God as justification for inaction

April 12, 2011
Timothy Leary wasn’t always a joke.

He was a respected psychologist and researcher at Harvard
who got caught up in his own game.

{If you don’t know who Timothy Leary is, the short version is that he was a loud proponent of psychedelic drugs and a fascinating character. Look him up.}

So I just finished an interesting book about Leary and Allen Ginsberg*. There’s something that fascinates me about the Beats and what went on just before the flower-power generation took root and I’ve probably read more about cats in that generation than most.

In the book, Leary was quoted as writing that Western psychological disorders occur partly because the Judaic-Christian tradition is “breeding helplessness.”

First, let me state plainly that I believe in a Supreme Being. There’s just no other credible explanation for stuff. I also believe that s/he has given us free will — and expects us to use it.

The idea of organized religion breeding helplessness caught my eye. I thought immediately of the 12-Step program jargon that “God will provide.” I know several people in the program who, after more than a decade, are still waiting for God to provide. It’s clear that they need to take some big, unfamiliar steps– a major paradigm shift– but they sit more comfortably when they’re waiting.
(Don’t we all. Most of us, anyway.)

But it’s not just 12-steppers who do this. I know several very devout people who are waiting for God to bring something new into their lives. Changes they badly need. But won’t make unless God punches them in the nose with a reason to do it. I mean, God really, really
has to do something dramatic to get these folks off the stick.
Even though they want to make these life changes.

And I know folks who don’t do what they’re supposed to do,
even if they need to do it for really good reasons, and then count on God to bail them out.

I like better “God helps those who help themselves.”
Which is to say that we need to do something. Take a step. Or two. Or more.

I believe in sitting with things awhile. But not for years–or decades.
If we’re going to foster change in our lives we absolutely have to take action.

Waiting for some unseen hand to push us?
A long wait, for most of us.

What do you think?

*The book is White Hand Society: The Psychedelic Partnership of Timothy Leary & Allen Ginsberg by Peter Conners. The Bible verse on God providing is found at Phil. 4: 10-19. “God helps those who help themselves” is not in the Bible, it was said by Benjamin Franklin, who was a Deist.

2 comments on “God as justification for inaction
  1. Kelly says:

    oh! I SOoooo love this post!! we must sit and drink a tad too much and discuss this at length some day.
    I totally agree with you. Not only do I believe in a “supreme being” but I am well aquainted with Him/Her.

    The malady you refer to is an interesting point…the waiting for God to provide issue.

    I firmly believe, after 2 years of hell and having to try to get my life together, that one MUST stand up and meet life halfway! the universe WILL come out to greet you but you have to have the right INTENTIONS.

    The flip side of that, is that many many Christians spend their whole lives DOING DOING DOING in order to win God’s favor. And there is this whole movement of Wealth Evangelism which tells us that the more we give, the more God will bless us with.

    horseshit. life is not nearly that fair or equitable.

    Again, this is something that should be debated with umbrella drinks in a not-too-hot-sunshine-laden lounge chair.

    But fantastic post. Appreciate the nod to the 12 steppers too. My 12 stepper is quite balanced in the “higher power” department, but I know exactly of the people you speak who sit and wait their whole lives for God to lightning bolt them into motion.

    Good stuff!! thanks!!

  2. Yes, it is amazing to me how many people sit and wait wait wait. I have a friend who’s done that, gone through an inheritance and is sitting again…it’s crazy. He’s talented, too, and could get a great career spot in his field… but not til one drops in his lap.

    I happen to know a bit about the prosperity gospel movement, too.

    Kelly, thanks. Am looking fwd to our weekend away this year where we can talk all things.

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