Symptomatic Theology

Any good treatise, no matter how disjointed and foolish it might turn out to be, should begin with an identification of bias. (I may not be the strongest propoent of Postmodernism, but I certainly admit to being in part its product)

So, since I’m not able to detect my own bias accurately, I will just talk about myself for a little while, and you can figure out what biases I might have and prepare yourself for their appearance in what follows. A lot of this is about my family because I think that is perhaps the most powerful determinant of who a person turns out to be.

I come from a middle class background, ranging from upper to lower middle class depending on when in my history you’re talking about. Anywhere from living on the floor with no furniture to a three-car family in a nice house in a safe neighborhood. My family is either Protestant or functionally Atheist, but not a lot of conviction in either direction. My father’s family was, generally speaking, middle class from St. Paul and then Louisiana, conservative, attending and active in nondenominational churches. He is now active in a Methodist congregation. My mother’s family was Presbyterian on the liberal side, active in the civil rights movement, from New York and then Atlanta.

Both of my parents are divoreced multiple times, my mother three times and my father twice. As a result, plotting out who are cousins or half-siblings of whom is sometimes very complicated. I’ll skip that and hope you get the picture. My mother is currently single and my father is currently unmarried but living with a woman he’s been living with for a few years now.

I’m not sure how to describe myself now so ask some people who know me. I’ve found that they will generally disagree with each other, so I can assume I appear differently to different people, for better or worse. As a kid I was very interested in science and I still am. If I was smarter, I could possibly have been a marine biologist or doctor. I have always enjoyed writing and have periodically been recognized for being good at it.

For most of my life from around maybe puberty to the middle of my time in college I was depressed a lot of the time. Then I was medicated for a year and a half and in periodic therapy, and am now depressed some of the time. (It may not sound like it, but the difference is huge.) I say from “maybe around puberty” because I don’t have a lot of childhood memories. Or I don’t feel like I do – maybe other people have more. I do know there is a year which my mom tells me was incredibly difficult, where she almost took me and left my father, of which I have almost no memory. Also, I was reminded that my brother lived with us for a year when I was younger – and I had almost no recollection of that either.

(Side note: depression has been shown to inhibit development of the hippocampus, the part of the brain that allows you to make memories)

My immediately family was marked by periodic emotional (and occasionally physical) abuse. My father wasn’t a physical kind of person, but is a well-trained psychologist (among other things) and so when he wants to do damage he does it that way instead. He was (is?) also an alcoholic. On top of that, he is a good person who is fundamentally generous. Its just that for a long time he hated his life and, to some degree, himself, and that kind of violence just spills over. I think he’s past that now, in part, but its hard to tell because we don’t see each other as much so we’re both on our good behavior.

My mother is now a semi-retired minister in the Presbyterian church, and before that has been a Christian educator, therapist, factory worker, biker, hippie, activist, teacher, occupational therapist, and probably other things. She tends to create relationships with men in her life that are destructive, and she does this unconsciously. Its also, obviously, partly the man’s fault, but it is a pattern I see repeating that she is still grappling with changing. She’s been my consistent ally in my life, and I’ve tried to be hers as much as I could meaningfully be so.

I like people and I get along with them and am patient with them (generally speaking). I particularly like people who are who they are and not who they think they are supposed to be. I am also increasingly introverted, which is an interesting recent change that I wouldn’t say I understand. I’m happily married, three years on the 11th, and have always had a dog. I’ve got a degree in Religious Studies from the College of Wooster.

Let’s see, what other biases might I have? I’m white and male, so there’s definitely that. I’ve been a bit of a social outcast most of my life (ok, maybe more than a bit at times) and this has bothered me to varying degrees. I try to be post-violent (that is, a violent person who is trying to be nonviolent). I like fiction that is very fictional – fantasy, science fiction, etc. I play roleplaying games and have for a long time (see some of my links). I like myth better than fact, but I also like fact. I like irony and cynicism and use humor as an all-purpose tool (“if I had a hammer, I’d hammer in the mornin’…”).

As for me, I’m definitely a work in progress. But that, if not already, will soon become apparent.

6 thoughts on “Symptomatic Theology

  1. Interesting that your introversion is a recent development. I consider that at least partly my fault – but only because I’m such an arrogant/self-hating bastard. Other people’s issues are always my fault.


  2. nah. its just as likely that i’ve always been introverted, but i felt like i had to act like i was extroverted, which contributed to my depression…who knows? all i know is…World of Warcraft is FTW.and i’m not going to pass this Greek test at all.


  3. I thank God everyday that I haven’t yet gotten sucked into the sin that is WoW. Did I say yet? I meant always. Gack.. Never! Not ever… for-ever – I will not… I must… resist… Blizzard is evil… Wait. My computer is too crappy to run WoW. Oh Yeah. Whew!


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