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One of the things you need to know about Bret and me is that we do not agree on many things. He’s not a Christian from what I understand. He comes from the liberal side of the political aisle, and you could probably choose any other metric for comparing us, and we would be on different sides. Our differing worldviews and solutions to problems are something you want to remember as you read because seeking unity with those who are not like you is what I will ask you to do at the end.
If you can only be friends with or learn from those you agree with, you are operating at a lower level of Christianity. If you choose to live in an echo-chamber of parrots, you will sabotage your growth possibilities and interfere with the more significant healing that could take place in your family, church, or country. God’s common grace is on all people. You can learn from those who are different from you and even make peace with a few of them.
Christians hold truth and love in balance, and the wise, humble person knows how to employ this hybrid for the highest good of all, which is God’s fame. Sometimes in our frustration with “how they do things,” we end up doing similar things by attacking them. This reaction inevitably tears down the very structure or system we say that we love, whether it’s a family, church, or country. The three words that Bret used are autoimmune, verificationism, and psychosis. I’ll start with autoimmune.
Immunity is a healthy body with an immune system that can distinguish between healthy and unhealthy cells. It attacks the foreign cells, which is the body’s way of maintaining unity, wholeness, health, and longevity. Autoimmunity is the opposite of this process. The body does not recognize healthy cells. It is as though these cells are moving through the body wearing a blindfold. They will react to healthy cells, attempting to destroy them. Rather than the body fortifying and defending against the evil, it destroys itself.
You are watching a surreal illustration of a country with an autoimmune disease. It’s happening in slow-motion as radical cells attack a good, albeit imperfect, country, thinking they are doing a greater good. In reality, they are killing the very thing that gives them the life and freedom to attack and destroy itself. When your body flips immunity to autoimmunity, you’re not far from a debilitating disease, leading to death.
These radicals have been in “our body” since the inception of our country. Like our physical bodies, we’re always carrying about those things that can kill us. Typically, our immune system is vibrant and plenteous enough to withstand the assaults of the radicals. In our country’s case, there has been a slow and steady building of these radicals in our academic indoctrination centers for decades. We are experiencing the full effect of what an autoimmune disease can do to a country.
Let’s bring it down a level. We see a similar thing in the body of Christ—the church. The winds of change have always blown through the church. The Lord has permitted the rise of radicals, and then a new, invigorated, and trimmed down church would write a creed to reposition itself against those destructive forces. The strongest wind blowing in our churches today comes from the Marxist-rooted teaching of Critical Theory, which has given life to such things as social justice.
The social justice problem is not the only issue. The immaturity level of our churches has sunk to infighting over mask-wearing. Perhaps what I’m saying is oversimplifying the matter for some folks, but in another sense, it’s not. When you compare the horrific persecution of the early church, the not-so-early church, and the church in some countries today, some of us are petty over this “mask thing.” We have become an autoimmune disease within the body of Christ.
The way you can diagnose yourself on this matter is by assessing how you think and talk about those who are different from you on social justice, mask-wearing, or [pick your problem]. If your position is to attack without seeking to discuss with the person, you have the early onset of an autoimmune disease. If you want to see what this looks like—uncensored, spend twenty minutes on Twitter reading the Christians’ tweets. I take that back: only spend ten minutes. If you’re not careful, you’ll become like our thought leaders. They seem to have lost their moorings on reconciliation and can only attack within their echo chamber of fellow parrots. It’s called grandstanding or preaching to the choir.
Verificationism is the process of believing something and then verifying your view with any data that will support your presupposition. When people want to prove something they already believe, they look for things that affirm their perspective. It’s like the preacher with an idea he wants to preach, so he searches for a text to confirm his notion, even if he has to twist the Scripture to make his pet point.
An example of this would be someone who believes that all white people are racist or all police officers are corrupt. If you position those two presuppositions in your mind, you will always find the data you’re looking for to support what you already believed. How verificationism should work is you look at the data first without your preexisting notion, and let the collection of information prove you right or wrong.
For the preacher, if the text proves his point wrong, then he should not preach his message from that passage. Take the idea that all white people are racists. You look at a broad demographic of white people, examine all the pertinent evidence, and if some of the data prove your thesis is wrong, then you were wrong. If someone wants to know the truth, they will let the data build out their belief systems.
You see verificationism happening in too many marriages and families. It’s the frustrated wife who has had enough of her husband’s nonsense. Her complaint is valid; he’s a jerk, manipulator, [fill in the blank]. At some point, she can only see him as the wrong person. She does not begin with an “in the image of God” presupposition. She starts with “his Adamic fallenness.” Like the preacher looking for a text to support his thesis, she will always find her husband’s flaws.
Some of you will read this and react, “Let me tell you about my husband.” If so, you sped too quickly by the part where I said you have a “valid complaint.” I would never downsize any legitimate complaint about another fallen person. But if your first instinct is the problem and not the Problem-solver, you have early onset of autoimmunity; you’re attacking the one-flesh union, which is your new presupposition. You may come back with, “He’s attacking me!” Yes, I understand, but his autoimmunity does not mean you should be like him, a view that we see on both sides of our country’s political aisle.
Personal Illustration – My mother developed autoimmunity when her daughter-in-law murdered her son, who was my brother. Her autoimmunity presupposition turned her into a cynical, bitter, pessimistic, critical person. I’m sharing this illustration with you to support my claim that I understand legitimate hurt. If any problem towers over God’s power to restore your soul, despite what happened to you, then you have autoimmunity and are part of the problem, though you were the victim.
The psychotic person is double-minded. There is an element of having “two minds,” or two competing beliefs that are running parallel to each other at the same time, inside his head. Having two thoughts at the same time should not be a problem. It’s when these two beliefs stop working together for the unifying building of the person. The two perspectives are forever colliding, stepping over each other, and in a continual battle inside the mind—a psychotic mind.
As you continue to interact with a person with contradictory perspectives that aggressively battle each other, you may conclude he is insane. The incompatibilities inside his head are so diverse that he has no clear understanding of himself or what is happening. If you bring my psychotic illustration into a contemporary setting, our country has psychosis. We have two competing ways of thinking about virtually everything. These two views are so opposed to each other that there is a growing consensus that our country is becoming insane.
The “other side” looks at us and scratches their heads. We look at them and conclude they are psychotic (crazy). Both sides seem to miss that we are diagnosing ourselves. If they are crazy, then I am, too. We are part of the same body—America. Missing this point could mean the believer loses their Christocentric anchor point and drifts into la-la land.
If you are part of any unit—marriage, family, church, or country—that you diagnose as crazy, you are diagnosing yourself, too. Suppose you believe only the other person is crazy. In that case, you will find data to support your claim (verificationism), and you will develop an (autoimmune) disease that will permit you to attack the body you are part of (psychosis). That unit—which includes you—will die soon.
If you believe that you’re standing outside of a body you are part of, as though you’re not part it, the psychosis could be so permeated and complicated that you’re blind to it. If you’re unsure what this looks like in real-life, perhaps you can listen to the rioters in Portland as they justify their actions, which they believe is a self-prescribed mandate to destroy a country. It’s full-on autoimmunity, using the principle of verificationism that has led to our country’s psychosis.
If you’re at the place where you can recognize any of these tendencies in you, there is hope. If you don’t see any of them in you, perhaps a prayer, asking the Lord to open your eyes, would be a rational response. All of us have the potential of the diagnosis I have outlined here. If you believe it, you must be part of the solution. You must ask the Lord to provide you with those doors of opportunity for a path forward, whether in your marriage, family, church, or country.
The straightforward solution is to find whom you can talk to in that group of people on the other side. Rather than attacking them, ask the Father to give you the grace, courage, compassion, and wisdom to see things through their eyes. I’m not suggesting that you must agree with them, though that could be a good thing. I’m suggesting that you seek to understand them, which is the beginning of the civil discourse.
This practice is at the heart of a smart counselor. The counselor may never agree with the person he is helping, but he knows his first obligation to bring restoration is to understand the person sitting on the other side of the room. If he’s unwilling to sit, ask, listen, and understand, he will never help. To say it differently, you should never “believe all women,” but you must understand the woman in front of you if you expect to bring healing.
Rick Thomas leads a training network for Christians to assist them in becoming more effective soul care providers. RickThomas.Net reaches people around the world through consulting, training, podcasting, writing, counseling, and speaking.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology, and in 1991 he received a BS in Education. In 1993 he was ordained into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University in Santa Clarita, CA. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).