Since 2017 has ended, I’ve been pondering about the emotional state of our nation, our state, our Fellowship, and myself. The bizarre Twilight Zone events created by our government each week are disorienting. The news of a bogus missile attack alert in Hawaii, the Russian Investigation into election meddling, the New Tax Bill, the vulgarity used to describe African Nations during Immigration meetings, the inconsistencies in words/deeds/actions of our elected officials, the “discovery” of widespread sexual harassment in so many institutions, golfing instead of service on MLK day by our elected officials, a focus on words rather than substance (S***hole versus S***house), DACA and CHIP used as bargaining chips—all these stories disturb me deeply. And I’m sensing that many of you are disturbed as well.
So much of the worry and disorientation has to do with what might happen.
I took a behavioral psychology class in college, and I learned about experimental neurosis.
Here is one definition: Experimental neurosis is an abnormal behavioral condition produced in a laboratory setting. The subject is typically placed in a problem solving or discernment scenario they cannot solve because it is too difficult or impossible. This can result in erratic altered behavior that mimics a mental disorder. Experimental neurosis is essentially a psychosis that is produced artificially. The stress of not being able to solve the experimental problem causes the behavior to appear. Experimental neurosis can also be caused when the subject is randomly shocked in the lab while trying to solve the problem. The test animal (rat in my case) will develop psychotic behavior that is self-destructive—and the animal becomes very aggressive to all other animals.
I believe that many of us are deeply disturbed and feeling the impact of not knowing what to do. The stress of not being able to solve the problems presented by our government EACH WEEK can be cumulative—that is, the stress is building and growing in us. It is not one issue, but dozens of offensive posturings appearing far faster than can be comprehended. If you believe you are unaffected, I suggest that those around you are—and they affect your mood indirectly.
When I take an historical view of a society going through tough times, I see a difference in what I’m experiencing. Historically, our ancestors responded to a problem/war/situation. They responded to a specific issue (albeit often very complex). Today, we are concerned not about a specific event, but about a multitude of threats of what might happen. It is different being in the middle of a problem, versus worrying about what might happen from a hundred threats. And the news is full of real threats, uncompassionate behavior, and isolationism—denying that we’re living in a global society. To deny the angst is to deny the growing experimental neurosis in our society.
Couple this growing angst with the post holiday season (which is often negative for many people) can result in a kind of tension which yields short fused people who are a bump or word away from anger and even violence. This is the condition of our existence—on the verge of experimental neurosis.
BUT, the value of an institution like ours—the benefit of a church, is that if we can provide a safe place away from the random shocks—if we can be away from the irrational, offensive, and harmful rhetoric—if we can be together away from the unresolvable threats—if we can provide a safe place if only for an hour or two each week—then we can bolster our hope that “this too shall pass.” We must be a safe sanctuary to offset the angst that exists in our culture. We must be measured in our church endeavors such that they do not add to the prevalent angst. We must be a sanctuary of hope for each other so that we can function in the outside world with some meaning and purpose. Our Fellowship efforts must not add to our angst by mirroring the detrimental societal behavior of being overwhelmed, spread too thin, and rushing about, starting too many projects, or declining into an attitude of indifference. Perhaps our church purpose, for now, is to be a hope sanctuary in which we hunker down? Maybe, but may we all believe that “this too shall pass”……………..in shared ministry………..Russ