Rigid thought creates fear

Clyde Davis: CNJ columnist

This column has occasionally taken a stand against rigidity of thought and viewpoint, based on the belief this is not the way God has designed us as human beings to live our lives.

In other words, I try to find a balance between our own spiritual journey and those who have gone before us — a balance that honors tradition while allowing that each of us is a unique individual.

The question I want to pose today: What is behind that rigidity of thought? What world view, for example, is so afraid of the concept of meditation that it will not admit to the long history in Christianity of meditation as a way of moving closer to the Divine?

What window on life is so frightened of the physical practice of yoga, or martial arts, or immersion in the world of nature, that it sees these health-oriented practices as somehow threatening to our spiritual safety?

Oops. I guess I gave away my viewpoint when I used the words afraid and frightened. I guess to me, the motivating factor is fear.

What am I afraid of? If I have to hold to this narrow world view, what does that say about my trust in God? Is my concept of the Divine an image of someone who is sitting up there just waiting for me to make a mistake? Hoping that I will trip up, so that he can drag me into an experience of punishment?

I guess it would be fair to compare this to the job of an instructor. What is the job of an instructor, especially in basic skills and competency classes? Is it to figure out how to make the students feel stupid?

Oh, yeah, I think I will develop some ways to make my students feel incompetent, some new methods for tripping them up. They’ll really learn a lot from that, won’t they?

Or maybe we would compare it to the job of a church pastor. Yeah, let’s think about ways to make the parishioners feel badly about themselves. Maybe I can incorporate some new tricks. That would be real productive for their spiritual growth, as well as mine, wouldn’t it?

Most of us would be astounded at such an instructor, or at such a pastor. It would remind me of the episode in the Gospels where Jesus says to his audience “If you, who are prone to sin, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more does your heavenly father know how to give you good gifts?”

So what is the motivating fear? We are not talking about experimenting with lewd religions here. We are not talking about experiencing debauchery just so we can excuse it as a learning event. We are talking about the kind of spiritual paranoia that sees demonic forces behind every corner in the street or tree in the forest. To me, that image entails a God who sets traps for us just so he can watch us fall into them.

I don’t know. My God is pretty big, and is definitely in control. My God is thus present in the deep forest, or the pristine lake, or the yoga classroom, or the dojo. He helps me grow, and doesn’t thrive on my fear. How about yours?

Clyde Davis is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Portales and an instructor at Eastern New Mexico University. He can be contacted at: