Sociopathic?

That’s the question. Are we, LCMS Lutherans, to some degree sociopathic? In my personal quest to understand all sides of an issue, namely here the issues that are eating at the Synod, it is hard for me to avoid at least asking the question.

I seriously feel nauseous at times when I engage in conversation with some. But it’s more than nausea. It’s a rock-like knot in my gut. In these conversations I find myself seeking either to turn around and run or challenge the living daylights out of the guy. It’s a difficult phenomenon to describe. The conversation feels less like conversation and more like a verbal pat-down–and I’m the one who’s been pushed up against the squad car and searched. Then it’s like I’m being courted or recruited. Like I said, it’s hard to explain.

I do my best to keep my cards pretty tight in those situations. I played a little game the last couple times I was in such a situation. I made a mental categorization of the topics of conversation, dividing them into two groups: talk about others not present and all other topics. It came as no surprise that about the only two topics filed under the latter category were 1) the weather and 2) where to eat.

The former category was lousy with talk about what’s wrong in other congregations, what Rev. So-and-so is up to that stinks, how Rev. Thus-and-such had really done a great job, unlike Rev. Whosit who couldn’t figure out which way was up. Then of course came the inevitable “what’s wrong in St. Louis” suite. These always put me in an awkward bind. Always. The easy way out is to simply go along with the conversation, as dirty as it feels. Or perhaps to simply tolerate the conversation in a non-committal way. I don’t know which feels dirtier–they’re both pretty bad. The hard road is simply to end the conversation. And it’s rarely simple. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve only managed to do this well only once lately. And you’d have thought I slapped the guy in the face. It didn’t go well, but I retained my integrity and avoided a slippery 8th Commandment slope.

Part of what I noticed, though, was that no doesn’t seem to mean no in these situations. That is, after the “no” came another statement behind someone’s back. After another “no” a little while later came another such topic. It’s such a normal thing to rant about others to anyone-but-them that we simply do it. And probably the thing that has me asking the sociopathic question is that I don’t hear in the rant a concern for a brother. And that troubles me. I think we’re really good at paying lip service to Christian concern while actually seeking the elimination of the brother perceived to be in error. Maybe it’s just denial. Or maybe it’s sociopathic to a degree.

Or maybe I’m full of hot air. I could be. I’ve been that before. I’m afraid that I’m not, though, and it’s really alarming.

See, there’s so much anxiety in the Synod right now. It’s so thick it’s like you can’t move without upsetting the balance somehow. There are those who seem to be bitter about the latest elections, still trying to get it thrown out and redo what they disagree with from the last convention. The Yankee Stadium event is still alive and festering in some parts. Seminex looms like a shadow over others. PLI. Ablaze. Contemporary worship. Dead Orthodoxy. Us. Them. Liberals. Conservatives. We’ve factionalized and labeled ourselves to death. And some seem to view this as something of a good thing. I don’t understand how. The whole thing just wears me out.

What prevents our talking to each other–talking through difficulty (doctrinal disagreement, personal concerns, etc.) as brothers? Talking to the ones with whom we have issues? Honestly, what? I guess I know what the answers to that question have been, and frankly they’re not good enough. They’re bred either from laziness or from a contempt for one’s fellows and by extension the Church and the Lord of the Church. We’re called to be better than that.

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8 Responses to Sociopathic?

  1. Anonymous says:

    So, OSC, is it that if one is talking and complaining about several persons behind their repective backs (as you are doing), or a group, it’s okay?

  2. Anonymous says:

    Perhaps to get a grip, if possible, I think what he was trying to say is simply that we do it. Recognize it is there, and it is a problem.

    The previous reponse is, to me, indicative of the problem – we don’t seek solutions together, we seek the assignment of blame in our gotcha game. OSC probably sounds a little too sure of himself in his keeping of the 8th commandment. Yet, I agree that there is a problem, and we should at least be honest in dealing with it if we ever want to repent of it as a sin.

    Of course, I could call my sociopathic behavior anything else other than sin, and not have to repent or deal with it. That’s an option. I could ignore the people that I hurt in the name of purity and orthodoxy, or at least whatever coventional consensus of purity and orthodoxy exists in the church today, and not call it sin because it’s what Jesus would do and sometimes Jesus isn’t very loving, as we all know. And forget, of course, that I’m not Jesus and everything that I do has as much of the sinner as it does the saint. I could ignore that. I choose not to because it is a healthier thing to see my own sin in the system and repent of that.

    There is a line between describing the problems and participating in them. OSC seems to be trying to walk it. Not naming names, as other do, but idenitfying, diagnosing a problem that we need to work on together.

    So my question –
    What’s your suggestion for your own behavior? What can you change for yourself? How can you do it? What is it going to cost you? Answer the questions for yourself, I think, and I think we can begin to work on a solution that we can embrace.

  3. OSC says:

    Anonymous II:

    Perhaps I did sound a little too sure of myself. Let me say for the record that I am not above reproach regarding the 8th or any other Commandment, nor did I intend to come off that way.

    Anonymous I:

    I think Anonymous II is driving very much at what I, possibly quite poorly, am trying to say. I was using an example from recent experience, not seeking to publicly malign another. From the way you posted, my guess is that you already understood that.

  4. Joe Fremer says:

    I’m with you, OSC, it’s ugly, it hurts, and it’s embarrassing.

    Ever watched a drug sniffer dog work? That’s what I felt like after I got out of seminary: like we had been trained to sniff out error and bark like mad, hackles up. I have worked hard for 20+ years to try to change that in myself, and it’s not easy. I don’t mean to blame the seminary per se, but what we have done with confessionalism–our corporate culture of confessionalism. The Christian walk is a combination of movements of both legs (Truth and Love), but we forget that. So we do the confessional hop.

    I will continue to fight for a balanced Christian walk until the Day comes (or my personal last day on earth). Keep at it… brother!

  5. OSC, I sympathize with your observations, and have often felt the same way. And I know that I am frequently guilty of the 8th commandment. I also often struggle with when conversations are and aren’t breaking the 8th.

  6. OSC, I did some further thinking about the 8th commandment and what is and isn’t sin, and came across a great quote from the BoC about it. It changed some of my thinking that was reflected in my last comment. If you want to check it out, I blogged about it here:

    http://thejoshuavictortheory.blogspot.com/2005/06/what-is-sin-and-what-is-not.html

  7. OSC says:

    Josh,

    I appreciate your post, and I take great comfort in that. Well written. My concern is what looks like a tendency to ignore specific and intentional sin and chalk it up as, “Well, I’m forgiven, so it doesn’t matter.” There’s a fine line between the attitude of a secure sinner and that of a grateful Christian. Christ commands us to avoid sin. This was not about searching out sin and ridding myself of it. Perhaps poorly written, it was about taking a hard look at a specific sin that’s tearing our church apart.

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