Codependence & Religion
Our Narcissistic/Codependent Society
In today’s show we discuss codependence & religion, it’s deep roots in history and how it can leave our children vulnerable.
On Sound Cloud:
STEVE: Hi everyone. Welcome to our Narcissistic-Codependent Society. I am Steve Cooper, and with me today is Kim Cooper.
Last week, we spoke about how there can be a narcissistic occupational hazard with some religious leaders if they start to feel that their position puts them above the law.
KIM: Today’s show, we talk about codependence and religion. And my, oh my, is this a big one, Steve.
STEVE: It’s pretty exciting. We are going to really dive into it.
KIM: Mmm…it’s a big show that we’ve got planned today, so hold on tight.
STEVE: The most exciting thing about this, Kim, is we are going to really analyze some serious issues that have come up since our last show.
STEVE: And one of the most serious issues I’d like to talk about straight away is, when I mentioned that there can be a hazard in leaders in religious organizations becoming narcissistic and feeling above the law, that sets up a whole system where our children can become very vulnerable . . .
STEVE: . . . and where it can set off a system of having an endless supply of groveling, needy, devotees.
STEVE: Which is unhealthy and very narcissistic/codependent.
KIM: Yeah. The narcissistic/codependent sort of system, if you will — whether it’s operational in a religious environment, a family environment, or really any organization— really does leave the most vulnerable members of that organization very vulnerable, as you say, and open to exploitation, which, unfortunately we have seen reports of in religious organizations and institutions, and I think it is important that this is discussed, and that we talk about this out in the open — how it happens, why it happens, what is this pattern of behavior that we can fall into and operate from that makes this so prevalent —too prevalent, and happen too often. Hopefully by the end of today’s show, you may come to understand how this idea of codependence and religion is just so vast. It goes right back in history. It’s something that has actually affected our whole society. It has affected our political systems. It has affected the way that we operate as a society, and I would say creates most of, if not all of, the social issues and conflict issues that we face.
Now, I know that is a big claim. (Smiling.)
KIM: And I know that Steve is going to try and back me up here, because this has been a big show to put together. And I really want to get started, because I know we really have a lot to get through.
STEVE: So, Kim, it’s really important to say from the outset that I don’t think the word narcissistic or codependent ever appears in the Bible.
KIM: No. (Laughing.)
STEVE: (Laughing.) So, we know that the words aren’t there, but there are so many examples of it.
KIM: Mmm. That’s right.
STEVE: And I just wanted to warn some people too — people who don’t have a biblical or scriptural background, we are going to talk about Scripture today, but please stick with us because, as I just mentioned, the Bible is full of these stories. They are fantastic parables on this topic.
STEVE: And we are going to talk about that today. Please stick with us. You will find something beneficial out of it, I promise you.
KIM: Thanks for the disclaimer, because please don’t feel like we are going to suddenly go denominational here, or that we are going to get off science — because really our work is science based. But today we are going to look at the Book of Job, and a little bit of other stuff from the Bible.
The reason why is that:
The Book of Job is one of the oldest books in the bible.
I really think that if you look at it — and I hope you agree by the end of the show— that this is what it’s all about. It’s actually a debate, and they are debating some really important ideas here, and I think Job is actually debating against his three friends and this other guy who comes in at the end, Elihu, who really basically the stand or the argument they are taking is the religious codependent stance.
STEVE: Yeah, right.
KIM: And it’s Job who is arguing against that. Then by the end the Lord comes in and actually says that Job has won the debate and his friends are actually incorrect in what they have had to say about God. It’s a really interesting Book, and hopefully we can see this as history as well, because it is so old. And I think it is a really good example of how you really cannot just pick up the Bible and open it up and say every single thing in here is divinely inspired and is just law.
Because, as I just mentioned, this is a debate. Job is debating three other people who have an awful lot to say. (Laughing.)
STEVE: (Laughing.) Yeah, it’s quite a long debate.
KIM: It’s a very long debate. They have an awful lot to say. And then by the end of the debate it’s said very clearly that they were wrong. So, you could pick it up and you could be reading pages and pages of stuff that then later was then shown to be wrong thinking. So, you do have to be careful with this stuff. Umm…but, okay. Where are we going to start?
STEVE: Great, so Kim — but first, I think we should — I think we were planning to talk about how we find it very uncomfortable when people grovel in church…
STEVE: . . . grovel before the Lord. Should we talk about that? You tell me.
KIM: Yeah, we’ll start there, because otherwise the stuff in Job isn’t going to make as much sense, is it.
STEVE: Right. Yeah, absolutely.
KIM: Yep. So this is one of my least favorite things about going to church. I like a lot of things about going to church, and I won’t get into them now. But, what I really dislike is when somebody gets up and they start praying and they do the whole: I am nothing, I’m just dust at your feet, and I’m just some little worm. All the glory is yours.
STEVE: (Laughing.) Right.
KIM: This really upsets me . . . it really does.
STEVE: It’s very codependent.
KIM: (Laughing.) It’s very codependent.
KIM: (Laughing.) And I think it’s kind of amusing that these same people will often be the type of people that even though they are apparently so humble when they are praying, if you try and talk to them later about how maybe there isn’t really a doctrinal basis for that, umm, they know everything. (Laughing.)
KIM: And they’ve got it all covered….
KIM: . . . and they’re actually not really interested in anyone else’s ideas.
KIM: So, maybe that’s a little bit cheeky of me, but . . .
STEVE: It’s important to be devoted in your faith, but maybe we are just questioning whether you have to take that humility to such profound levels.
KIM: Well, actually, I would say that this is exactly what the Book of Job is all about.
KIM: This is really what they are arguing about and Job is taking the side where he is saying that he’s not going to grovel. He is saying, no, my conscious is clear, and I’m not going to deny my conscience, I am not going to blaspheme against my conscience by pretending that I have sinned, and that I should debase myself in front of God and ask his forgiveness, when I don’t think I’ve done anything wrong. You know? So he is accused of being proud by his friends for doing this, but there is a really different kind of pride going on here. They obviously have different ideas. Really, you can look at the Book of Job, and you can say, okay, what is Job’s argument and what are his three friends and Elihu’s argument?
Job’s argument is that we can’t ascribe our sense of justice to God’s work and to God’s will. That we can’t look at life and say just because somebody is a king and somebody else is a pauper that God has blessed that person and he obviously wants to punish the other person. He said that is pride, that is arrogance — for us to think that we know how God works and that we can ascribe our sense of justice to him.
He feels that he needs to be honest to his own conscience, and that he needs to act on his own conscience, and that he needs to act and live his life in fear of God — like that he needs to do the right thing — but that he is very upset with his friends for judging him. (Laughing.)
KIM: For them coming in and saying, look at what has happened to you, look at the affliction that has faced you. For those who don’t know the story, Job has lost everything by this stage — well, he hasn’t lost his wife, but he has lost his children, he has lost his wealth, his property has been destroyed . . .
STEVE: He lost his health.
KIM: He has lost his health, he is covered with sores from head to toe. He can’t even rest. He has just become somebody who is mocked and humiliated, and he just has nothing. So his friends all come to visit him, and that’s when this debate occurs.
They say that they are all in silence for seven days, and then this debate starts occurring. And in the beginning, the friends are sort of being nice — like sometimes judgmental friends will pretend to be nice in the beginning. (Laughing).
STEVE: Yeah, that’s right. (Laughing.)
KIM: They pretend like they are kind of being nice to him. But when he won’t relent and he won’t say, well, yeah, I have obviously brought this on myself, they get more and more relentless in their attack on him. And he gets more and more upset about it, because he says, “You should have compassion for me”. Righteousness is about having compassion for the afflicted. Righteousness is about having compassion for people who are facing adversity and hardship. It’s about compassion for the poor. And he goes on to say he’s done all of that — that’s what he has done in his life, and his conscience is clear.
KIM: And that he doesn’t feel like he should be groveling or debasing himself in front of God to try and gain God’s mercy.
STEVE: Hmm. Would it be useful here, Kim, to add just for those who aren’t familiar with the Book, to say that this is a bit of a game between God and the devil?
KIM: Yeah. That’s right.
Before this all started, God actually said to Satan in this conversation, he said, “Look at my servant, Job.” He is God’s favorite, look at him. He is this amazing guy, and Satan says, yeah, but he is really only good to you, and he only obeys you and he only loves you because you treat him so well, because you take care of him.
STEVE: And he’s a wealthy person, and he’s been blessed with a nice family and the whole thing.
KIM: And he’s wealthy and, you know, you give him everything. That’s right.
So, he says if you take that away from him . . .
STEVE: He will prob—
KIM: . . . that’s all going to change.
STEVE: Yeah, he will probably start cursing you.
KIM: He will start cursing you, and it will all change.
STEVE: Yeah, right.
KIM: So, God says, okay, so be it. Have your way with him, but spare him his life. Don’t kill him.
So in this, Job is correct and his friends are actually wrong. And this is an incredibly important moral story in the fact that it is such a long debate.
KIM: You know, I think that is really telling, because it is saying yeah, there are a bunch of issues in here we really do need to debate, and we really do need to think about. So that is basically sort of Job’s argument.
Now, I am just going to read a little bit here to tell you. This is Elihu who comes in at the end and before Elihu comes in, all the rest of them have been basically telling him you should admit you are a sinner. Obviously, you wouldn’t be going through all of this if you hadn’t done something wrong. Just go and debase yourself and grovel to God, and then everything will be fine.
KIM: And they are really upset with him because he keeps saying, no, I’m righteous, and I am going to stand by my integrity. And they say, how can you be righteous if you are born of a woman, and we are all just worms, and there is nobody that is truly righteous, and we are all nothing. And Job won’t have a bar of this. Then, when Elihu comes in, it says at the beginning, “So the three men stopped answering Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes.”
So, this is exactly why they are angry at him. They are angry at him because he saw himself as righteous in his own eyes. And Elihu is really angry with Job for justifying himself rather than God. And he is also angry with the three friends because they haven’t been able to convince Job that he is wrong.
And so, I just want to give you a little bit about who this Elihu guy is. Because, you know, the debate has sort of escalated and it’s sort of right toward the end, there is a bit of theater in this whole thing, you know?
KIM: So, Elihu comes in, and his side of the argument is; God repays a man for what he has done. He brings upon him what his conduct deserves. It is unthinkable that God would do wrong; that the Almighty would pervert justice.
All right. So his take on it is that for Job to say that he is innocent is for him to say that God is wrong, that God’s sense of justice is wrong. But Job, on the other hand, is coming in and is saying look, there really isn’t any justice in the world. You know, look around you.
KIM: There are weak people and there are innocent people that are oppressed everywhere. And there are wicked people who are—
STEVE: Yeah. And that go peacefully in their sleep.
STEVE: They have a great life.
KIM: Yeah, they still have a great life and go peacefully. So he is saying so you can’t ascribe our sense of justice onto God. We can’t know that.
So this is humility to Job. Humility is saying you don’t know the whole story. You can’t pretend to just create the universe in the image of what you think it should be, because that is really basically what these guys are doing. And as it is, Job is right, and Elihu is wrong, because in the background Job is innocent, and there is this whole story going on in the background that they don’t understand.
But Elihu is very into this idea that you can determine what God thinks of somebody by looking at their state.
KIM: That if they are in jail, if they are in chains that they deserve to be there.
KIM: If they are a king and they are on the thrown, well, God obviously put them there. And he even takes this right through to the weather. He says that God brings clouds to punish men, or he brings water to the earth to show his love. So if a cyclone hits your city or a hurricane hits your city, it is obviously because everybody in that city was sinners, and they had it coming to them.
KIM: You know, where Job has the opposite point of view.
Please play the Youtube movie or Soundcloud File above to hear the full show.