Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Vicarious Thrills

It wasn’t too long ago that I read from a textbook that ministers and counselors can be tempted to get their vicarious thrills through the personal accounts of people who come to them for help.  For instance, while the clergyperson may not have engaged in many sexual adventures, he could enjoy hearing about what other people have done when they confess in the counseling room.

As soon as I read it, I realized that I used to do that.  However, I grew out of it before I read that it was a problem.  I couldn’t really draw a clear boundary back then, but I gradually realized I was on the wrong side of the line. I was using someone else’s misery to fill an emptiness in my own life.

When people come to me they’re often terribly conflicted about their pasts and they’re looking for resolution and perhaps absolution. They don’t intend to be a source of entertainment. 

Well, okay some of them do, but I’ll write about that another time.

I wish I had had better training in my younger days. However, we focused primarily on the study of scriptural texts and articulating doctrine. Nobody warned us of the temptations that few people other than ministers and counselors face. 

As I matured, I sharpened my focus on the concept that I’m supposed to help people, not use them. Plus--and this is a big thing--over the years, the sadness, cruelty, and pain of people’s lives have had a cumulative effect on me.  I’m still interested in being of help--sometimes even passionate, They honor me with their trust.  and I find satisfaction in helping. But I'm no longer excited by someone else's misadventures. I’m usually relieved to find refuge at home at the end of the day.    

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Old (Crazy) Songs

Here are some words to a song that was popular in the fundamental conservative denomination in which I grew up. 

Troublesome times are here, 
filling men’s hearts with fear
Freedom we all hold dear now is at stake….

Jesus is coming soon, 
morning or night or noon,
Many will meet their doom
Trumpets will sound….

Believe it or not, this was one of those “feel good” songs, where people stood up, swayed, and clapped their hands, smiling at each other, marveling at how they could worship and have fun at the same time. 

Here’s another one:

It’s gonna rain. Yeah, it’s gonna rain
Oh, you better get ready and bear this in mind.
For God showed Noah the rainbow sign
It won’t be water, but fire this time….

The teenagers would rock to this one, using it as a way to get the joint jumping just before we had pizza and volleyball. 

We had several other tunes that were catchy enough, but as anyone in their right minds could see, the message was full of anxiety, doom, and destruction.

It took me a long time to see how nutty we were: “We’re gonna be destroyed. We deserve it. Praise God!” And then we'd tell each other that heaven would be just like this.

It was more than conflicting. It reflected a crazy, schizoid lifestyle full of depression and anxiety.   

When I became a minister within that community, I considered myself a reformer, someone who could help deliver us all from our craziness. My efforts were often not appreciated. I got into more trouble telling people they were okay, that God loved them, and that they were going to heaven. 

After a few years, I quit trying to save the “saved,” and I moved on.

Now here’s something really odd to me.  I get a weird nostalgia when I think of that crazy music. It’s part of my childhood. Sometimes it feels like it was somebody else’s life. I miss it.

Then I take an aspirin and lie down until the feeling passes.