Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Psychology Roots of Jurisdictionalism-Part II

Jursidictionalism Avoidant Personality and Our Broken Sense of Self . To expand on the egoism of jurisdictionalism, let me offer an illustration drawn from psychotherapy. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual ( DSM ) of the American is a Psychiatric Association includes a personality disorder called avoidant personality disorder . The diagnostic criteria for describes avoidant personality disorder as a "pervasive pattern of social inhibition, feelings of inadequacy, and hypersensitivity to negative evaluation, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by four (or more) of the following:

  1. Avoids occupational activities that involve significant interpersonal contact, because of fears of criticism, disapproval, or rejection

  2. Is unwilling to get involved with people unless certain of being liked

  3. Shows restraint initiating intimate relationships because of the fear of being ashamed, ridiculed, or rejected due to severe low self-worth.

  4. Is preoccupied with being criticized or rejected in social situations

  5. Is inhibited in new interpersonal situations because of feelings of inadequacy

  6. Views self as socially inept, personally unappealing, or inferior to others

  7. Is unusually reluctant to take personal risks or to engage in any new activities because they may prove embarrassing.”

I would argue that, mutatis mutandis , this summarizes the situation that we now face as a Church both here in America as well as worldwide.

Personality disorders typically reflect a damage sense of self. For all that we must respond with compassion to those who sense of self is damaged, our compassion ought not to blind us to the kind of damage that can be done to self and others by someone who responds out of their broken sense of self.

For all of our theological scholarship, I would suggest that in all levels of the Church, we have failed to translate that theology in such a way that it fosters in people a healthy sense of self. Absent that healthy sense of self, it is difficult to bear up under the suffering that is coming our way as we try to reconcile the cultural and linguistic estrangements that we have enshrined, and made rigid, in our overlapping jurisdictions.

To put the matter another way, for all that theology matters, we must not neglect the fact that our challenge as a Church is fundamentally psychological. As such not only is it resistant to a theological solution, it is grounded in our emphasizing theology at the expense of a careful consideration of the sociological and psychological dimension of the Christian life. Our problem is psychological not theological. We know what we believe about the Church, but we cannot find it in ourselves to live what we believe, at least beyond a certain point.

Just as a failure in psychology lead to the Great Schism (in the sense that we East and West were not only psychological estranged but also defensive in the face of the evidence of that estrangement) 1,000 years ago, so to today, we face also an similar failure to appreciate the power of our psychological differences. Add to this the way in which the surrounding culture exacerbates these differences and we are facing a crisis point every bit as serious as what we faced in the 11 th century.

This brings to an end my reflections on the current jurisdictional controversy facing the Church in America. I thank you for the kind gift of your attention, comments, questions and criticisms.

As always, your comments, questions and criticisms are not only welcome, they are actively sought.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory