Maybe one of the reasons we so easily polarize, judge, condemn as well as fail to find ways to talk to or connect with anyone that we would consider, “the other”

1I’ve mentioned before on this blog that I have MANY spiritual mentors.  Some are still alive and kicking (my “butt” that is) as well as the fact that others have gone to the place I would consider to be “the prize” (see Philippians 3).  I could not live my life in a spiritual vacuum.  I need these voices…I need their affirmation but especially their challenge.

I teach a course for a major University on “Religion in the Modern World.” It is a course which explores spiritual truth from a number of divergent religious perspectives.  I’ve taught the course twice and I’ve experienced the same thing twice – people in the course who do not share my specified journey of faith are most of the time either apologetic or apprehensive about engaging in spiritual conversation.  That is a problem.  The same thing happens in the accelerated Nursing program biblical courses I teach for Azusa Pacific University.  Students are often saying, “I don’t feel adequate,” or “I don’t want to feel condemned because…”  That saddens my heart.  First of all, that is not my “spirit”…I do believe and I freely admit that I do not have all the answers to all of life’s ultimate meanings.  I have unapologetically “hitched my heart and life” to the Lordship and leadership of Jesus and His movement in history but I also have a HUGE desire to be in conversation and relationship with anyone whom God leads into my life.  What I’ve discovered from one of my FAVORITE spiritual mentors, Father Richard Rohr, is that many of us cannot enter into relationship with “the other” (aka anyone who believes differently than we do) because of one issue – Dualism.  Below is an extended reading from Rohr on the subject.  I believe you will find it, as I do, challenging as God calls us to be engaged and authentic in relationships without the baggage of either/or, black/white, or right/wrong thinking.  In other words, HUMILITY and openness are the “names of the game” of life.  See for yourself:

“Although we begin life, as very young children, as non-dual thinkers, usually by the age of seven we are all dualistic thinkers, and sadly many of us stay that way for the rest of our lives. Dualistic thinking is the well-practiced pattern of knowing most things by comparison. And for some reason, once we compare or label things (that is, judge things), we almost always conclude that one is good and the other not so good or even bad.  Don’t take my word for it; just notice your own thoughts and reactions. You will see that you will move almost automatically into a pattern of up or down, in or out, for me or against me, right or wrong, black or white, gay or straight, good or bad. It is the basic reason why the “stinkin’ thinkin’” of racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, religious imperialism, and prejudice of all kinds is so hard to overcome and has lasted so long—even among nice people!”

“At the risk of being too cleverly alliterative (though it may help you to remember), here is the normal sequencing of the dualistic mind: it compares, it competes, it conflicts, it conspires, it condemns, it cancels out any contrary evidence, and then it crucifies with impunity. You can call it the seven C’s of delusion. This is the source of most violence, which is invariably sacralized as good and necessary to “make the world safe for democracy” or to “save souls for heaven.”

“There is a reason why Jesus and all the great spiritual teachers say, “Do not judge!” and why angels in the Bible are always saying, “Do not be afraid!” Our violence—and almost all of our unhappiness—emerges from our judging, dualistic mind—which itself comes from deeply rooted fear. Only unitive, non-dual consciousness can heal this violence and lead us to a rather constant happiness.”

“Dualistic thinking, or the egoic operating system, as Cynthia Bourgeault calls it, is our way of reading reality from the position of my private ego. “What’s in it for me?” “How will I look if I do this?” This is our preferred way of seeing reality. It has become the “hardware” of almost all Western people, even those who think of themselves as Christians, because the language of institutional religion is largely dualistic itself (My note – the root of denominational Christianity is dualism – “we are right” therefore we are going to start the “right” church).  It is a way of teaching that has totally taken over in the last five hundred years. It has confused information with enlightenment, mind with soul, and thinking with experiencing.”

“The dualistic mind is essentially binary. It is either/or thinking. It knows by comparison, by opposition, by differentiation. It uses descriptive words like good/evil, pretty/ugly, intelligent/stupid, not realizing there may be 55 or 155 degrees between the two ends of each spectrum. It works well for the sake of simplification and conversation, but not for the sake of truth or even honest experience.”

“Actually, you need your dualistic mind to function in everyday life: to do your job as a teacher, a doctor, or an engineer. It is great stuff as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go far enough. The dualistic mind cannot process things like infinity, mystery, God, grace, suffering, death, or love. When it comes to unconditional love, the dualistic mind can’t even begin to understand it. It pulls everything down into some kind of tit-for-tat system of worthiness and achievement, which is largely what “fast food religion” teaches, usually without even knowing it.”

“It is true that we need first to clarify and distinguish before we can subtly discriminate. Utterly clear dualistic thinking gets you into the right ballpark. “You cannot serve both God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24). But non-dualistic wisdom, or what many of us call contemplation, is necessary once you actually get in the right ballpark! “Now that I have chosen to serve God instead of ‘mammon,’ what does that really mean?””

“Dualistic thinking works only as long as you stay on the level of abstraction. But once you go to the specific and concrete, you find that everything in this world is always a mixture of darkness and light, good and bad, death and life. If you’re honest about it, you can say, “This is what is good about it, and this is what is bad about it.” But if you stay at the level of dualistic thinking, you won’t allow yourself to hold a necessary and life-giving tension. You’ll split to give yourself…”

“The dualistic mind is not adequate to the task of life. It cannot deal with subtlety, it cannot see or deal with the dark side of things, it cannot “discern spirits”—one of the gifts of the Spirit that St. Paul speaks of (1 Corinthians 12:10). The dualistic/splitting mind cannot deal with contradictions, with paradox, with inconsistency, with mystery itself—which is just about everything.”

“Nothing is going to change in history as long as most people are merely dualistic, either-or thinkers. Such splitting and denying leaves us at the level of information, data, facts, and endlessly arguing about the same. “My facts are better than your facts,” we yell at ever-higher volume and with ever-stronger ego attachment. This is getting us nowhere, and creating a very unhappy world on all sides.”

“Sadly, the mind trapped inside of polarity thinking is not open to change. How else can we explain the obvious avoidance of so many of Jesus’ major teachings within the Christian churches? Jesus’ direct and clear teachings on issues such as nonviolence; a simple lifestyle; love of the poor and our enemies; forgiveness, inclusivity, and mercy; and not seeking status, power, perks, or possessions have all been overwhelmingly ignored throughout history by mainline Christian churches, even those who so proudly call themselves orthodox or biblical.”

“This avoidance defies explanation until we understand how dualistic thinking protects and pads the ego and its fear of change. Notice that the things we Christians have largely ignored require actual change to ourselves. The things we emphasized instead were usually intellectual beliefs or moral superiority stances that asked almost nothing of us—but compliance from others: the divinity of Christ, the virgin birth, the atonement theory, and beliefs about reproduction and sex. After a while, you start to recognize the underlying bias that is at work. The ego diverts your attention from anything that would ask you to change, to righteous causes that invariably ask others to change. Such issues give you a sense of moral high ground without costing you anything.  Sounds like an ego game to me. Whole people see and create wholeness wherever they go. Split people split up everything and everybody else. By the second half of our lives, we are meant to see in wholes and no longer just in parts.”

One thought on “Maybe one of the reasons we so easily polarize, judge, condemn as well as fail to find ways to talk to or connect with anyone that we would consider, “the other”

  1. I was introduced to the concept of dualistic thinking by Patricia Ann Davis, a very inspirational speaker from the Dineh (Navajo) people. During her lectures and conversations, she “untwisted” dualistic thinking with such clarity, it was like taking a deep breath of fresh air. I have often felt that Christ was also “untwisting” harmful dualistic thinking. To find that one of your mentors aware of the same concept is so exciting! I’m inspired to study the bible in more depth. I want to apply more of this clarity and understanding to my life! Thanks Robin!


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