What matters more than PTSD

I last wrote about why PTSD matters. There I suggested that this epidemic of fear that we find so evident in today’s world, particularly in my own USA, is creating a kind of traumatic culture of fear. Stress levels are, accordingly, quite high these days.

Some of you know I’ve been working on a book for more than awhile now. Need to get it finished up. Provisional title, “Love’s Resurrection: it’s power to roll away fear’s heaviest stone,” testifies to both some broader history of spiritual awakenings that follow periods of highest fear in our own nation, but also to some personal history of my own spiritual awakenings from fear into love. This is what I call “love’s resurrection.”

Since this is my last blog post until I’m finally through with my book, I’ll give you something of a glimpse of why I’m even attempting a book of this sort. My aim is to use my own practice of psychotherapy over the years to inform a practical theology for the 21st century. If, as I’ve suggested here, PTSD matters a great deal in explaining why we now live in fear of the next shoe that drops news of the next mass murder or terrorist attack, then what matters even more than PTSD is that God has a perfect solution for our fear problem. It’s called perfect love. And it requires a resurrection, a new spiritual awakening. First as individuals. Then as cultures and nations living into a Kingdom of God one day on earth as it is now in heaven.

As for a glimpse of what I’m including in my book, some of it will contain my own rather unique systematic theology of God, of sin, and of salvation. Were I to write an abbreviated outline of that portion dealing with theology, it would look something like this.

1. God is personal and relational. By this I mean that God is one person, not three as the old hymn-writer and others may contend. God is One. Period. Yet, God is tri-une in personality, or personhood. That is, God is body (Son), mind (Father), and soul (Holy Spirit). God’s mind that we often call Heavenly Father is relational with His own body (Jesus) and soul (Holy Spirit) and functions to make choices which bear righteous judgment and lasting consequences.
A. Jesus is God’s body, or Son. On earth He is fully human in body with senses that produce all the human emotions that come from seeing, hearing, touching, smelling and tasting this world that surrounds us. That includes the social environment in which Jesus lived while on earth. An environment where, in fact, Jews feared Gentiles, feared Romans, and to a strong degree each other. Their fears were intense, no less so than what we find in our world, our nation, even today. And from this physical perspective, Jesus informs His Father’s decisions. For Jesus, fear’s heaviest stone while on earth was death itself at the hands of his own feared enemies…..both Roman Gentiles and his fellow Jews.
B. The Holy Spirit, or Holy Ghost, is God’s soul, which is omnipresent and omniscient. The Spirit transcends any worlds or environments. From this spiritual perspective, the Holy Spirit also informs the Father’s decisions. For the Spirit, language is other-worldly and indirect, containing much in way of metaphor, allegory, parable and other symbolism.
C. The Father is God’s mind. It supplies God’s decisions or choices as informed by both body and soul, human emotion combined with spiritual reason. God’s mind weighs both the human fears of Jesus and the divine love of the Holy Spirit before rendering His own decisions, always using love as the “preferred alternative.”
i. In this sense, the Heavenly Father’s Kingdom decisions always place love above fear such that, while fear matters, love matters even more than fear.
ii. The Father relates to the Son in precisely the same way as our own minds relate to our own bodies, because we are made in his same tri-une image.

2. Sin is what happens when our own human minds are informed also by both body and soul but place the body’s fears above the soul’s love in making our own decisions. Fear is a survival-setting that works like our own “preferred alternative” by default.  In that sense I do believe in humanity’s original sin. The fears that result from our senses of the world around us inform our own minds that, to survive, we must humanly take control over whatever “other” in the world we classify as threat or enemy. As our minds surrender not to the God found in our own souls, the indwelling Holy Spirit, but rather to the human senses found in our own bodies, our bodily behavior acts to control “others” we call enemy.  Our controlling behaviors then reproduce fear rather than love (when’s the last time you felt loved by someone trying to control you?) and act to cause reciprocal blame, punishment, pain and even threats of death.   In this way, death becomes our unintended consequence as we choose fear above love.   Fear of enemies produces more enemies unto death, love of enemies produces fewer enemies and far less death.
A. Both sin and righteousness, fear and love, body and soul, derives from what the mind experiences as “faith.” In other words, our human minds, lacking in divinity or Godliness, do not know for sure which is right, the body’s own fear OR the soul’s own love. It decides by faith, either for the body or for the soul. It decides to privilege either fear above love or love above fear; the latter if our faith is indeed in God, and in God’s Kingdom.  For God is love.
i. The extent to which our human minds choose fear as mattering more than love, we not only choose the way of sin but the way of death that follows.
ii. The way of death as a lasting consequence of our choice to sin may, per my own belief, also be called Hell, or the worldly kingdom of Hell on earth in opposition to God’s Kingdom (on earth as it is in Heaven). Hell thus lasts for the entirety of life before death here on earth. Fear itself, the hurt before it and the hate after it, constitutes the horrendous suffering we cannot escape, a kind of PTSD prison that perpetuates our own chronic panic or fears of loss and death.

3. Salvation is what happens when our human minds repent of our own faith in fear, as driven by our outer world through our physical senses and emotions, and turn our faith instead toward love as drawn by our inner self through our spiritual empowerment of God’s indwelling Holy Spirit. As our minds choose faith in love, surrendering to our soul’s perfect love rather than to our body’s worldly fear, as we pray “nevertheless– not my will but yours be done” before then taking up our own cross and following Jesus, we are indeed saved from sin and from fear.
A. We are saved both by the Jesus who surrendered to the Holy Spirit within himself vs. his own tempting outer world all the way to His own cross, and by our mimetic following of Jesus in self-surrender and sacrifice. We are saved by our own faith in God’s grace, and not by God’s grace alone.  The Father’s forgiveness of us from the cross for knowing not what we do cannot cast out our fears until we actually choose to accept that forgiveness.
B. At the same time, we are saved from sin’s fearful control upon surrendering to the God within our soul and the love and grace therein, even if our minds have no knowledge of Jesus. Our minds need only know the alternative between fear and love, the outer world and God’s inner presence, and decide our own preferred alternative of God above world, soul above body, love above fear.
i. In this sense, salvation happens immediately as a consequence of our mental choice here on earth. It need not wait until death. Only a failure to change our minds from our default-faith in fear to our transforming faith in love can produce the wages of hell until death here upon the earth.

So here’s the point in my including such a systematic theology, hard as it may be for many Christians to even grasp let alone agree with: short of a theology of love, the psychology and indeed sociology of fear now present in our lives as Americans has, I believe, no hope of redemption. My reason for evolving professionally from my career as psychotherapist to my subsequent career as pastor is that God alone, through the wisdom of God’s Holy Spirit living within us as persons made in God’s same image, offers that which matters to us more than PTSD. Fear matters. Indeed, it inflicts a helluva pain in our earthly lives and needs to be successfully diagnosed and treated. But love matters far more. And faith in love, our ever present alternative as human beings thanks be to God, has the power to not only treat but to cure. Forever!