Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Super Ego is no surrogate for God, in any religious institution

My wife and I recently re-watched the excellent movie, "The King's Speech" and while there were many moving moments, especially those based on the former King George VI's relationship with his father, one moment stuck out in my mind.
In a conversation around the coronation chair in Westminster Abbey with his speech coach, the volume and intensity of the dialogue escalates to the point where two things happen. The student in extreme anger actually "finds his voice" and the Archbishop of Canterbury enters disturbed by the escalating verbal conflict, enters the scene and without being asked, volunteers his advice that he will find a certified and qualified professional to replace the current unqualified and uncertified one.
It is the voice of the Archbishop that is echoing in my ears.
The church's highest leader  is heard speaking for the formality and the conventionality of formal certificates, respectable standards and, in essence, the voice of what Freud called the Super Ego. In the William Golding novel, Lord of the Flies, Piggy's 'what would auntie think' when events are tumbling out of control on the remote island where the downed choir boys have landed following their air accident, is another voice of the same Super Ego.
Political correctness, social conventionality, the repression of  even the slightest note of questioning of authority, and certainly of raising one's voice even when such attitudes and actions are warranted by the injustices being imposed, is not an incarnation of any God worthy of the name.
Political correctness disguised as religious dogma does not merit the obsequious adherence of infantilized 'disciples' of any God. Political control, on the part of those responsible for ecclesial leadership, is one of the primary motives of such politically correct super ego voices.
And while every person has that voice in our psyche, it is the prominence of that voice to which the church has for too long given both permission and advocacy.
The church, and while my experience is primarily from the inside of the Anglican/Episcopal institution, is enmeshed with the establishment, with the 1% at the top of the income and political status ladder. The church in fact even provides 'moral protection' for the perceptions, standards and attitudes of those in the 'establishment' for many reasons, one of the main ones being the dependence of the church on the cheques written to the "service of God" through the church's own establishment, for the added benefit of tax credits.
The Christian church, including the Anglican/Episcopal church, has provided cover for those virulent advocates of slavery, of the death penalty, of not granting women the vote, of linking AIDS with homophobia, of those advocating reversal conversions of those attempting to live a gay lifestyle, of the use of gunpowder to impose "civilized" attitudes on aboriginal peoples on too many continents, of abolition of alcohol, the war on drugs, including a virulent 'top-down' imposition of the will of those in authority on those without power. And in a highly ironic twist, the Christian church will both write and deliver homilies, received with adulation and warm praise, extoling the virtues of giving "voice to the voiceless" in our society.
This irony is not merely an accident of history, in the light of everything, including every nugget of wisdom, contains the seeds of its opposite. It is an extension of the power that corrupts in all institutions whose institutional interests trump its capacity and willingness to uphold a conscience.
When people are charged with the preservation of the interests of the institution, including the bishops, canons, archbishops and military generals, not to mention corporate executives, continue to a abort their moral and ethical barometers and thermometers as human beings, to which the exhortation to give voice to the voiceless is directed, in favour of their allegiance and their responsibility to their shareholders, and in the church that means those largest of the benefactors.
Scriptural exhortations and aspirations invoking the notion of a deity whose vision includes "I came that you might have life and that more abundantly" are not only antithetical, but actually incompatible with the requirements and definitions of the Super Ego and political correctness.
And for the purpose of probably first, gaining, and later retaining control of the people choosing to occupy the pews in their sanctuaries, the Super Ego, as a legitimate interpretation of the sacred texts is deployed, virtually without rebuttal, given the pursuit of "fitting in" of those seeking entry into the holy halls of those sanctuaries. God is not reducible to the Super Ego, as an arbiter of the conflicting interests and ambitions of both the Ego and the Id. God is also not reducible to the cloak of respectability that adorns the shoulders and the backs of those wearing albs, and Hardy Amies suits, in power within the church, and outside in the body politic.
In fact, it can and should be more legitimately argued, that God is much closer to the extremes of both Ego and Id, as pathways to the sacred, than elevating the Super Ego to a sacred status.
The application of the sacral instinct to the Super Ego is accompanied and reinforced by the elevation of power and wealth as sacred trusts in the minds of millions of devotees to a thin and thinly veiled theology of convenience and immediacy and self-serving interests. Recently, I listened to a humble man tell me his son is enrolled in a middle-ranking accounting firm, in pursuit of his Chartered Accountancy. His voice resonated with pride, and the expressed hope that 'he will be able to write his own ticket' upon completion as he told his story of his son's future. And the father has sat in the pews of the Anglican church for all of his nearly seven decades, absorbing the teachings, leadership, admonitions and dogma of the church.
Sad.
And literally a permanent tattoo of the Christian church on the psyches of those who have submitted to the teachings and the mentorings and the theology of the institution. The best of intentions, as were undoubtedly those of that Archbishop of Canterbury when he volunteered his unsolicited advice to the then about-to-be king, are not enough to justify the actions of that Archbishop nor the traditions of ascribing the sacred to the trash-can of the Super Ego.
It is, in fact the Super Ego, that asks questions that are primarily focused on the maintenance of correct appearances, of public image, of extreme measures to avoid having to acknowledge hubris, myopia, injustice imposed in the name of God, racism, sexism, ageism, and corporate and personal greed. Super Ego also is no raison d'etre to support the kind of culture that raises public image and personal denials to a norm, although it inadvertently becomes a cover for such attitudes and culture.
And what is most insidious is that the ecclesial institutions are exempt from having to atone for their misadventures in both theology and praxis. And the world has paid, and will continue to pay a sizeable indemnity, almost unconsciously, for the terror imposed through fear and a misplaced sacralising of the Super Ego, as a surrogate God.

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