===Unfortunately, for this third part, I have not been able to strip the paper of references that are specific to the course. So, there will be one or two areas that will not be fully clear because they refer to course textbooks or experiences.===
For the Chaplain, the ontological reality of our being created in the Image and Likeness of God explains why a perturbation in a community can have such strong effects (and affects) on individuals, and such multiplying effects overall. If a community is indeed more than the sum of its parts, then the effect of any perturbation rapidly travels and multiplies through the community achieving a sadly synergistic negativity. Thus, the warning was given by Saint Paul, “Do not be deceived: ‘Evil company corrupts good habits,’” (1 Cor 15:33 OSB). Membership in a pathologically damaged group can corrupt the individuals involved. More than that, membership in such group can damage the members’ apprehension of reality to the point that it becomes difficult for the Chaplain to present or represent reality to them.
C.S. Lewis captures this conundrum beautifully in a passage from “The Last Battle,” the last book in the Chronicles of Narnia.
“Aslan,” said Lucy through her tears, “could you – will you – do something for these poor Dwarfs?”
“Dearest,” said Aslan, “I will show you both what I can, and what I cannot, do.” He came close to the Dwarfs and gave a low growl: low, but it set all the air shaking. But the Dwarfs said to one another, “Hear that? That’s the gang at the other end of the stable. Trying to frighten us. They do it with a machine of some kind. Don’t take any notice. They won’t take us in again!”
Aslan raised his head and shook his mane. Instantly a glorious feast appeared on the Dwarfs’ knees: pies and tongues and pigeons and trifles and ices, and each Dwarf had a goblet of good wine in his right hand. But it wasn’t much use. They began eating and drinking greedily enough, but it was clear that they couldn’t taste it properly. They thought they were eating and drinking only the sort of things you might find in a stable. One said he was trying to eat hay and another said he had a bit of an old turnip and a third said he’d found a raw cabbage leaf. And they raised golden goblets of rich red wine to their lips and said “Ugh! Fancy drinking dirty water out of a trough that a donkey’s been at! Never thought we’d come to this.” But very soon every Dwarf began suspecting that every other Dwarf had found something nicer than he had, and they started grabbing and snatching, and went on to quarreling, till in a few minutes there was a free fight and all the good food was smeared on their faces and clothes or trodden under foot. But when at last they sat down to nurse their black eyes and their bleeding noses, they all said:
“Well, at any rate there’s no Humbug here. We haven’t let anyone take us in. The Dwarfs are for the Dwarfs.”
“You see, ” said Aslan. “They will not let us help them. They have chosen cunning instead of belief. Their prison is only in their own minds, yet they are in that prison; and so afraid of being taken in that they cannot be taken out. But come, children. I have other work to do.” (Lewis 1986, 124-125)
C.S. Lewis clearly depicts a group ideology that has warped their perception of reality to the point that even God is unable to break that perception without violation of their free will. Or, as Jesus put it in his own words:
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’” (Matthew 23:37-39 OSB)
The Chaplain needs to remember that Jesus, himself, ran into a complex system in which he was unable to communicate to the system in such a way that they would come to believe in him, despite miracles, signs, and preaching. It is not the Chaplain’s job to force change. It is the Chaplain’s job to present possibilities for change. Nevertheless, the Chaplain needs to be aware that there may be a complete and total rejection of all the alternatives and all the reality presented.
But, there is a corollary to this. The opposite is also true. Precisely because a group is greater than the sum of its parts, a group can dampen a perturbation in a community. One of the things that can be observed is that it is possible for some individuals in a group to be antagonistic toward each other, while the system, as a whole, functions in a rather positive manner. The wise Chaplain learns to nudge the dynamics of a group so as to produce more positive outcomes in such a situation. That is the whole point of Friedman’s writings.
If the Chaplain is faithfully living out being the Image and Likeness of God, then the Holy Spirit can work through him or her so as to reach out to the system and bring the needed adjustment to the perception of reality that is needed in order to stabilize not simply the index person, but also the entire system. It is not surprising that Friedman so often worked in the area of what I would call the changing of perceptions. If reality is supported by the group, and if our very ontology pushes us, wants us, to be in a group, then it should not be surprising that a change of perception within the group lessens pathological perceptions within the members of the group, even if that change brought by the Chaplain is brought to members of the group other than the index person.
Concerning post-modernism, it is important for the Chaplain to realize that what one perceives as reality is indeed a construct mediated through the groups to which the Chaplain belongs. The same is true of the persons and groups with which the Chaplain is working. When working with a group—or an individual—the Chaplain may need to try to ascertain what is the view of reality that is being held by that family/community/work grouping. It may sometimes even be necessary for the Chaplain to question his or her perception of reality in order to ensure that one is viewing a situation correctly. This is the whole point of the self-supervision that is taught in Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE).
At the same time, if reality is held in the mind of the Trinity, then it is clear how much the Holy Spirit and the Church is needed in the life of the Chaplain in order to correctly perceive and express the reality that the Trinity perceives and expresses. Grouping with the Trinity in the Church is no longer an option, but a necessary part of correctly beholding Truth, not only for the Chaplain, but for every Christian. Thus, St. Paul’s insistence on the importance of the Body of Christ is not merely a theological construction, a type of Federal Theology, but rather an emphasis on the practical importance of the Christian being part of the Body of Christ in order to have a correct apprehension of reality. As an Orthodox, I would also have to say, in order to receive the life of Christ through the sacraments so that we might continue to have an accurate referent point in us.
Nevertheless, the author of this paper is quite aware how easily the Church slips into incorrect views. I am not insensitive to the issues raised, yet the Church is the vehicle that the Lord chose. At this point, in a paper of this length, I can only mention in passing that this ontology points to the necessity of the Church being considered as a visible reality and not merely as a spiritual reality. It is no wonder that the writer of Hebrews abjures us to not avoid the, “assembling of ourselves together,” (Heb 10:25 OSB) for that is where we learn to better apprehend reality. In fact, the Book of Hebrews speaks of being aware of another whole reality into which we have entered, and which others do not perceive.
But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel. (Heb 12:22-24, OSB)
But, I must cease my philosophy / theology / metaphysics and return to the here and now. The result of what I have said is that the Chaplain must be cautious in his or her ministry to watch out for:
- The Loner – this person has separated from groups. As a result, they may have developed a quite mistaken view of reality which may be quite difficult for the Chaplain to address. It is no surprise that some of the most troubled people are considered loners, and that loners are all too highly represented in the group that engages in some type of mass violence.
- The member of a pathological group – in this case, the Chaplain may find that a quasi-religious group ideology has developed that blocks the entry of the Chaplain into the group system in order to facilitate change so that the needs of the index person are addressed. Pressure by the Chaplain, rather than bringing change, may bring negative repercussions.
- The organization that has been surviving under intense pressure – we are not talking about a group in which one or two members are perceived to have been stressing the fabric of the group. This is where the entire group membership is under strong outside stressors. The Chaplain will need to carefully evaluate whether such a group has developed a pathological group ideology or whether the stressors have resulted in unexpected growth within the group. If the first is true, Chaplain beware. If the second is true, not much intervention might be needed, or at least less intervention than expected.