All posts by Jim Stitzel

Jim cultivates interests in a variety of areas. He is an avid storyteller, specializing in (dark) speculative fiction and webcomics. He is also a professional code wrangler and dabbles in amateur photography.

Self-perpetuating Philosophical Lifestyle Cycles

I have a wondering, something I have thought about recently and frequently. I am interested in any feedback that anyone has on this topic. It’s called “self-perpetuating philosophical lifestyle cycles.”

Which came first: the chicken, or the egg? Or put another way, which came first: the philosophy, or the lifestyle?

I know a number of Christians who see one of their ‘fellows’ living a particular lifestyle. Let’s choose Goth, just for a developmental example (and for those of you who consider yourselves to be Goth, please take no offense; I am neither condemning nor picking on you; I just need something to develop this thought, so please bear with me). And let’s pick a person to be our Goth — Trudy, for instance.

So, Trudy is a Goth and has been for a couple of years now. She’s just in her first year of college. She is a Christian, been saved since she was seven years old. In fact, her dad is a pastor. Trudy is also very strong in her faith. But she prefers the dark look of the Goth, with the clothing, the makeup, the piercings, the works. Now, I repeat my former question: which came first? The thoughts and philosophies, or the lifestyle?

Put it in more general terms now. Does a person begin thinking a particular way and then ‘discover’ a lifestyle that fits that way of thinking? Or do they find a lifestyle that attracts them (for any variety of reasons) and fall into that lifestyle, with the lifestyle gradually (or not so gradually) changing the way that person thinks? Is it different for different poeple? (BTW – you can insert pretty much any lifestyle into this example — punk, hippy, drug addict, alcoholic, child abuser, pastor, businessman, etc.). Does the person choose the lifestyle, or does the lifestyle choose the person (in a manner of speaking)?

And then, once in the lifestyle, does it become a cycle? Does the thought encourage the lifestyle, which encourages the thought, which encourages the lifestyle, and so on and so forth? When, where, and how is ita good thing? A bad thing? How does one break the cycle if they decide it is a bad thing?

I have a theory on this, but before I choose to post it, I’m interested in hearing some feedback, if any cares to contribute…..

Rights vs. Morality

I read an editorial in the Ball State student-published newspaper this morning. The author of the column basically said that George W. Bush wants to add an amendment to the Constitution that will permanently fix homosexuals as second-class citizens by limiting their rights and freedoms. This, again, is an example of the fact that the world just does not understand. This proposed amendment has absolutely nothing to do with freedoms or rights. It does, however, have everything to do with morality, with right and wrong. Homosexuality is wrong, pure and simple. And it is imperative that an amendment be written and passed because of the liberal courts that are abusing the legal system and violating state laws that ban homosexual marriages.

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On a similar note, I just wish people would stand up and pay as much attention to other issues of morality as they have to this one, issues like adultery, gambling, alcohol abuse, pornography, etc. But those things have all become part of the status quo, part of the norm, and I think that, given enough time, homosexual marriage may pass into the realm of the humdrum-everyday occurrences, without an amendment.

Misconceptions

There is a common misconception that just because a person is religious, they are a Christian and going to heaven. The trouble is this: the Pharisees were religious, and Jesus condemned them many times. He called them ‘white-washed sepulchres’ (pretty on the outside, smelly on the inside), and Paul described them as having ‘throats like open graves’ (spiritual halitosis). So, just because someone is religious does not mean that they are ‘alright’. It only means that they know how to build a facade. So, beware of someone who is religious (especially those who are proud of it). Beware the sweet talker. If the walk doesn’t match what God says is the behavior that pleases him, chances are good that that particular ‘religious’ person isn’t worth your time. True Christians are humble servants, willing to speak the truth in love, willing to suffer abuse, trials, pain, and hardship, and willing to do whatever it takes to make sure that God is magnified above all else.

Separation

I don’t know what all this garbage is about trying to keep religion and politics separated from one another. It’s disgraceful the way that particular clause has been interpreted by the liberal courts over the years. There are so many people who feel that a person’s religious beliefs should have nothing to do with their political actions. What I don’t understand is why people don’t realize that there is no possible way to separate the two. Religion, spirituality, philosophy, theology, and politics are ultimately all inextricably tied to one another. It’s what we call a worldview. And ultimately, it all comes down the individual’s theology (and yes, everyone has a personal theology, whether it is a personal God they belief in, an impersonal, all-encompassing, pantheistic, unknowable God, or no God at all) that governs how one behaves in every other area of life. You just try to separate your belief (or disbelief) in God from everything else. You’ll find that it is impossible to do. People like to stay consistent with their belief systems (a little thing we psychologists like to call ‘cognitive dissonance’ results when that consistency is broken). So, if you wonder about what a person’s religious beliefs are, just look at their behavior. Behavior reflects belief, as well as their underlying worldview.

Bias

Yeah, so I’ve been really prolific with the thoughts today…..

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— original author wrote:
> Accepting an Idea
>
> 1. It’s impossible.
> 2. Maybe it’s possible, but it’s weak and uninteresting.
> 3. It is true and I told you so.
> 4. I thought of it first.
> 5. How could it be otherwise.
>
> from http://www.possibility.com/Cpp/CppCodingStandard.html#intro
>
> … well, i got a kick out of it, anyway. back to work, then..
>

**chuckle**

Ok, that ties in really well with some memory issues we’ve talked about in class recently. People basically have selective memory that they modify unconsciously and at will (typically). Basically, using the steps above as an example, you can start at point 1 and progress to point 6, and by the time you are at point 6, you can have completely forgotten that you were at point 1, asserting all the time that the idea was original to you, that you were the one who suggested it in the first place, when in reality, you may have violently objected to the idea!

And then we wonder why we need counselors……

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Oh, and counselors, keep a sharp out for THIS client.

Sifting

I love psychology. It is, after all, my chosen field. And I must say that getting my master’s degree from a secular institution has been interesting, to say the least. I always have to include a personal mental disclaimer to every lecture. For example, in my Social Cognitions class last night, we discussed briefly a classic psychological “chicken-or-the-egg” phenomenon — which affects which first? Physiology or affect (moods/emotions/etc.)? (See? Chicken. Egg.) Does physiology initiate an action and thus mood is interpreted from the aroused physiological state? Or does affect/cognition initiate the arousal and thus the physiological reaction.

Enter disclaimer — “Note to self: present company has little to no notion of the spirit/soul, and few theories even mention the topic, let alone discuss it. Be sure to account for that in your own personal practice.

That’s a continued problem I run into (and probably will for the rest of my professional life) – most of these theories are so frustratingly unilateral and unimodal. The theories attempt to fit all the facets and nuances of human behavior into a nice, tight little package of cause-and-effect (impossible!). And while some theories are better than others, none is perfect (or necessarily even great) at doing the job. So, I sift, sift, sift through the theories and take out the useful stuff (using a biblical, as well as a practical, foundation)and, with a VERY critical eye, blend it with what the Bible says about the human condition and the human relationship to one another and to God. Very tedious, yet at the same time, really quite fun. Especially when application can be made — and one can watch it work!

So, I sift the theories, but mentally add the element that nearly every theory neglects — the spiritual side of humanity. If you can’t identify ALL the pieces of Man, then you can’t properly address all the NEEDS of Man.

Misunderstanding the Gospel

I am of the opinion that the Gospel is the single most misunderstood topic in the history of mankind (even among Christians themselves). It has incited Crusades of death and persecution and yet has inspired millions to give their lives to Christ.

The most current example of this misunderstanding is the criticism of the release of The Passion of the Christ. One news periodical criticizes the movie harshly, saying, “The Reporter also says that the movie’s violence is so intense and more important than character development that audiences may have trouble with that.” I’ve not yet seen the movie (though I hope to this weekend), but the point of this particular movie is NOT to provide quality character development or shield us from the violence of that moment in history. Quite the opposite in fact. It is to show us the very graphic nature of what Christ went through to atone for our sins. And quite frankly, if you want character development, take some time to read through the Gospels for the complete view of Christ and his earthly ministry.

A local talkshow host advocated the movie during his broadcast last night, pointing out that many of the critics of this movie have yet to see it. His advice to said critics was to go see the movie and then form an opinion. And while he advocated the movie and was so close to being correct, he was also soFAR from being correct. He made the statement that Gibson’s goal in producing this movie was marketing and that local churches also are using it as marketing to get people into the pews. This is both correct and not correct (and here is a facet of the misunderstanding). On one hand, it is marketing insofar as it is intended to draw people. But that is NOT the primary goal. The primary goal is to share the Gospel, using a clear depiction of what Christ went through in His final hours to drive home the weight of that moment that has forever impacted and changed history. This is the thing that the unsaved world simply cannot understand. It is not marketing that we care about — it is souls. We desire to bring others to Christ so that they, too, may be spared from eternal damnation, as we have been. And the ONLY reason this movie has been so criticized so harshly even before its official release is because it is a religious movie, and a Christian religious movie at that. No one complains about the intense violence and lack of character development in a Jean Claude Van Damme movie (or any other movie or television show, for that matter).

..edit.. This website is a prime example of the Christian contribution to the misunderstanding of the Gospel. While I respect this organization’s attempt to exhort and correct a perceived wrong, it is Christian ‘wackos’like these who inspire hate and disgust of all those who bear the name of Christ while at the same time taking the Scriptures out of context in order to suit their own purposes and interpretations of the Bible. And it is exactly this kind of ‘Christian’ that makes me want to distance myself from everyone who claims to be a follower of Christ so as to avoid tainting my own ministry to others and to cleanse this bitter taste from my mouth.