Condemn Principles Not People

“The beginning of wisdom is the definition of terms.”

Defining your terms is just a start in order to have an honest discussion about a subject and to avoid confusion, misunderstandings. I’ve challenged the idea that we should minimize the stigma that goes along with addiction. 

For those of you in Doylestown, the definition of “stigma”, used in this context:   

“A mark of disgrace or infamy; a stain or reproach, as on one’s reputation.” 

The act of abusing drugs, alcohol, food and other things is disgraceful, sinful. God made us in his image so we have intrinsic value, and all of us are sinners. Even author Gore Vidal, who championed homosexuality, wrote that a homosexual is not who you are, but what you do.  

Drug addicts don’t just affect themselves, but their family, friends, and society. In the Levittown, PA vicinity, crime mushroomed in neighborhoods after the recovery houses came. About a hundred of them shot up in the community.  

People need to be protected from drug abusers. One particular drug user, who, in his own words is the “King of the panhandlers”, wore something that gave public notice like The Scarlet Letter. I’ve seen him wear a shirt that conspicuously read “MONSTER.” Actually, I think the word was for Monster Drinks, but it serves as a public warning. I’ve noticed that people who regularly drink Monster Drinks have turned into monsters (you are what you drink). It could, however, just be a coincidence.  

Condemn the principle, not the person  

At an inpatient addiction center in lower Bucks County, PA, a counselor told the group of visitors I was with to practice tough love – have rules and borders. If, for example, your kids get completely out of control, then you need to kick them out of your home and get them to the proper place. But never condemn them, the counselor stressed.  

Who will throw the first stone?  

A long, long time ago, when Jesus was teaching in the Temple, the scribes and Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery. They wanted to stone her, and they were not talking about getting her high on weed. They asked Jesus what he thought, to test him and get him busted. Jesus bent down and wrote something on the ground with his finger. When they kept questioning Him, He replied “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” They split, leaving Jesus with the woman. He asked her “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 

She said, “No one, sir. “ 

And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.” 

The act of doing dope should be stigmatized, not the person. The stigma of addiction and other sins can be removed by stopping this foolish, destructive behavior. Jesus told the woman she was not under condemnation, but she has to stop her sinful behavior.  

To get yourself straight, you must not blame others, your circumstances, as did Curly of The Three Stooges (I’m a victim of soy-cum-stances), your environment, your race, your gender, your situation…   You must acknowledge your addiction is a result of a character flaw, sin. 

You Won’t Like Me Like That II

In the first part of “You Won’t Like Me Like That, I related a tale about one of my homeless friends in lower Bucks County, PA who, when he drinks booze, turns into a monster, similar to the Incredible Hulk.

It’s not the alcohol that inherently creates monsters and ruins lives, but a deep seated character flaw that it brought out by the booze.  Alcohol is just a catalyst.

“Oz didn’t give nothing to the Tin Man

That he didn’t, didn’t already have”

–Lyrics from Tin Man, from the 1974 song by America

Getting drunk is just one way the monster in us comes out — comes alive.  Just as Oz didn’t give the Tin Man a heart, because he already had one, alcohol doesn’t give people characteristics associated with a drunk.  Meanness, violence, belligerence, boisterousness are not simply a chemical reaction to booze.  It is a manifestation of the deprave nature of human beings.

Dr. Jekyll didn’t become Mr. Hyde simply as a result of a chemical reaction.   The novella is entitled The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but although Mr. Hyde’s evil, bizarre behavior seems puzzling, it really is not all that strange, not hard to figure out.  It’s simply our dark side.  Brought up a Calvinist, I was taught about the “Total Depravity of Man”, the “T” in John Calvin’s TULIP acronym.  Agents such as alcohol, drugs/chemicals just bring this nature to the surface.

People can act as crazy, wrongly, without booze or drugs.  I’ve found that I don’t need any substances to bring out the monster in me.

The concept of The Noble Savage contradicts the view of the inherent evil nature in humans.  The Noble Savage view rejects the civilizing effects of society (Dr. Jekyll) — it strips human nature down to it’s animalistic state.  Those who subscribe to the Noble Savage view see civilization as corrupting what they see as an idealistic, “other” state.  The Noble Savage symbolizes humanity’s innate goodness.

The phrase “Noble Savage” came to be associated with an idealized picture of “nature’s gentleman,” an aspect of 18th century sentimentalism.  Charles Dickens knocked the idea of the Noble Savage.  He used the term sarcastically to disassociate himself with the sentimental slop of 18th and early 19th century romantic primitivism.

In short, the Noble Savage view is based on feelings rather than absolute truth and principles.  Recently, Rush Limbaugh, the burly talk show host, announced that he was “thin”, to mock the view that reality is what we think it should be.

The monster in us needs to be conquered.

I had an opportunity to be a drug counselor when I worked part time at a methadone clinic when I was a student.  After work one night, a counselor sat down with me at the bar next door and went over some material and talked with me about the art of counseling.  I had a problem with the ideas he presented, such as the idea that we aren’t inherently all that bad.  The material we read knocked Calvin’s concept of the total depravity of man.  Instead, the upshot was, we need to feel good about ourselves and don’t have to admit our flaws and deal with them.

In contrast, in the 12 Steps Journey program I’m in, the first step to recovery is to admit that nothing good lives in me, and that we need God to properly manage our lives.

There’s a homeless drug addict in the homeless circle I travel who wears a shirt that boldly reads “MONSTER”.  Actually, it’s a Monster Drink shirt, not a notice to others that he is a monster.  In reality, we don’t see the monster in people, as depicted in the 1988 science fiction movie They Live.  In the movie, Nada (Roddy Piper) doesn’t see the humanoid aliens with skull-like faces until he puts on a pair of special sunglasses that he finds.

Rather than looking at the world through the rose colored glasses of the Noble Savage, we need to see ourselves for the monsters we can be.  Noble Savage is an oxymoron.

There is hope, even for the homeless.  A good way to deal with problems is through industry.  We at Gimmee Shelter for the Homeless have a plan to supply the homeless with the property, tools and materials to develop and homestead it, modeled on the Homestead Act of 1882.

Read all about our organization: