LENTEN CONVERSION: IS YOUR JESUS PARANOID?

During this intense time of introspection before the celebration of our delivery from death to life with Christ, it is important to ask the question, What does your Jesus look like? I have never seen the face of Jesus, nor have I seen the face of my great grandfather, but they are a real part of my heritage. We all make up a visual representation of who Jesus is based on our assumptions (those hidden beliefs that shape how we view reality). Your Jesus will look a lot like you and your life experiences. If you have paranoid tendencies, so too will be your Jesus. If you think everything in life is out to get you and that all institutions are just in it to make money and defraud you of your money, this is how you will see Jesus. My point is: whatever is received, is received according to the disposition of the one who receives it.

My Lectio Divina today (this morning at 2:35 a.m.) took me to a place I have never been. I was thinking of a family situation I am experiencing where someone has been seduced by YouTube conspiracy theorist blogs into believing all that nonsense. What I noticed is that their notion of Jesus changed with the addition of these assumptions. I asked myself what is going on and came up with a few plausible explanations.

If a person becomes deluded into a conspiracy mindset and places that at the center of their lives, everything they think about must be seen in terms of that center. The world becomes full of one group trying to overthrow another group. The Vatican is seen as totally corrupt and totally out of touch with their reality (it actually is out of touch with the reality they hold is true). All priests are pedophiles. All physicians are out to make money at the expense of their patients. All police are corrupt and on the take. All Paranoia is unchecked and not balanced with human reasoning so all their concepts of relationships are ones of others taking advantage of them. Physicians are only out for money and the pharmaceutical companies only want to make money at the expense of those too poor to afford their products. Politicians decry all the billionaires wanting money but fail to see their own failures. The list of paranoia goes on and on.

DEMYTHOLOGIZING CONSPIRACY

I have taken some quotes from a website (https://www.mhanational.org/conditions/paranoia-and-delusional-disorders#:~:text=Some%20identifiable%20beliefs%20and%20behaviors,to%20relax%2C% 20or%20are%20argumentative.)so you and I can read the same thing. You make your own conclusions about all of this.

“Symptoms of paranoia and delusional disorders include intense and irrational mistrust or suspicion, which can bring on sense of fear, anger, and betrayal. Some identifiable beliefs and behaviors of individuals with symptoms of paranoia include mistrust, hypervigilence, difficulty with forgiveness, defensive attitude in response to imagined criticism, preoccupation with hidden motives, fear of being deceived or taken advantage of, inability to relax, or are argumentative.

The cause of paranoia is a breakdown of various mental and emotional functions involving reasoning and assigned meanings. The reasons for these breakdowns are varied and uncertain. Some symptoms of paranoia relate to repressed, denied or projected feelings. Often, paranoid thoughts and feelings are related to events and relationships in a person’s life, thereby increasing isolation and difficulty with getting help.”

Each human has reason and the ability to choose what makes sense for them (within limits). When someone is seduced by the allure of the conspiracy view of reality, it becomes “we” verses “they”. If we apply the notion of religion and particularly the words of Jesus in Scripture, this approach to thinking has a Jesus that looks very much as though he is a conspiracist. The lenses through which the paranoid person looks at Jesus become one where Jesus and the person are the same. There is no accountability against the way, the truth, and the life. What that means for someone who possesses this destructive way of thinking is that what they think is not the Christ Principle, guided by Faith informed by Reason, but one of their own imagination and which fits their image and likeness. Since this likeness is corrupted by false thinking, their Jesus comes paranoid just like them. Read from the second letter of Peter, Chapter 2.

False Teachers.*1There were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will introduce destructive heresies and even deny the Master who ransomed them, bringing swift destruction on themselves.a2Many will follow their licentious ways, and because of them the way of truth will be reviled.b3In their greed they will exploit you with fabrications, but from of old their condemnation has not been idle and their destruction does not sleep.c

Lessons from the Past.4* For if God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but condemned them to the chains of Tartarus* and handed them over to be kept for judgment;d5* and if he did not spare the ancient world, even though he preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, together with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the godless world;e6and if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah [to destruction], reducing them to ashes, making them an example for the godless [people] of what is coming;f7and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man oppressed by the licentious conduct of unprincipled people8(for day after day that righteous man living among them was tormented in his righteous soul at the lawless deeds that he saw and heard),9then the Lord knows how to rescue the devout from trial and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment,g10and especially those who follow the flesh with its depraved desire and show contempt for lordship.h

False Teachers Denounced.*Bold and arrogant, they are not afraid to revile glorious beings,*11* whereas angels,i despite their superior strength and power, do not bring a reviling judgment against them from the Lord.12But these people, like irrational animals born by nature for capture and destruction, revile things that they do not understand, and in their destruction they will also be destroyed,j13suffering wrong* as payment for wrongdoing. Thinking daytime revelry a delight, they are stains and defilements as they revel in their deceits while carousing with you.k14Their eyes are full of adultery and insatiable for sin. They seduce unstable people, and their hearts are trained in greed. Accursed children!15Abandoning the straight road, they have gone astray, following the road of Balaam, the son of Bosor,* who loved payment for wrongdoing,l16but he received a rebuke for his own crime: a mute beast spoke with a human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.m17These people are waterless springs and mists driven by a gale; for them the gloom of darkness has been reserved.n18For, talking empty bombast, they seduce with licentious desires of the flesh those who have barely escaped* from people who live in error.o19They promise them freedom, though they themselves are slaves of corruption, for a person is a slave of whatever overcomes him.p20For if they, having escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of [our] Lord and savior Jesus Christ, again become entangled and overcome by them, their last condition is worse than their first.q21For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment handed down* to them.r22* What is expressed in the true proverb has happened to them,s “The dog returns to its own vomit,” and “A bathed sow returns to wallowing in the mire.”

What is real may or may not actually be real, since those YouTube conspiracy ideas are received by someone we call pussilanimous (faint of heart) and coveted as true despite evidence to the contrary from their reason. Here are some of the conspiracy ideas I have encountered over my short lifetime.

  • Elvis is alive and living in Las Vegas
  • The Vatican is the evilest organization in the world and seeks to cover up the evidence that Jesus is not god, something is hidden somewhere in the vast labyrinth of the Vatican museum.
  • All physicians are just out to make money. They make money on all the medicines they prescribe and get a kickback from all procedures. They don’t care about you.
  • You don’t need to take medications that your physician says will keep you alive. All of it is just a sham.
  • The Catholic Church is a bunch of pedophiles hiding behind the mask of their religion.
  • The government is run by a few secret billionaires that only want your money.
  • You can’t trust policemen to do their job because they are all on the take.
  • Secret societies are running the drug trade.
  • The Vatican Bank is the mafia’s bank.
  • The world is about to end.
  • Princess Di is alive and well.
  • John F. Kennedy Jr. is alive and well.
  • The world is going to end this year or next year, or the year after that…etc…
  • COVID 19 shots are all bad and just make money for the already rich.
  • These, plus many more fringe thoughts impact the Jesus that each of us has. If left unchecked, we end up with paranoia and maybe worse in our approach to how we interact with others in the name of Christ.

SPIRITUAL PARANOIA

  • A person who is centered around the Christ Principle will be saying words of faith, hope, and love.
  • A person who has paranoia won’t tell you anything about how to take up your cross to follow Christ.
  • There is no love in the vocabulary of someone on the fringe of belief, only conformity to what their warped vision of Christ is. If you disagree, they cut you off immediately.
  • There is no forgiveness from anyone espousing paranoia, only punishment, and conformity.
  • Tearing down people is more important than building them up.
  • Revenge, envy, factions, jealousy, rage are all part of this approach.

LENT AND CONVERSION

When anyone talks about conversion, it is precisely moving from being self-centered to being Christ-centered that is at their core. When you put in a conspiracy mentality as your center, then what follows is the results of your core values. To convert, you must be a penitent person seeking always to move from self to God. Attach yourself to a godly person, if you want to be godly yourself. Be humble and obedient to the will of God rather than serving your own self-interests. Flee from the conspiracy theorists and from watching this garbage on YouTube. What you watch with your eyes, you treasure in your heart. That is why someone addicted to pornography has a heart full of treachery and why those with a paranoid view of Christ think the world is going to end.

Don’t create a Christ in your image and likeness, but rather have in you the mind of Christ Jesus. Ask for mercy and forgiveness for a mindset that centers around falsehood and deceit.

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