is not much different, with many young adults rejecting marriage and traditional family obligations to 'see the world' and indulge in their desires.  They are forgoing traditional family formation and obligations, and with that sterilizing their societies.  This has led to the abusive use and dependence on immigrants, who Europeans hate and yet need.

All the while, alcoholism and drug addiction are rampant.  Recovery means finding out what an adult is.

But, when society posits the idea that a father should dress in the manner of his son, and a mother in the manner of her daughter, you are going to have real problems sobering up people who don't know what functionality looks like.

I have heard many older people complain about comparing their lives to 'Leave it to Beaver,' but what about the generation raised on 'Married With Children' or any of the modern TV examples of family life?  Where is it that we are supposed to see normal?

But, ask yourself, would you rather live with the Cleavers or the Bundys?

Well, we are told there is no 'normal.'  Everyone gets to make up his own reality.  The only problem is that if you fail, you leave a whole bunch of wounded people with inescapable memories of lost childhoods and guilty consciences.

There are many people who are not having children because they rightly acknowledge that they don't know how to raise them.  This is pathetic.  Why can't you learn?

I find it extraordinary that so many people read books on child-rearing when they forget that they are the inheritors of countless generations of parenting.  We don't bother asking our grandparents for advice because we assume they really screwed up our parents, or we just default to the common notion that even though we are squared away enough to make decisions from books, our own parents did a lousy job.

Maybe they did, but you survived, right?  But, now, some book is going to help you raise the next Übermensch?  

Reading books on child rearing means we have truly lost our way.  We have lost the concept of parenthood and adulthood.  It is now as alien as automotive mechanics, yet just as necessary.

I find it funny that certified school teachers, supposedly educated in every manner of childhood development, find raising their own children to be such a mystery.  When I'm asked my opinion on these matters, I secretly ask myself, "What exactly are they teaching these folks in teacher credentialing programs?"

Most of the time, they are asking because their theories are failing miserably, but the way back to tradition has been ruled out.  So, the classrooms and the living rooms are full of utter chaos, and another generation of potential addicts is formed.

I am amazed at how a full-grown man can stand in front of me in a skater outfit and expect me to take him seriously.  Yes, dressing is about behavior: you don't wear a business suit when mowing the lawn, and you certainly should not come to church wearing picnic clothes... unless you are coming to be entertained.

If there is one thing that I hope all readers of this blog would do is reconsider what it is they know adulthood used to be, let's say, 100 years ago, and return to it.  You don't need all the materialistic stuff of modern parenting to be a good parent.

Be a good provider and a good role model.  Believe in and demonstrate virtue.  It is truly a path to God when we raise up children made in His Image.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Hypersexuality and Sterility: the Social Costs of Porn in Japan

Since this blog gets a lot of inquiries about pornography and porn addiction, I have tried to include information about this problem in addressing through this blog the overall problem of addiction.  In the modern world, addiction has spread far beyond the drunk farmer or the inner-city heroin junkie.

It has gotten hentai.  That is Japanese slang for 'kinky.'  However, Japanese kinky is so over the top that Americans have borrowed the word without bothering to translate it.  It is now its own word in English.

Pornography in Japan has been legal for centuries.  Yes, I said centuries.  Back in the days of woodblock prints, the Japanese were making 'floating world' prints often depicting sexual activity along with other dramatized depictions of hedonistic conduct.  As a style of art, Ukiyo is unparalleled.  However, its subject matter was often troubling from our perspective.

The Japanese looked at sex much the way ancient Romans did, and held many of the practices.  However, traditional Japanese culture has be 'interrupted' by its interface with the West.  After World War II, Japan became the source of cheap manufacturing for the US, and got into Western style children's toys and clothing for sale in America.  This became the springboard for the 'kawaii culture' of 'hyper-cuteness' for adult women in Japan.

This eventually became fused with Japan's permissive sexual culture, and what you began to have was a bizarre fusion of adults posing as children in pornography.  Now, adults are not the only actors: children are now openly featured in Japan's pornography industry as it struggles to keep up with the ever-increasing demand for more over-the-top materials as viewers gradually become 'tolerant' of the 'old-fashioned' straight, heterosexual porn.  

Right now, Japan is experiencing a social catastrophe: Japanese young people are not only not marrying, they are not having children at all... and many have stopped having sex altogether.  Now, if you are some kind of weird Platonist or extreme Augustinian, you may wonder what the problem is. But, as Christians, this is very, very troubling.

Sexual desires are from God, and they are not bad.  However, like other appetites, they have to be guided and used according to the created order.  What is happening in Japan is that excess has led to the opposite extreme of repression.  Normal sexual desires for another person have been replaced by porn, and in turn this allows people to avoid normal sexual relationships.

And, when you have spend years watching hentai porn, your appetites for the normal are almost completely distorted as to be unrecognizable.  

On top of that, when Japan pushes women into education, and then pushes them into non-employment (all cultures push people... it is kind of the purpose of having a culture), Japanese men and women feel pushed into conflicts that ultimately leave them feeling totally alienated from their society:

Aoyama says the sexes, especially in Japan's giant cities, are "spiraling away from each other". Lacking long-term shared goals, many are turning to what she terms "Pot Noodle love" – easy or instant gratification, in the form of casual sex, short-term trysts and the usual technological suspects: online porn, virtual-reality "girlfriends", anime cartoons. Or else they're opting out altogether and replacing love and sex with other urban pastimes.

Some of Aoyama's clients are among the small minority who have taken social withdrawal to a pathological extreme. They are recovering hikikomori ("shut-ins" or recluses) taking the first steps to rejoining the outside world, otaku (geeks), and long-term parasaito shingurus (parasite singles) who have reached their mid-30s without managing to move out of home. (Of the estimated 13 million unmarried people in Japan who currently live with their parents, around three million are over the age of 35.) "A few people can't relate to the opposite sex physically or in any other way. They flinch if I touch them," she says. "Most are men, but I'm starting to see more women."

It is indeed a tragedy to see an ancient culture like that of Japan gradually die out.  Yet, I believe that this is an important lesson for all modern cultures.

How much different are Japanese attitudes towards marriage and family life from their European counterparts?  Birthrates are plummeting throughout the developed world... the Japanese are just doing it better than everyone else.

When people talk about pornography being a 'victimless crime,' that is plain wrong on many levels.  Not only are the 'actors' in porn victims of degradation, but all of society suffers from the objectification of humanity.

It is strange to say this, but it appears to be true: too much sex leads to no sex at all.  There comes a point where all the hentai material and ED drugs can't arouse a burnt-out sex drive.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Why I don't like the word 'Empowering'

I have always had problems with popular phrases, mostly because they are often used incorrectly or in a way to cover up a dark truth.  Words are about meaning, but in this day and age, there are more people who try to choose words to cover up meaning than really bring to light a hidden truth.

That's what I think about that silly, stupid word 'empowering.'

In fact, I detest it so much that I not only refuse to utter it, but I get sick at the thought of it.  Yes, it makes my stomach churn.  

The reason is that the word 'empowerment' is the most degrading and dehumanizing concept one can apply to the human race without calling someone an 'animal.'  After all, it assumes that 'power,' meaning authority or control or even ability, are not natural to a human.

If these this can be 'given' through 'empowerment,' then they are not natural.

This is baloney.  We are made in the Image and Likeness of God.  We are born with the full measure of our stature as humans, including the dignity of this humanity (as clumsily as it often is manifested).  All the power and authority we are entitled to or need is our birthright, and it cannot be taken from us.

'Empowerment' is a lie.  It assumes the opposite.  It assumes that human power can be taken, and given.  It is like 'luck,' some kind of magical energy that floats around, and people need help to 'get' it.  Then they are 'empowered.'

The truth is that no one can take our power and authority from us... unless we give it up ourselves.  This is the real truth: we surrender to false authority all the time: the false or defective expectations of others, our perceived need to be protected at the cost of our autonomy, etc.

Sure, we always have to surrender some of our freedom to do whatever we want, but that is mostly because our impulses can often be wrong.  Restrictions on our freedom can, actually, preserve our greater freedom and autonomy.  The same is true of working within social structures.

The difference is when we surrender our dignity itself.  When we allow ourselves to be dictated to and, worse yet, pitied.  'Empowerment' is actually a form of pity, and the very worst kind, because it assumes that we have lost our natural grace and have been deprived of it by others.  This gives other people the right to humiliate us.

Sure, others can and will try to harm us.  They will do all manner of depraved things to exercise control over us.  But, it is not about what they do to us that is as important as how we decide to react.  Once we despair and say, "I am repressed," they the other has won and we have surrendered.  On the other hand, if we say, "Nothing that you do to me will make me lose sight of God," then we have no need of 'empowerment' because our true dignity has been preserved.

The saints were those who lost physical freedom and suffered material depravity, yet they are the most powerful figures of our Faith.  None of them needed to be 'empowered,' because they demonstrated their innate human dignity even in the midst of every attempt to deprive them of it.

No one needs to be 'empowered.'  No one has taken anything from you that you have not given away of your own accord and cooperation.  We all are afforded plenty of opportunities to cooperate with the 'system,' and each of us is responsible for that decision.  Please don't tell me that people don't have choices, because we have prisons filled with people who make choices against their systems all the time.

It is all a matter of how much you are willing to suffer to preserve your dignity.

Speaking of prisons, I have seen many men who have caused themselves dire consequences for the sake of preserving the 'street cred' (AKA criminal 'dignity').  They may be doing it wrong, but they prove my point.

The saints demonstrate to us that preserving one's dignity is a painful and inconvenient struggle.  The same is true for the recovering addict.

In the Fifth Step, the addict eventually comes to realize that his real problem is not with what was done to him, but how he deprived himself of his dignity by succumbing to his fears.  The sins that were done to him only because a pretext for his self-surrender of his power and self-control to outside 'idols.'

No one needs to 'empower' him... because he ultimately surrendered what cannot be taken away... his humanity.  The dignity of his humanity didn't go anywhere, but was bent and distorted by his own choice to the point there he thought he had lost it.

This is what recovery is about: it is not about 'regaining' one's dignity, but getting it out of your pocket and using it.  

The silly language of 'empowering' makes this process difficult at best, because it usually ends up with some kind of weird pride trip that takes us out into the word of egomania.  After all, once you 'surpass' natural dignity, the only thing that can be added to man is what is superfluous and unnecessary... and ultimately false.  This is pride.

Now we see why so many people who take up the 'empowerment' language get on pride and ride it off the cliff: it is not natural to us either.  But, when you keep looking for things to add to your humanity, all you are doing is introducing what is unnatural to your nature.

We need to better understand our humanity and its true nature before we make such bone-headed decisions as looking for 'empowerment.'


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Priest's Liver

While flying back from a recent speaking engagement at a parish, I found this vignette in the book Everyday Saints, which describes Church life under Soviet Communism:

A brief digression.  Once there was still-young bishop who was remembering past years.  He remarked that the Church administrators of his generation had defended the interests of the Church at the cost of their livers.  He said this and wept - whether it was because he felt so sorry for himself, or because he really had begun to have liver problems.

But I will never cast a stone of aspersion on such bishops and priests. First of all, of course, that is because I myself am not without sin. But second of all, all these bishops and priests simply had no choice but to entertain these important government bureaucrats and overseers for religious affairs at their ecclesiastical refectories. And these priests, who had no choice but to abuse their livers with Party visitors for the good of the Church, were the ones who were not only taking care of the economic and political and  administrative support system of the Church, but they were in fact the ones giving Fathers John, Cyril, Naum, and Adrian the opportunity to serve, and to spread their blessings to the millions of parishioners and pilgrims who were coming to their churches and monasteries. So let us not criticize them, please, for they did their job as best they could.

While the threats are less immanent, still today many clergy do suffer from alcoholism problems aggravated by the social expectations people have that the priest 'drink' with them.  Of course, this does not include the meals that are often prepared, and the watchful eyes of the host to make sure her work is complimented with the socially-important cue of the third helping.

I have not seen many priests in the US drink themselves to death, but I have seen a fair number whose lives and ministries were cut short by those meals. Cultural Americans (those raised outside a single ethnic group within the US) are usually OK with someone passing up an alcoholic beverage, or even a meal.  It is the immigrants, and those who follow in their footsteps, that get hung up on 'performance culture' issues where they feel they are judged not only by what gifts they offer, but how these gifts are received.  Therefore, they are not as much cooking and 'performing' for the priest as they are for the entire community.  No one wants to be branded the cheapskate.

It gets silly at times: I was doing house-blessings one year with a very early Great Lent.  Of course, the immigrant families expect to cook a meal for the priest.  I told the people 'no meals,' but they simply would not hear me at all.  

So after Meatfare Sunday, I announced to the parish that there was 'no meat' after this day, and I made sure to specify that 'meat' includes beef (in both recognizable and unrecognizable forms), pork, chicken (you would not believe how many Wednesday night dinners I have been served by people exclaiming "But, father, chicken isn't meat!"), lamb, goat, walrus, dog... you get the idea.

The next day, I go to bless a house, and am (socially) required to sit down at a large table.  The hostess laughed about my speech and how entertaining it was.  Then she came out with a large plate of lamb!  I was speechless, and she saw my surprise.

"Oh, is it Lent?  I forgot... let's eat!"

Wolves don't move that fast as the crowd of guests (read witnesses to the hostess' performance) dove into the platter.  One of the guests, who knew the 'routine,' dished me a piece, saying, "Here, father, just pretend it is fish."  We looked at each other, and both knew what was going on.

In Romania, I experienced the same thing... but with alcohol.  During my last visit, I accompanied Metropolitan Teofan of Moldova as he visited his deaneries.  At each one, we stopped for a 'feast.'  While I have no problem with meat in general, and was more than willing to indulge to my hosts' delights, the drinking part was troubling.

The Metropolitan advised me that you cannot refuse the drink, but you also don't necessarily have to drink it.  What amazed me was how many rounds they went through at lunch, then got in their cars and drove home!

My sense is that cultures do need to change.  Drinking is no longer what it used to be, because societies, especially those with ancient roots, are no longer what they used to be.  Even the beautiful mountains of Mare Mureş are not immune to cell phone towers and internet service.  The pace of life is speeding up everywhere, and with this comes more and more stress.

The excesses of 'city life' are spreading, and with them come man's need to 'relax' from these stresses.  Drinking helped ease the pain of decades of oppressive Communism, and now it is being used to deal with the uncertainties and pressure of modern materialism.

Things will change.  It is only a matter of how ugly the process will be.

As a Church, I believe that it is our duty to lead people out of the meat-grinder of modern stress through the spiritual path to God.  This means preaching to the cultures we are in, and calling for reforms.

We don't need to demand that our priests and bishops destroy themselves for the sake of social expectations.  If we do, then we are hardly Christians.  We should not want to love our clergy, and ourselves, to death.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Emotional Dependency, Codependency and the Bible

I recently got an inquiry from a reader about what the Bible says about emotional dependency.  Here's my favorite quote:

"                                                                                                           "

Yes, that's right.  The Scriptures don't talk about emotional dependency, just like they don't talk about addiction or spending too much time on the internet.  It does not mean that such things automatically get the 'Biblical Seal of Approval,' it just means that they are not there.

Unnatural attachments have always been with us.  So have a plethora of other emotional disorders that the Scriptures don't talk about.  Why?

Because these are generally categorized as 'personality disorders.'  Personality has long been a source of curiosity.  For example, the Greeks theorized about the 'Four Temperments' as far back as the 5th century BC: sanguine (pleasure-seeking and sociable), choleric (ambitious and leader-like), melancholic (analytical and thoughtful), and phlegmatic (relaxed and quiet).

The study of personality goes along with man's curiosity about his body.  We seek knowledge about how we exist.

Spirituality is not about how we operate, but why.  The Bible is not meant to explain why you have a belly button, but it can tell you that the belly button is there on purpose.  The Bible gives meaning to the world, rather than a description of the world with oodles of details and satisfactory assurances that it will all work as designed.

Rather, we learn that these things have intended purposes, but we don't always experience them as intended.  Rather than delving into the mysteries of DNA, the Bible prepares us for when DNA does and does not work.

The underlying message is that personality is really not a barrier to God.  Unlike, let's say, Buddhism, in which the circumstances for Nirvana require a certain quietude and studiousness that most people are not born with, Christianity does not require a particular personality type in order to be saved.  Now, the Buddhist takes comfort that if this life does not work out for the purposes of enlightenment, you get another shot at it through reincarnation.

Christianity offers no 'do-overs.'  The Bible is pretty clear that 'now is the acceptable time.'

So, it is up to us to take the grand vision of the Bible and apply it locally.  If we are codependent or dependent, then it is up to us to look up from the problem and see the goal that lies far away.  It is also up to us to ask God to provide a way out.

And, He will.  There are enough of us around to prove that you can get there from here.  It just takes a lot of work and a miracle.  The encouraging news that God will provide the miracle even when we don't deserve it is there in the Scriptures.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Taking a Non-Addict Through the Steps

Though I have tried, I have never been able to successfully coach a non-addict through the Steps.  In the cases I have attempted, it has been with people who have had no progress with standard counseling and, in my opinion, would have really benefited from the unloading process the 12 Steps offer.

In each case, people dropped out during the Fourth Step.  The universal exclamation... "It just hurts too much!"

I tried to explain that this pain is what is inside and needs to come out, but in every attempt to explain this I was met with a stone wall.  So, I had to let it go, because you can't help people who don't want help.

That's not to say that they didn't beg and plead for a remedy to their suffering.  Heck, they convinced me and even said plainly that they would do 'anything' to get free of their inner turmoil and insecurities.  Still, when push came to shove, they threw in the towel.

The fact of the matter is that many alcoholics and drug addicts will die of their disease before they get sober.  They face monumental evidence that their bodies are disintegrating and yet they will not work the Steps.

"Many are called, but few are chosen."

What does this mean?  Why does it seem like some get it and many don't?  Was (the archheretic) Calvin right?  Does God make many of us just to be damned to our own suffering?

I've thought a lot about this.  Here's my conclusion:

Life does not make sense without death.  Unless you understand death, you cannot make sense of addiction or recovery or even the Steps.

Everyone must die.  Yet, we believe we will continue on living after death, and so this death is not an absolute death, but a 'type' of death.  And so, the Christian undergoes other 'types' of death, such as Baptism and Confession and Asceticism, and so he experiences life.  The addict goes through other deaths as he works the Steps.

Yet, all face the same death in the end.  We all come to the same conclusion, even if we reject all of these other deaths.  The difference comes with how we will experience both the final death and the life afterwards.

This life trains us to enjoy the next one with even greater fullness.  We are all called to experience this fullness completely, yet some are not 'chosen' because, even if they were, they will not respond to this.  Look at Israel in the Old Testament: God chooses them, and they spend the entire rest of the OT waffling.  Some chose to be chosen, and others choose not to.

God loves us whether we choose to go through the Steps or not.  God will resurrect us all, whether we choose to be resurrected or not.  But, He also chooses some of us for recovery because He knows we will also choose to recover.  He offers this choice to everyone, but He also will not force us to recover.  The only thing He 'forces' on us is life itself.  We cannot choose to not exist.

The non-addict has a choice to use the Steps to better enjoy the blessings God has prepared for us all, just as the addict has a choice to engage in recovery and enjoy those same blessings.  Non-addicts often have just as much inner pain as addicts, yet they can be just as hard-headed.

So, a non-addict contacted me and wants to try the Steps.  It really is all that I can offer people because I don't know any way out of misery than the path that I took, and so this is the only path I am qualified to guide others through.  Any other alternative I know only in theory.  Whether this person will work all the Steps or not, I can't say.  I hope so.  The Steps have freed millions of people.  But, there are also many more people who have tried the Steps and failed.

All we can do is keep offering the hope we have received, knowing that the choices of others cannot change the truth of our own experiences.

The difference will be whether this person is willing to die to the self.  Addicts often have the incentive of staring death in the face in a way that non-addicts do not.  Many addicts choose to die holding onto a painful life rather than embracing death as a path to eternal life.

In the end, even this awful reality has some hope: I think so long as man is willing to live, God will grant him life.  It is only the man who rejects life, and particularly the life in God, who is beyond all hope.  Therefore, the addict who dies in his disease is not so damned as the non-addicted man who rejects God rejects life.  There are such monsters.

We all have hope, non-addicts and addicts alike.  We all have the choice.  If we choose, then we can also be comforted knowing that God chooses us as well.  He would choose us all if we would be chosen.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Krokodil Hits the American Midwest

Yes, folks, Middle America is feeling the bite of the 'crocodile.'

So, why is the US Drug Enforcement Agency denying it?

It is either bureaucratic hubris, or sheer panic: the DEA and US border policy is failing to slow down the spread of any of these new drugs that are hitting American streets.  They are failing, but continuing to collect fat paychecks.  I'm not just blaming the cops here... the politicians are supposed to be watching this and responding.  Instead, they are busy pulling the wool over our eyes.

It is, my friends, a sign of a new problem that may very well make the 1980s Crack Epidemic pale in comparison...

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Good Documentary Depicting End-Stage Alcoholism

This is a National Geographic documentary that, in my opinion, is the best presentation I have seen so far on the effects of end-stage alcoholism:

Frankly, I think Middle School students would do well to watch this video and think about what it represents.  There is not only a good depiction of the physical effects of alcoholism, but also a rather understated representation of the fears that drive addiction.  Not much moralizing, but a moral lesson nonetheless.

It says nothing about recovery, but it does show how important recovery is, and how lost the alcoholic is when he reaches the chronic stage of the disease.

There is also a fairly accurate picture of how codependency works.  This is a topic that I am really stewing on because I have been asked by a number of readers to say something about it and I am (big surprise) having a hard time gelling a concept that is easily communicable.

I will say this much: codependency is a form of Lust.  Not that it is sexual, but rather people are using each other for their own gratification.  The grandfather is thinking more about his own guilty feelings than he is about his grandson's slow death.  A slow motion tragedy if there ever was one.

Monday, October 7, 2013

An Example of How AA Produces Orthodox Christians

I stumbled upon this blog entry from an Orthodox Priest, in which he describes the Baptism of a prison inmate:

Here's the quote that got my attention:

Michael’s own confession which he made before the baptism was perhaps the worst I’ve heard in more than 30 years of listening to confessions, and also the best.  He had written out a serious examination of conscience, aided by the work he is doing through Alcoholics Anonymous. 

First, I will say this: I sure hope Fr. Ted made sure the fellow he Baptized was OK with this information being put out there.  I don't like to mention anything about people's confessions in any way.  I don't even feel comfortable with revealing whether someone comes to confession or not.

Second, I do think this is really very important for Orthodox Christians to remember that we should not confine ourselves to only 'recruiting' theological dilettantes or religious gourmands from among middle- to upper-class types.  Yes, they tithe better and often appear to be less complicated.  But, I have found that while the poor and the marginal live exceedingly complicated lives (poverty often comes from bad decision making, either from how we are raised or our own decisions, such as entering the priesthood), yet their spiritual problems are often simple and easily understood.  It is the well-heeled who are often the best at camouflaging their unacceptable behaviors and embarrassing truths, which makes their arrival at a place of honesty much more difficult.

The poor man is constantly reminded of his errors, whereas the rich man can always apply another coat of paint and thus convince himself that there's no rot underneath.  Don't get me wrong, they can both be stubborn.  The problem is how we get to the path of truth.

That's where 12 Step work comes in.  It is all about getting to the truth, and as quickly as possible.  This story shows how the man's AA work allowed him to take full advantage of what the Church offers.  There are plenty of catechumens who enter the Church through this same process who simply can't get as honest as this man did, mostly because they don't have to.  They have no practice at confession or even introspection.

When I bring in new converts, I know that for most of the, an honest confession simply isn't something they are capable of at this stage of life.  They need time, and so I try to prepare them for that by letting them know that, as the years pass, God will bring up more things with the past, and they can handle them in later confessions.

However, what about those who have so many issues keeping them from God that they cannot bear His presence in any way?  This is why the 12 Steps are so helpful, because they allow people to approach God outside the Church who would otherwise be repelled because of their defilement and sense of shame.  The Steps make God approachable through the 'plausible deniability' of Anonymity: by avoiding the language of the Church, the addict can blindfold himself and go through the process of restoration to God without being overwhelmed.

It also helps us clergy who are really not spiritually and emotional prepared for dealing with addicts.  I still rely on professional counselors and therapists to help folks in my parish, because I know that I'm not prepared for that kind of work.  I'm a priest, and so my ordination and training largely prepares me to conduct services and teach and preach, but that does not make me an accountant or a brain surgeon or a marriage counselor.  I'd have to go to school some more in order to do those things, and I'm way too busy and too tired to even think about that, so I refer people to professionals.

There are clergy who think they can handle any problem, and then jump in with both feet.  I have always found that both scary and stupid, but those guys are the bishops' problems and not mine.  I have enough trouble keeping my own side of the street clean.  Some of them pull it off, others do not.  I get emails all the time from people stuck with over-confident (and usually misinformed) clergy.  

Addiction is best treated by the 12 Steps rather than over-worked and under-trained priests.  Yet, the priest plays the pivotal role of receiving the fruits of the recovering addict's labor, so that these fruits of repentance can be offered up to God.  It is not the priest's place to do anything other than receive these offerings, or encourage the recovering addict to make this offering in full confidence that it is acceptable to God.

The 12 Steps are preparing lots of people to enter the Church, and they are starting to come more and more.  We clergy must be prepared to receive their repentance and offer them the unconditional love of Christ.  We must also call out to them, but this calling must first be made by our bishops.  They have the Apostolic Succession of this duty, and so we wait for them.  Some are beginning to understand, though it may take a while longer.

The best we can do it pray and perhaps 'lobby' our bishops to do more.  We can also do what Fr. Ted did and receive those whom God sends to us.  If we march forward, eventually the bishops will figure out which way we are going and get in front.

Friday, October 4, 2013


I think we have all seen this coming:

Some of you may wonder why I rant about maturity.  Here's the reason: addicts suffer from a high degree of emotional immaturity.  They are biologically adults, and engage in adult activities, but approach them with an infantile and selfish manner.  Addicts of eschew the laws of 'cause-and-effect' in favor of 'but-I-want-it.'

The problem with this article is that it is trying to enshrine the recent cultural trend of allowing biological adults to remain in an infantile state contrary to their own nature by pointing to rather subtle biological processes and trying to use them as an excuse.

Well, then, if they are that immature, then they should not be drinking or voting, two of the most dangerous things adults do.  See how far those things go.   Try nowhere.

A late teen will always pull the immaturity card up until he wants something, and then suddenly he is an adult.  In ages past, he was an adult at puberty.  It has worked for a long time.  The new system is not working, as addictions problems are showing us.  Lending scientific credence to a modern cultural phenomenon is bad news for addiction prevention.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Alcohol: 4% of world deaths

Sure, this is largely statistical, but it is a fairly accurate reflection of the world's problem with alcohol and its abuse:

Though addictions in the West and developed nations have spread into drugs and behavioral addictions, most of the developing world is battling the temptations of alcoholism.  After all, alcohol is super-easy to make and has an immediate effect.

This is why it is also extremely hard to ban.  Banning alcohol does nothing but create illicit empires.  In places like Sweden, the government control alcohol abuse by inflating the prices.  This slows it down somewhat, but it also creates a lot of binge-drinkers who go to places like Denmark to get sloshed.

Addiction can be maintained even in a 'dry' state.  Once it takes hold, it is the master.  It does not need alcohol to be in charge, and in some ways it is more in charge when you can't fulfill your obsession.  

The only real solution is spirituality, or at least access to it.  Modern militant secularism is the real culprit: it has not only assaulted the idea of religion, but seeks to ban all forms of spiritual expression from society.  Alcoholism and other addictions take hold in places where Christianity in particular has been severely constrained, such as the former Iron Curtain states and now in the materialistic 'Developed World' where 'going to church' is seen as a quaint custom of a previous generation or the refuge of the backwards.

Meanwhile, addiction ravages the world.  

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Veterans Administration Disaster: the Addiction Factory

This is one of the worst bits of news I've run across in a while.  Sadly, over-prescribing is a common problem.

From the conclusion:

Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the number of opiate prescriptions by doctors at the Department of Veterans Affairs has skyrocketed. According to data obtained by The Center for Investigative Reporting, prescriptions for four opiates – hydrocodone, oxycodone, methadone and morphine – have surged by 270 percent in the past 12 years. For the last two years, the data shows the agency has issued more than one opiate prescription per patient, on average.
In interviews, advocates and experts said the rising prescription rate confirmed their worst fears: that the VA is overmedicating its patients as it struggles to keep up with their need for more complex treatment.
Most doctors only have a medical-school approach to addiction and don't understand the danger of over-prescribing.  They also don't do well with being powerless in the face of human suffering, and so it is easier for them to feel they are helping by prescribing a drug that 'makes the pain go away.'
The connection between psychological suffering and physical suffering is only beginning to be understood.  We all know about psychosomatic disorders, where the mind effects the body.  However, there really isn't a holistic approach when it comes to medical treatment these days, since this flies in the face of the 'specialist' system we presently operate under.
I have seen people fall into addiction through over-prescription, those who otherwise would not have gotten into drugs or any other addictive behavior were it not for their 'allergic reaction' to pain meds.  The new meds, in fact, don't even need an allergic reaction: they automatically create a sense of euphoria that is very hard for the average person to not want to experience again.
Think about it: how many of us would say 'no' to the opportunity to feel really, really good... especially after having tasted it?
It reminds me of an old movie, "The Last Detail," where a couple of sailors take a fellow bluejacket out for a last 'experience of life' before sending him to prison for eight years.  The young man had never done any of the things they would eventually introduce him to, and in the end they sent him to the prison with his heart filled with desires for the things he would not experience again for almost a decade: the cruelest form of punishment.
Again, I think that 'taper-off kits' need to be part of any pain med prescription, and open-ended prescriptions should be managed by pain management teams rather than single doctors with little accountability.