Nature or nurture?
Usually we use such words when we talk about children. Is it their environment that makes them the way they are or is it their biological makeup?
Most of us would say both.
I wrote a post recently titled the Christianity Perfectionism Connection.
I can see how fundie religion helps screw us up. I think we have inborn or learned tendencies, and the fundie message we constantly hear helps us to go down a bad psychological road. So if we tend toward perfectionism, we can try to be perfect FOR GOD. Along with that, we get to feel constant guilt and fear and frustration and worry because we cannot achieve perfection. Plus we try to remake others’ personalities more like our own, so we screw them up too with trying to achieve perfection. Or we/they think we’re on a higher spiritual plain because some things come so much easier to us than to them. We call our natural traits blessings from the Holy Spirit. Like I heard Joel Osteen call his wealth a blessing from God, when his wealth came to him because he does stuff that results in making a lot of money.
In a later comment she added:
I think fundie churches cause this type of spiritual response in susceptible people. You have the nasty, negative fundie message coming into a brain or personality that is ripe for new material to torture themselves with.
You said you were the opposite of Bruce. So if you grew up in a rigid church, your natural defenses of your easy-going personality would fend off the fundie virus. You weren’t a good prospect for it to develop in.
Ya’ll might enjoy reading a post on nakedpastor that he put up recently. It’s called pick your Jesus. It’s a little chart that’s very helpful in seeing how our personalities affect how we interpret who Jesus was.
And yes, I think nasty, authoritarian people are drawn to fundamentalism. Not that all fundies are like that. Some are wonderful people who just have been indoctrinated in that mess from birth.
…It does seem to me that most people in the more fundamentalist churches are all into the law, and are definitely more rigid, and perfectionist in their thinking. But, what came first? Did these churches cause this type of spiritual response in people, or are people with these type of personality traits naturally drawn to fundamentalist faiths?…
There’s actually been studies that sort of point out that some people are ” hard-wired” to have what is considered to be a more conservative, authoritarian viewpoint. I think these people are more driven to any particular religion that presents matters in a totally black and white perspective. I also think people who lean towards authoritarian points of view might also, for whatever reason, feel the personal need for very rigid rules and structure. I also think they just make better “joiners”…liberals are kind of like cats and just harder to herd.
These comments got me thinking about my life, especially the part of my life that was spent in the Christian Church and the ministry. How much of what I became (and have become) was due to my nature and how much was the result of the environment I grew up in and lived in?
This is not an easy question to answer. It is far too easy to just say we are what we are because we are hardwired and genetically disposed to become what we have become. There is a truth here but it is not the end all.
But at the same time it is far too easy to say we are what we are due to our environment and the choices we make. Once again, there is a truth here but it is not absolute.
Human beings are not simple creatures. Some people, particularly fundamentalists, seek out simple answers to life’s questions but that does not mean they are simple people in and of themselves. (or simpletons, idiots, ignoramuses)
We are rapidly losing our ability to interact with the complexities that we are confronted with when engaging each other in matters of importance. The modern technological age has turned life into sound bites or 140 character tweets. We succumb to thinking that we can judge the motives, beliefs, and ideology of a person through what they write in a few words on Facebook or a blog.
Psychologists will surely tell us that human beings are anything BUT simple. We are capable of being people of learned reason one moment and irrational mental blindness the next. It can be said of every one of us that we have moments of brilliance but we also have moments of utter stupidity. It is easy to spot the stupidity of others but almost impossible to spot our own.
I have battled depression most of my adult life. Am I just hardwired to be depressed? I am inclined to think so but I also know I grew up a home where my mom lived her entire life between bookends of depression and suicide. (a post is in the making on this) My mother was a glass half-empty kind of person. At the age of 54 my mother succumbed to her demons and killed herself.
A year ago I was in great distress because I thought I was becoming like my mother. It took a lot of counseling to get beyond the point of thinking I was just like my Mom, doomed for a .357 heart stopper. Yes, I struggle with depression BUT my life is far different from my mother’s. My attitude about family, life, and the future are far different than my mother’s.
I look at my Mom’s life and it is not hard to see how her upbringing and experiences helped make her into what she was. Certainly she had a natural disposition towards depression but add to that natural disposition being raped as a child, being raped as an adult, becoming pregnant outside of marriage at age 18 (yours truly the result), 4 marriages, drug addiction and constantly being uprooted and moved to another place, it is no wonder WHY she had the troubles she did.
My upbringing helped to shape me into what I became. From the age of 5 all I ever wanted to be was a preacher. I never had the struggle many men have about what they want to be when they grow up. My heart was set on being a preacher and from the age of 14 to the age of 50 that is exactly what I was.
I looked up to the pastors of our Church. They taught me how a preacher is supposed to live his life. Every pastor I ever had was an ambitious, judgmental, controlling person. The College I went to was populated with teachers that were former and current pastors and they reinforced what the pastors of my youth taught me. The pastor of the Church I attended while in College was a control-freak. He was the boss of all bosses. He was the potentate of the Church. He was a Moses on Mt Sinai. As a 19 yr. old boy I revered this man. He was everything I wanted to be.
I pastored my first Church when I was 22 years old. I was arrogant, controlling and full of myself and the Holy Ghost.. I was taught leaders are meant to lead. A good pastor was an in-charge pastor. A good pastor was a decision-maker. A good pastor would not let anyone deter him from doing whatever God led him to do. (and God talked to me personally through the Holy Spirit and the Bible)
Every pastor I knew was just like me. After all, birds of a feather flock together. Every pastor I knew was controlling and authoritarian. Pastoral authority is a big topic of discussion in fundamentalist Baptist churches.
Time and circumstance tempered me. Towards the end of my years in the ministry I came to realize how wrong I had been about the ministry and how a pastor should conduct himself. I was very sincere and honest as a pastor, but I came to see that I actually hurt people by being a controlling, authoritarian pastor.
I met some evil people during my time as a pastor. I met pastors who preyed on the people they pastored. They manipulated and controlled people in order to gain financial, material, or sexual favor. Lynn is quite right when she said:
I think nasty, authoritarian people are drawn to fundamentalism.
Most fundamentalist churches are pastored by, and controlled by, one man. He is the man of God. He is the one person in the Church that has God’s ear and God,in return, has his.
I would add that fundamentalism also attracts church members who are authoritarian and controlling. Fundamentalist churches are rife with conflict and it is quite common for people to leave the church over conflicts with the pastor or other power brokers in the church. Most fundamentalist Baptist churches have experienced a split at one time or another. It is not uncommon for a group of people to leave the church and go off on their own and start another church. (always led by the Holy Spirit of course)
As I look back over my life I can readily see WHY I became the kind of pastor I was. I became what I knew. I was a product of my environment.
It would be easy for me to blow off those who suggest that some people are predisposed to fundamentalism. As I look at my life and ask myself “how could I have turned out differently?” The social, religious and cultural forces in my life molded me into the man I became.
If I take a closer look at my life I also see that I had a certain disposition towards controlling, authoritarian religion. I see this most readily in the jobs I worked outside of the Church. Almost every job I worked allowed me to be in charge, to be the decision maker. Restaurant general manager, grant writer, insurance salesman, Christian bookstore manager, office manger, code enforcement officer,newspaper motor route.
Varied jobs, right? Just doing what I was good at, right? Certainly true, but to be honest here I also must admit that everyone of these jobs allowed me to be the boss. I was the person in charge, the decision maker. The jobs I hated were jobs where I had to report to others, jobs where I had no control, no authority.
I want to think that I worked the jobs I did because employers saw in me great leadership skills. I was, and still am a person who is not afraid to make decisions. I am able to assess things quickly and make the appropriate decisions. Some people lead and others follow, right? Not everyone can be the General.
How much of this is nature and how much is nurture? How much is the environment I grew up in as opposed to my genetic disposition? I think I would be safe in saying that most of who I am is the result of my upbringing. I am truly a product of my environment. I also recognize that I am hardwired to think and act in certain ways. I don’t think this means I MUST act in a certain way but it does mean I am bent in certain direction. People can, and do, change but true change is painful and difficult.