“Wholeness” or “Totalisms”
One of my favorite authors is Richard Cartwright Austin. He’s a favorite because there are three roles that have defined his life: pastor – author – environmentalist. Since these are right up near the top in my own life and calling as well, I’ve read his 4 books series on environmentalism (available in our own
In contrast to this, those who never received a sense of wholeness, who never learned to trust, become vulnerable to those who offer totalisms. To quote Richard: “When a sense of personhood is based on totalisms, identification with a race, a group, or an idea is complete, yet it is anxious." In such a state, every answer is black and white – every person is clearly in or out, and the leader is teaching people to know with certain who’s who so that they can assure themselves of being ‘in’. Richard goes on to point out that those who have grown up in the midst of either personal family, or collective social crisis, are far more vulnerable to ‘totalisms’ as they provide a sense of security and belonging unavailable to anyone who considers him/herself still in the process of growth.
Church leaders are especially in danger of creating a culture of totalisms, rather than inviting people to wholeness, but a quick survey of Jesus’ life reveals that the thing he most forcefully opposed during his days was the ‘totalism’ of the Pharisees. They’d stopped learning, stopped growing, and had become nothing more than defenders of turf. I’d suggest that anyone who wants to really follow Jesus needs to make peace with this reality: I’ll never be finished growing and learning. This is liberating because it offers the perspective that what God is asking of me, above all else, is discerning responsiveness to revelation – not anxious cloistering, away from all potential pollutants.
In closing, I’ll just point out that any flag, any symbol, any church logo, can quickly become a dangerous ‘totalism’ if its leaders aren’t vigilant in their commitment to wholeness.
I wonder what you think… what are the dangers of Erikson’s invitation to ‘wholeness’? What do you this is true about it? What should we who lead be doing to avoid ‘totalisms’ while still declaring truth?