Been awhile! I was busy building a new entity; it’s ’bout to get all exciting up in here (I hope)!
In 1954 Orson Welles penned a manuscript for the film that would become Mr. Adarkin. In the movie he tells a new twist on a story that goes back thousands of years: that of the scorpion and the frog.
For any who don’t know, the synopsis of the story is this: a scorpion and a frog seek to cross a river. The scorpion has no way to swim, so he asks the frog for help. The frog refuses because the scorpion will sting him. The scorpion promises not to, so the frog allows him to climb on his back and they begin to cross the river. Halfway across, the scorpion stings the frog. As the frog struggles through the effects of the poison he asks, “Why would you do that? Now we shall both surely die!”
The scorpion responds “I couldn’t help it; it’s in my nature.”
The story is meant to signify to us that you must be careful before presuming people can change their nature. But as with most of Welles’ work you must be careful before taking it too deeply.
The older version of the story is a scorpion and a turtle, and when the scorpion strikes, the turtle’s shell protects him so the scorpion then strangles him. This is a lesson more about the darkness in people. But this fable, too, was born of an even older version.
In that older version the turtle survives and brings his attacker safely to shore where he lectures the scorpion on the errors of trying to fight through the protection of God. That is a message on the protection of our Creator. But even that was based on an older story.
The initial story was in the Jewish Babylonian Talmud, and a frog carries the scorpion safely across the river and the scorpion then kills an enemy of God. This is a story about God’s ability to do the impossible and punish transgressors.
These stories all share a common thread: some people suck and cannot be trusted. This turns out to be a central tenet of religious teaching for most of the last 6 thousand years across all religions.
In Judeo-Christian-Islamic teachings this goes right along with another highly-popular teaching: “It’s not about you.” A brief YouTube search can yield for you a hundred speeches from fine pastors about how the purpose of life is to worship God and we are all the disgusting worms He must suffer to be exalted by.
If you can’t tell from my wording: I hate this kind of teaching. It makes me Jesus-turning-over-tables mad.
It’s not about you? Seriously? The Living God took human form, submitted Himself to street folk, and then allowed arrogant bastards to kill Him to buy YOU out of Hell. That’s not about you?! Are you insane?!
The entire Bible, cover to cover, is about you and me. It is a story about God intended for one purpose: to convince you that He Loves you. This life is very much about you; HIS life is very much about you.
I get the impetus: If I preach that it’s about you it may spur your ego to grow and trigger you to fall to the sin of pride. But you know what? The solution of that is not to tell people they suck. That just exacerbates the whole thing.
A Matter of Trust
This nicely leads us into another fallacy of religion: “don’t put your faith in people.”
We know, or at least I have explained both in words and on screen, that the word faith means “the product of having been convinced”. So when we say not to put our faith in men, we are saying that we should not be convinced by men. At the surface that’s good advice: people are wishy-washy and emotional, and any advice they give is subject to change, so you really can’t trust it or you’re standing on shifting sand. However, as with every single other idea in the Scripture, the truth is far more complicated than to be painted with such a wide brush.
The five-fold ministry — to teach, pastor, prophesy, apostle, or evangelize — is a mission of men, not of angels. We are to be taught by people, cared for by people, raised by people, counseled by people. Parents learn from their children and children learn from their parents.
Society itself is based on a common opinion of right and wrong. And we are biologically social creatures. Whether you agree with evolution or not the basics of biology are pretty unarguable. We have a need for socialization, and any such socialization is founded on trust. God made that order; He set up those rules. And yet we cast them off casually to justify ostracization.
We have been told for hundreds of years that we can’t trust or count on people, and today we are living in the fruit of that nonsense. It bred a media that focuses not on real people, but ideal people. The wedge these things drive between us deepens every year as we gain a skewed perspective about what is acceptable, what is normal, and how very far off the bubble you are from that norm. We created a world where other people are so dangerous that we equate them to animals to avoid having to ever show an iota of vulnerability. This won’t stand. It can’t.
Have you ever had that feeling you just don’t belong? That you are 90-degrees out-of-phase with the rest of the planet? That you have no tribe and you fit nowhere?
I want to talk about that feeling, but to do it I want to tell it in essentially, three languages: Christianese, Scientist, and Real Talk. You fixin’ to get woke, brothers and sisters!
I’m going to start with Science, and if you’re not a geek like me I promise I will try to keep it fairly light. If you’re a total science nerd you are going to want to slap my wrist for inaccuracy. If you are a Bible scholar and science offends you you’re going to want to address my lack of Biblicality. On all sides please just hold your hats and ride it out a minute.
The feeling of not belonging is a byproduct of an argument between your neocortex and your amygdala. Because we are social creatures we have a need to have human validation. At times when we do not feel that validation, or when we have done something that we feel the need to be validated in, the neocortex polls our system for what to do to rectify it; to get stimulus for our reward centers.
The neocortex operates at speeds in the hundreds of milliseconds, so he preps for a fairly long wait. The amygdala, clocking in closer to 15 milliseconds, is routinely the first to answer. The amygdala, the core of our difference engine and the thing that sets up most of our comparator functions, says that there was this one time when we felt invalidated and it was because we were rejected. Rejection hurts. Hurt is bad. So it tells the neocortex that we need to dump the desire for validation because people are dangerous. We need to pull away and close off; reduce the risky behavior and cease the risk of being harmed.
The neocortex complies by inducing bad feelings, loneliness and awkwardness, that dissuade us from going to others, but as it continues processing that it realizes that now we need social support to balance out those negative feelings. The feeling of displacement, the feeling of being all alone and isolated, is borne of the mind being torn between what we know we need — validation — and what our history says we need to avoid — vulnerability.
The question, of course, is what you do about that. Many words have been spilled to answer that, and certainly my answer is no different, but perhaps I may bring you a new view of it. But first, Christianese.
If you watch the Mission: Zer0 videos at all you have heard me talk about the amygdala before. A more Spirit-led way of saying all that is: the foothold the enemy has in us is the very mud that we were made from. Many times in Scripture the little lion is referred to as “the prince of this world.” The Hebrew term prince refers to an authoritative position of power. Jesus said that He saw Satan struck to the earth like lightning ages before man. Paul wrote that the carnal heart is enmity to God. Combine these and it seems clear that our flesh, our mud, is his access point.
The apostle Paul says, in Ephesians 6:12:
“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
The word “flesh” there is the Greek word σάρξ, sarx, and its root word is the verb σαρόω, saroo, and it means “to sweep”. Sarx is what is swept up: the pile of dust. It is a physical body formed by God. The word “blood” is the word αἷμα, haima, and it means “the stuff of life”, the thing that provides physical life.
What he is saying is that what we fight against is not external, not another entity. It is internal, inside us. The high places are not actual places but spiritual places, higher levels of thinking. He is saying clearly that the demon attacks from within.
The Law was given that we might know how to stray from that internal call. When we went the other way and bound ourselves to evil more tightly, instead, Jesus took form to break the bond and free us. Not content to leave us to our own devices the second time around He sent to us the Holy Spirit, our teacher and our comforter, to sustain us. But what does that mean?
Hang on, it’s about to get real.
Lets’ recompile. I don’t speak great Christianese, and I think that science is too dry. So let’s recover all this in real language.
The amygdala, the pair of small, almond-shaped nodes that live in a constant state of paranoia and which authoritatively say that we should pull away to keep safe, is part of what is referred to, somewhat errantly, as the reptilian part of the brain. I would make the case that the amygdala is the base of operations of the accuser, the satan (you did know the word “satan” just means “the accuser”, right?), who pushes us to segregate, to pull away, to isolate. I’m suggesting the demon is using a specific part of your brain to talk to you. The French have a term for this: L’apelle du vide, the Call of the Void. It refers to the dark impulses we feel that we don’t know the source of. It’s very much the call of death inside our own minds.
When he succeeds in his call — when we listen — we fall to depression, to anger, to violence, to apathy, to suicide, to murder. His call drives us to separate and cast ourselves to death. The key, then, is in fighting that impulse, ignoring the amygdala. How? By reprogramming it. By training the neocortex to suppress those rapid, forked-tongue responses and walk the path of life instead.
Some call it The Secret. Some call it Psychocybernetics. Some call it sanctification. Some call it positivity training. But at the end of the day it’s really brainwashing: repeatedly and decidedly choosing to see the instinctual response and forcibly override it so that, over time, that can become the new instinct. We reprogram the amygdala to see better outcomes. We sanctify our minds from the influence of darkness.
But we suuuuuck at that. The Void calls us eternally to fall back to the dark because it’s easier, less dangerous. And here’s where it gets heavy.
Jesus said He was sending the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, to give us grace in time of need. To teach us, to lead us. It is the Spirit who sustains us in patience. It is the Spirit who divides truth from lies. It is the Spirit who drives back the darkness. Well what is another way to say that?
I’m a computer geek in a digital world, so let me say it in words I know you know.
When a hacker wants to make your computer do something it doesn’t normally do, when they want to force it to do what they want, they implant a virus. The virus is able to help reprogram the system to fall to their direction. In this the Holy Spirit is little different. Our brains are computers, and Jesus implanted the Spirit as a sort of computer virus that He uses to overcome the darkness in us, to teach the neocortex to override the amygdala. When Jesus sent the Spirit He was reprogramming our brains electrochemically.
We use a lot of fancy language in Christianese to say this, and I think it puts the truth too far out of reach. We’ve churched ourselves right out of our minds, right out of the ability to help each other in some cases. So let me say it in Gentile: We are different people than existed in Jesus’ life. Those people had no direct access to God, they had no internal communications line. Jesus put that there; He implanted the Spirit and gave Himself a hardline to speak to us and hear us directly. He changed the game.
The thing about any computer virus of any success is that it must be transmitted, it must spread, if it is to have any real positive impact. The Spirit is no different. This is why Christ gave us the Great Commission: to spread the gospel across the whole world, that the power of it might program the virus into all minds. His life, His sacrifice, His resurrection are the very lines of code that unleash that programming into our minds and our heart and our souls. He implants this program to breathe life into our spirit and help us overwrite all the corruption of this mud.
The programming is activated remotely by other systems, other people. How? By the very blessing God gave us at Babel. I have talked about this a lot before, but the gift of Babel was that of diversity. In that diversity we find challenge and interest and growth. All the things that spark that program to rewrite more and more of our corrupt flesh. We need the vertical relationship to God to keep the program clean and pure, and we need the horizontal relationships with others to keep it growing in us.
It is a perfect system, and one that is not only all about us but about fostering trust and cohesion among us, about finding validation and support in each other. About supporting each other.
How tiny, how insignificant the little lion and his prancing in the face of that. He flails and flaps his jaws about injustice or danger or condemnation or his power, but in the end his microphone is two small nodes of the brain that are easily overridden by higher functions, and trivially overcome by the implantation of the Spirit.
Livin’ on a Prayer
I know some people may be offended I would liken the Spirit to a computer virus or cheapen their faith by giving value to human beings. To them I apologize for any offense, but I stand wholly by it. If we can really grab onto this concept it has the power to change the world. It truly does.
Lord, I ask that whatever is of value in this post, whatever is of You, finds its target in the heart of any who read, and that whatever is illustration, whatever is useless, whatever is me falls away so that the full light of Your wisdom might shine through.
Father, forgive my failing heart. I stopped writing because I was recording, and You never said A or B, You said A and B. If I am to drive this mission I need to keep all plates spinning, and that means I need help. I don’t know how to ask for it because I am awkward and new to having a tribe. Help me get out of Your way. Help my fear of vulnerability be overwritten by the drive to see Your vision realized.
In the mighty name of Your Word, the Anointed Christ, my King, my Savior, my Friend, and my Brother — Jesus — I pray for the light and life of Your Kingdom in us all. Amen.