Catholic vs. Other - 2018-01-03 - Ben Part 2

Author Recorded Wednesday January 3rd, 2018

There are 41 episodes in the Versus:Other series.

Recorded September 21st, 2017

Catholic vs. Other - 2017-09-21 - Tino

Recorded September 10th, 2017

Catholic vs. Other - 2017-09-10 - Judah

Recorded September 2nd, 2017

Catholic vs. Other - 2017-09-02 - William

Recorded October 21st, 2016

Catholic vs. Other - 2016-10-21 - Ben

It's been more than a year since Ben's first interview, so I reached out to do part 2. We talked mostly about Jordan Peterson's ideas and how they relate to recent developments in the Unitarian Universalist (UU) world. • Support the CVS Podcast: • Be a guest on a livestream:

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been part two this is bird underwater how do that with my lips with my finger on the left okay this is a knock-knock joke I do with little kids I sing knock-knock who's they a whole lot of water and while you're saying a whole lot of water who I'm doing this thing with your lips on my lips on your lips on your lips I'm glad we're doing this Internet so what's been going on since we last spoke what's been on your mind a couple of things happen in the last year one thing is like started paying attention to that Jordan Peterson guy I kind of started paying attention to him when he he made the news saying that he wasn't going to he wasn't going to be compelled to use people's preferred gender pronouns and the first time he made the news I wasn't interested but a few months later he made the news again and and I decided to check him out expecting to really dislike what he had to say but it turned out that he was presenting a conservative viewpoint that I hadn't been familiar with and although I think he's wrong on some things I've been getting a lot listening to him so I'd be like listen to like dozens of hours of his YouTube videos especially his lecture series the psychological significance of the Bible he's getting hundreds of thousands of young men interested in Christianity so can you just give a little top three highlights of your favorite gems from Jordan Peterson sure I think last time we talked I talked about Paul Tillich's idea of God as being that which you Center your life on like your God is if you got his money then all you do is Trebek money if your God is alcohol you drink all the time and hopefully when you're trying to figure out who God is you'll guess it's money it won't work that right then you'll redirect your attention somewhere else and eventually hopefully you'll be centering your life on the most possible good thing will be the center of your life and I just liked how he put it he's just like what else you gonna do like you gonna choose to send in your life on something that's not the best thing you decide a very down-to-earth way of motivating people who feel lost to not feel lost anymore to be just like oh right what whatever my situation I can choose to have faith faith that it's worth trying to make my day a little bit better and not despair does he give any hints ever about his conception of God I mean he has a clear conception of God as the best possible thing ah but he's also clear that our images of God are myths or symbols to help us articulate our beliefs he probably doesn't pray right he believes in asking your own brain like for example what should I do with my life if you genuinely asked the question he says it's really common that the answer will pop into your head and so that's the closest thing that I think he gets to prayer and what about worship I guess he's not worshiping anything I would say that he is worshiping the ultimate good and he does it through daily reminders of what you want to Center your life on he worships the good and he fears the bad so his self authoring program where you write down your ideal good the best thing that could possibly happen to you and you also write down the worst thing that could happen to you I don't know if that counts as worship but it's focusing your mind on the best possible thing it's focusing your mind on heaven and focusing your mind on pal and choosing every single day in every moment that you prefer heaven to hell so that was your number one sort of highlight what are the other two when you're trying to do good focus on a level where you can actually solve problems so critiquing especially like young activists who are trying to change the global system that who can even clean up the room make dinner for themselves and so he's like start with making your bed if you can do that organize your bedroom if you can do that organize your own house organize your relationships with the people who share your house and it can feel very humbling to let go of big-picture stuff and focus on what's right in front of you and he says the progress can feel really small from day to day but for month to month you'll notice that you're solving bigger and bigger problems and he says from year to year you'll be astonished at what you can accomplish so that's something that I'm trying to do it's hard like I'll still find myself having opinions about federal housing policy even though my room still feels cluttered it's hard for me but it's exactly what I need and if we look at stories of Jesus in the Bible he meets people he solves their problems he meets a leper he cures them so if God is willing to do that maybe we can be willing to do that too that's another excellent point I have nothing to really critique there what's the third one incorporate your shadow like in my tradition the unitarian tradition we have very rosy outlook about humans like we say all humans have Worth and dignity and basically if we can just get the good people in charge then the world would be a better place and JP is like no no no we've all got lizard brains we've all got monkey brains we've all got the capacity to do great good and we've got the capacity to do great evil and that's not news to anybody but it's something that Unitarian culture hasn't fully incorporated yet there's a YouTube video by that tattooed pastor Nadia Bulls Webber where she says the reason she chose the Lutheran's over the Unitarians because the Lutheran's acknowledged her great capacity to do e like to eat the last cookie in the cookie jar even if she knew it wasn't hers and yeah and after the circles there's a lot of pointing the finger like the problem is those people over there if we can just get rid of Donald Trump and we get in charge everything will be fine and JP is reminding us no no still be problems we'll still have our own monkey brains and a lot of people I think young men in particular don't know how to incorporate their anger into their life and I don't fully know what he means but it's like saying we need to incorporate the shadow but we need to honor that part of ourselves somehow we need to engage with it I don't know if that means like playing sports to get out your aggression or what they used to call that sublimation but I think he's going a little bit deeper than that I think that he's talking about a lack of denial and a sort of humility humility is acknowledging reality and reality is that we are fallen yeah I think that one stage of the fall happened the first time that one living being ate another living being when we as life on Earth became predatorial you can put our own needs above the needs of another being overcoming that for me it would be that life on this planet had no predation and no predatory DNA like not only did we not eat each other but we didn't even want to and that would be a total restructuring of the ecosystem so that's like a long-term project so what do you think about Jesus eating fish and stuff like that what do I think of him not being vegetarian well even if he's vegetarian he's still eating vegetables which are alive right yeah he would have to hold his breath and not eat anything and not move to avoid killing anything even then his body's probably metabolizing all kinds of stuff yeah so it's pretty much impossible not to have an impact on other life-forms yeah I think if if it had been written like that like Jainism I don't know if Jainism already existed back then where people really tried to not kill any other life-forms like sweeping the path in front of them I don't think Jainism caught on the way Christianity did I think that Christianity was written by pretty normal people wasn't by vegetarians as far as I know just like if you read Paul's letters in order the epistles of Paul you read them in order you see that he gradually took on the norms of a larger culture so he went from saying that there are no more slaves and masters we were all equal in one to saying slaves of their masters he gradually took on that patriarchal norms his Christianity became more secure no but you can't just pretend that he naively had this notion that there are no more slaves and then the patriarchy brainwashed him into being pro-slavery he knew that there were men and women there were jews and greeks and that there were slaves and free men but he was speaking about the liberty that we have because of our faith from the negative ramifications so if you're a slave be a slave obey your master for Christ and in Christ well yeah I agree that he still believed that we've saw human bodies and he wasn't saying overthrow Society and there are no more slaves the balance of what he was saying shifted to increasing the importance of women obeying men in the early church in the gatherings my understanding is that there was a lot of equality there's a different focus from the early days of were creating these communes where everything's awesome when we get together to try to make it work within the larger world like in the early letters these like keep your head down don't cause any trouble we'll just do our thing on our own where we don't have slaves or masters so what do you make of the Catholic perspective where this earthly life is a pilgrimage between Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained in heaven I don't have any reason to believe that there was an initial paradise what does Jordan Peterson say about that paradise literally means a walled garden and so he talked about that being a very powerful and important reality for humans that we need the safety of the walls but we need the wildness of the garden and so the image of paradise is a walled garden that's just psychologically true that's exactly what humans need he compared the the Garden of Eden with the myth of the Buddha's origin his father wanted to protect him and make him grow up basically in heaven in paradise where he had no experience of disease or aging or mean people or ugliness and then he had this awakening the first time he saw something less than perfection and he left the garden to go out into the world so JP thinks it's a very powerful reality that we need we need this garden but I don't think he says anything about it being the initial state of people okay he sees it in terms of the comfort zone that we all have and that we have to leave in order to go on that hero's journey yeah so why do you reject the Christian idea that we come from perfection and that were destined for perfection why do you reject that well there's countlessly infinite possible suppositions that I could have and ceceo rejected that particular one is to give it undue importance do you think the history books give Christianity undue importance to have you read the history of Western civilization to clump Christianity in with the catalyst infinite possible interpretations of what's going on with ultimate reality I think is a bit naive sorry you're going to tell me a little bit about the uu there was something that's happened can you just introduce that topic and talk about it and totally so in the 60s Unitarian Universalists decided to care about China and racism and so that at the annual meeting they decided to budget I think to half a million dollars for a black LED organizing group to build up more of a multicultural culture within the Unitarians and then when a massive budget problem hit they cut money in all departments and when they cut money from this the group protested it completely disrupted the annual meeting most people of color within the Unitarians left and it was a really traumatic time Trust was completely gone and then it took I think until the 90s until people were willing to try again and anti-racism training started and they were trying to say like look look at us we're all white people we're doing something that is making people of color or not feel welcome and a lot of people were very defensive around that saying no no there's nothing wrong with us we're always completely welcoming to people of color we don't know why they're not coming we know we're not the problem but there are these trainings to try and change their mind about that and as far as I know they kind of fizzled out didn't really work and whenever promises would be made at the national level they would be broken there wouldn't be follow-through but one promise that was made was that every job category at national office at least 20% of people in each job category would be people of color and they just made that as a policy it wasn't optional it had to be like that and then a year ago there was a job opening for a type of job there were only five people in this type of job so this job had to go to a person of color it was policy no choice and there was a candidate who was a person of color but she did not get the job and so people were just fed up and it was such a groundswell of criticism and that the person who did the hiring resigned the president of the Unitarian Association resigned the top chief operating officer also resigned and so three of the top people in national headquarters resigned over this and they all said I'm getting out of the way so that the organization can more quickly overcome its white supremacist attitudes the president only had four months to go in his term or three months so it was mostly a symbolic resignation or so we thought because he was replaced by three people three co-presidents who are all people of color they only had three months to finish off the term but in that time they started major initiatives like they changed role okay it's not going to be 20% people of color and every job title they might have changed it to 40% they just said we're not just going to aim for where it should be we're gonna go so far beyond that it will actually shift the culture the moderator died of cancer and he was replaced by two people a person of color and a transgender person and then when the new president was elected and it was the first women president that we've ever had so suddenly we went from being run by baby boomer white men to being run by quite a diverse group of people but there was so much anger that this process even needed to happen that there was a lot of defensiveness in the reaction to that anger and I really thought that the backlash against it could be really strong because there's a lot of power in the traditional demographic and so I was watching this thinking okay I really support the the movement to become more multicultural but I'm also fearful that if it goes too fast the backlash will delay us for another 50 years and I think one of the issues was just noticing okay once things settled in a bit who was left in positions of power like who who does the movement trust to step forward and they ended up picking people who have been around for a long time who speak very mildly you feel at ease listening to them even as they're challenging you to do better so I think the people they chose ended up giving everybody confidence that the process was going to be constructive but I did go through a period of just being like oh my god social justice warriors it's a feeling like if I speak my opinion there's a good chance that I'll be the next person I'll be the next target of vitriol somebody said something like I'm fully in favor of this work that we're doing and concerned about the process and someone attacked his character and because of that he got a letter from head office saying we can no longer have your poem on our website because you no longer represent our values in people's minds and yeah I thought oh who's next so it was really interesting to see my own denomination no longer being conflict avoidant and trying to grapple with our shadow and trying to instead of cleaning the finger at like the evil politician was wow there's a lot of suddenly a lot of finger pointing going on within our own denomination but for me staying focused on the best possible thing means reminding ourselves of the ultimate goal and living that day-to-day not letting our self-righteousness let us treat other people badly not excluding people in the name of inclusion how much would it take in the worst case scenario if you you went off the rails and it was hijacked by imbalanced thinkers what would be the tipping point for you personally where you just sort of backed off and looked for another denomination one fear I've had is that I go for a final interview in Boston before I become a fellowship to minister and I've heard that when you go to your file and I'll interview you're basically asked to defend a very left-wing strategy to address anti racism just to pass the interview and I decided that no I'm totally gonna own that I want a politically centrist strategy for addressing anti racism right now I totally trust that that will be acceptable but yeah it wasn't acceptable then I won't give fellowships and then my next step will I guess you're allowed to go back a year later so a year later I can go back and I could either say hey I changed my mind you guys were right though lefties or I could say hey in the last year I built a huge movement of politically centrist do you use and I totally stand behind what I said last year and yet there's a bit of a fear that that wouldn't be acceptable but if I'm not welcomed in the fellowship then I would have to build a career outside of that I don't see that happening but if there was going to be aligned in the sand it would be drawn at my final interview like do they accept me or not when does that happen September 2019 can you talk a little bit about your future and the sort of best-case scenario totally I think of the word Catholic actually which if I understand it right it means both universal and in the context did I get that right it means according to the whole so there's both the larger context and there's the local context as to how how I've understood it and so I really want to be in a denomination that is connected to the larger context and connected to the particular context so instead of a one-size-fits-all Church being planted in a thousand different neighborhoods having churches that make sense in their own neighborhood and I feel like we're really working on this like I'm by no means an unusual person have this attitude totally mainstream but ideally I'd like to see our churches showing up in very different ways like we've we're trying to do multiculturalism by creating a culture that welcomes people of very diverse backgrounds but we can't just have one Church in each city that can be that for all people we need to figure out how to do multiculturalism within a church but we also need a very different array of churches and nonprofits and businesses and we just needed showing up in a lot of different ways you're not just going to be another cog in the wheel you're to be been and you're going to bring something unique and special to your ministry if you do a uu ministry right so can you just focus very heavily on your unique contributions that you think you can make and that you want to make can you just end with that sort of vision totally so I feel like growing up I put up a huge wall socially really protected myself I didn't feel emotionally safe that's like right now I'm part of my work is trying to integrate having a safe boundary with still feeling connected to people so mixing vulnerability with safety so my work will be to try and create the culture that is doing that very well my experience in that improv dance and Improv Theater communities helped me to experience a lot of very vibrant ritual really bringing the spirit in and my interest in physics I feel like really gave me a solid grounding and appreciating structure and analysis and so I feel like combining those two things is one of my strengths and I can help really bring to life our rituals our worship services and experiences while integrating them using my analytical sense integrating our personal growth and our helping people work and spreading the word inter getting all that into a very vibrant spiritually alive community