ON BILL CLINTON, JIMMY SWAGGART AND SIN

by John A. Speyrer



"A statement is not true because it is in the Bible, let alone
in the Prayer Book. It is not true because Paul says so,
or because John Wesley says so, or the Pope says so. It has the
authority of the truth only when our own individual insight
can leap up and recognize it and possess it as our own."
-- Rev. Leslie D. Weatherhead in The Christian Agnostic


PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON

Why would an individual who holds one of the most prestigious titles in the world risk losing everything he loves and has worked so hard to achieve? President Clinton, an avid student of the lives of the presidents, is acutely concerned about his future place in U.S. history. So why has he continuously taken chances with tarnishing his image?

Would he have taken a chance on losing everything for just a few minutes of furtive sex?

It it were only sex, he would not. The assumption that he has a sexual compulsion, however, would explain his actions.

A number of psychohistorical biographies of President Clinton have been written. Much emphasis was placed upon his having been raised in a dysfunctional and alcoholic family and how this has affected both his successes and failures. The authors agree that the origins of compulsive behaviors begin very early in one's life and are related to the specific traumas a person has had. Invariably, the behaviors and their modus are symbolic representations of the early deprivation the person has endured. For sexual addicts, the neurotic tension gets channeled into an excessive amount of normal sexuality or in the perversions and operates mostly on an unconscious level, instilling the sexual drive with a greater strength than it would normally have.

The sexual addict is symbolically and unconsiously looking for mama, seeking love and affection and attempting in a symbolic way to re-live early traumas of not having his very early needs met. The sexual addict has no choice in the type of addiction in which he engages. His heredity and specific early deprivation and how he unconsciously interprets such deprivation molds his addictive personality. He does what he has to do. He uses his behavior to keep the horrendous feelings of infantile abandonment and love deprivation away from consciousness.

From a primal theory viewpoint, a sexual compulsion (or any other compulsion) represents an attempt to resolve an unmet or unfelt childhood/infantile need or even a pre and peri-natal trauma. If the exact nature of the compulsion or ritual becomes known, the symbolism underlying the behavior can often be interpreted by the therapist and by the patient himself in primal or other regressive therapy. Even though a person knows why he acts out, his need to do so is not halted by this knowledge. It will not diminish the need for the behavior which is a symbolic reenactment of the exact nature of his early deprivations.


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REV. JIMMY SWAGGART

On my trips to New Orleans, before the present interstate highway was built, I always drove by the Jimmy Swaggart religious ministry complex of buildings off Bluebonnet Road in Baton Rouge. On each occasion, I noted that the complex was getting larger and larger. I no longer drive by that complex, but I feel certain that growth of the complex ended in 19XX when its leader, like the President, was accused of, and eventually confessed to sexual misconduct.

Jimmy Swaggart is a preacher who has always spoken very forcefully against sexual sins, and it was he who led the fight for the removal of Jim Bakker from the PTL TV network. He referred to Jim Bakker as "a cancer affecting the body of Christ." Perhaps Swaggart was in reality trying to exorcise his own demons. The behavior of the preacher is analogous to that of President Clinton. In both cases it had to be more than sex.

Like the President, Rev. Swaggart risked everything but instead, lost. Rev. Swaggart lost the title of most popular TV evangelist in the world, while the President almost lost his title as the most powerful man on earth.

A Los Angeles Times news release at the time of the scandal quoted Rev. Glen Cole of Sacramento as saying that Rev. Swaggart had struggled with a sexual problem since his boyhood. He said that the evangelist had confessed to a fascination with pornography since he was a youth. Cole said that Swaggart tried to deal with the problem through fasting and prayer, but something just got hold of him and he couldn't shake the urges. He said it would stop for a while and then rise up to happen again. It was reported that he had been going to prostitutes since he was a youth. The evangelist insists that the prostitutes were not for sexual intercourse. The nature of the sexual indiscretion has not been revealed, but seems to have been "pornographic," that is, witnessing an act performed by the prostitute.

I'm sure that Jimmy Swaggart believes his actions were sinful. He might literally believe that the "devil made him do it." But it had nothing to do with the devil. The cause is simpler than that. The performance of his voyeuristic urges reduced the tension temporarily. Having his ritual lessened his anxiety.

Prayer and penance were prescribed as a condition for his reinstatement as a pastor in the Assemblies of God Church, but instead he chose to no longer be a pastor in that church. It is questionable if such penitence would have been sufficient to keep the primal forces at bay.

The brain chemicals produced by the ecstasy of being a born-again Christian were not sufficient to allow Swaggart to repress his need for voyeuristic sex; this points to the tremendous force behind his compulsive sexual drive. This in turn points to the heavy load of pain which he has carried throughout his life from his very beginnings.

The existence of a sexual compulsion could explain both Clinton's and Swaggart's hypocrisy and reckless self-destructive behavior. Such addictive compulsions operate mostly on an unconscious level and with a greater degree of strength that would normally be justified by the sexual instinct alone. Both normal and voyeuristic sexual compulsions always represent a symbolic attempt to meet/feel an unmet and unfelt childhood/infantile/gestational need.

If the exact nature of the ritual which Rev. Swaggart felt a compulsion to perform becomes known, the symbolism behind the ritual could be interpreted. But such interpretations never help the victim. They will not diminish the need for the compulsive behavior which is a symbolic reenactment of the exact feeling nature of the early deprivation. In the past, neither prayer nor penance has lessened his need to reenact the compulsive ritual. It would thus seem unlikely that the conditional two-year rehabilitation imposed by the Assemblies of God Church would have reduced his need for sexual voyeurism.

What both Jimmy Swaggart and the President need to get rid of their compulsions is the same thing which other neurotics need, and that is to re-experience in a deep feeling, total way their early infantile and childhood deprivations. By feeling early deprivations in a primal way, the compulsion to perform the sexual ritual will slowly diminish until it becomes non-existent or at least controllable.

The sexual "sinners" of the world do not need forgiveness from God to eliminate their problems. Like all of the mentally ill, they are victims. What the compulsive sexual addict needs is the same thing which other neurotics need but did not get. It is too late in the here and now to go back and get what was needed at one's very beginnings. The closest thing to doing that is to go back and feel what was not gotten -- not in an intellectual, reasoning way, but in a completely encompassing total-feeling way -- to unrepress that which has been repressed -- to feel that which was unfelt -- the way of primal therapy.

* * *


"If one is determined to interpret the Bible as the word of God,
then the fact presents a troubling problem. If, however, the Bible
is perceived as what it almost certainly is -- a fascinating account
of the histories, myths, legends and fables of an ancient people
-- then the problem evaporates."
-- Steve Allen - On the Bible, Religion & Morality

"I don't understand myself at all, for I really want to do
what is right, but I can't. I do what I don't want to --- what I hate. . . .
But I can't help myself, because I'm no longer doing it. It is sin inside
me that is stronger than I am that makes me do these evil things."
-- Paul, Epistle to the Romans, 7:15, 17, The Living Bible

"What is going to happen to those of us who want to believe but aren't able to?
And what is to become of those who neither want to nor
are capable of believing."

-- Ingmar Bergmann, 1957


THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS

Sexual compulsions are not the only millstones of neurotics. All "sins" comprise the fodder of our fantasies and behaviors. The seven capital sins can be viewed from such a viewpoint.

The condemnation by organized religion of certain acting out behaviors as personal moral shortcomings shows that the founders and theologians of our faiths did not recognize that these "sins" were in reality symptoms of neurosis.

In my parochial grammar school cathecism, the seven Deadly or Capital Sins are listed as the sins of Pride, Covetousness, Lust, Anger, Gluttony, Envy, and Sloth. They are the cornerstones on which morality, as defined by traditional churches, is based.

However, their existence in a person is a proof of victimhood rather than of sinfulness. They are:

  • Pride, the first sin, can be defined as inordinate sense of self-worth or of importance. Many who succumb to feelings of pride are attempting to cover up feelings of inferiority. It is not an intentional defense but one chosen to cover-up deep feelings of inferiority. Even its counterpart, humility, should not be considered a virtue since profound humility is often present in people who have feelings of inferiority and inadequacy and as such can be a symptom of their mental illness. Behavior, driven by one's repressed pain, no matter what its manifestations, cannot be considered a personal virtue for which one builds up credit. But does that also mean that Mother Theresa should not be given credit for her selfless acts of charity? I do not believe she can be given such credit.

    As the "sinners" of the world are not responsible for their sins, neither can the "saints" take credit for their acts of charity and moral goodness. We are, all of us, only automotons in this life, our behaviors following our early programming.

    Pride is defined as an excessive love of our ability rather than having the virtue of humility. The normal person does not suffer from false pride. For the so-called normal individual, those two feelings are non-existent. His abilities please him but do not make him feel unduly proud. Groveling humility is not present, either. Self-confidence is his forte.

  • The second Capital sin is Covetousness, which is an excessive desire for material things. Covetousness is a common symptom for many. Money and possessions are defenses which help the neurotic to not feel his insecurity, but since he cannot feel his early deprivations which cause him to feel insecure, he continues to want to accumulate an inordinate amount of possessions. Since the things he owns do not quell his unfelt needs, he is on a perpetual treadmill seeking more and more of everything. It means that for him, savings and accumulations do not take on a symbolic meaning.

  • Lust, or the desire for illicit sexual pleasures, is the third Capital sin. It is well known that a large amount of sexuality is purely for the relief of tension. For others, hypersexuality and the perversions may also be symbolic attempts to meet unfelt needs. The equating of sex with love is common and operates on both a conscious and an unconscious level with a higher degree of strength than would normally be justified by the sexual instinct alone.

  • The desire for revenge, or excessive negative feelings directed against a person or thing, is termed Anger and is the fourth Capital sin. Anger can be a normal and appropriate emotion. It is only when the feeling is triggered by an early repressed need from the past that it may be termed pathological. Its twin feeling of jealousy is closely related to anger and always has its origin in childhood/infantile deprivation. When early needs have been met, there is no jealousy.

  • Gluttony, the excessive desire for food or drink, is the fifth Capital sin.Here again we have the desire for excessive food, alcohol, or drugs used as a defense against feeling the real underlying primal feelings. Without repressed need, one is not anxious for more food than one's body requires and hunger and food intake remain in equilibrium.

    As with other unreal needs, the hunger for more food than is needed shows that the food is a symbol for another need, which need, whose origins when felt over time in primals, ultimately reduces the need for overeating. Alcohol or the excessive consumption of food are not used by the neurotic for thrills, but for the relief of mental or physical suffering. Without nervous tension or depression the person would have no need to tranquilize oneself and overeating or excessive alcohol.

  • Envy is the sorrow at another's good fortune or being happy at the misfortune which befalls someone and is another example of a misplaced feeling. Without repressed hurts, one cannot be happy at another's misfortune, nor sorrowful when someone is happy. The normal person's peace of mind is not disrupted by another's good fortune; when one is gladened by someone's misery, he has projected his early repressed feelings on the wrong person. The well-adjusted person is without envy and hatred.

  • Sloth, the seventh Capital sin, is laziness of mind and body, resulting in neglect of ones duties. From a psychological viewpoint, laziness is a psychosomatic illness. A healthy body, one not burdened by tensions or depressions, will automatically operate at an optimal level which will assure proper functioning. Neurasthenic, nervous fatigue, is a common condition among chronic neurotics and can readily be cured by making the blocked feelings felt so that their energy will be dissipated and not exhaust the energy level of the person.

    
    
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    CONCLUSIONS

    "I realize that my view of the Almighty
    is based on my own early primal birth pain.
    If I would have had different pain
    or a different interpretation of the same pain
    I would have developed a different theodicy."
    -- The Author

    "I would believe if I could, and I may be able to before itís over.
    I would welcome that."

    -- Rodney Stark, Ph.D., Author/Sociologist

    "Adversity's sweet milk, philosophy"
    -- William Shakespeare

    After almost a quarter-century of re-living my early pain, especially birth trauma, the only insightful and reasonable conclusion I can draw, of necessity based on that pain, is that our so called moral weaknesses are in actuality acting out behaviors fueled by our early deprivations and traumas.

    Considering the truths proved by primal therapy and the other regressive experiential psychotherapies, how can one believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God?

    God, according to traditional Christian theology, is omniscient and therefore should know that neurotic acting out behavior is not subjectively sinful behavior but in reality is pathological acting-out behavior by persons who were victimized or traumatized very early in their lives.

    But God, through Christ and Christian churches, condemned these "sins" as behavior to be punished either now or after death. And the more severe the deprivations a person suffered in his past, the more serious the "sin" and the more severe the punishment will be due for his moral transgressions.

    The "sinner" thus suffers a triple whammy!

    1. He suffers initially from the original trauma.

    2. He suffers from his mental illness during his lifetime because of his trauma.

    3. He suffers from everlasting hell in the hereafter because of his acting-out behaviors while on earth -- unless the energy of his traumas is shunted into psychosomatic medical problems rather than "immoral" behaviors.

    The person who has had a good intrauterine life, a subsequent gentle birth, and loving parents who met his needs will have a happy life and again wins the sweepstakes and goes to Heaven when he dies. Some justice system! Its motto seems to be, "Winner Take All."

    But some will counter-argue that even a deprived person can change his behavior through prayer, penitence, sacrifice, or accepting Christ as his personal savior. This perhaps may work for the person suffering from slight deprivations but this hit-or-miss approach may or may not work to defend against the force of severe trauma effecting compulsive behavior.

    If Christ were God, He would have known that man has no real freedom to choose and is impotent against the more powerful psychological pressures. (See The Primal Psychotherapy Page Interviews Paul Vereshack M.D.)

    Why would Christ have placed so much emphasis on proper behavior and say nothing at all about those feelings which drive behavior? If Christ were God, would He not be an expert in the true origin and psychology of feelings? But the Bible hardly speaks at all about feelings, either repressed or otherwise. What really matters are correct behaviors, holiness and beliefs.

    In the gospel of John we read "Whoever believes in Him avoids condemnation, but whoever does not believe is already condemned for not believing in the name of God's only Son."

    But Mohammed is no more reasonable than John. Regarding unbelievers, the Koran teaches ". . . alike it is to them, whether thou hast warned them or hast not warned them. They do not believe. God has set a seal on their hearts and on their hearing. And on their eyes is a covering. And there awaits them a mighty chastisement."

    Perhaps behavior can be compelled by fear but how, other than brainwashing, can belief be forced?

    Would Christ and other founders of religions, if truly inspired by God, not have known these "sins" for what they really are? Would He have condemned "sinners" to everlasting damnation because they became automatons and engaged in behaviors compelled by their earlier traumas?

    There are many more references in the Bible about our need to love God than there are of God's love for us. In only nine verses does Jesus speak of the God's love for us, while in 169 verses He speaks of hell, condemnation, and judgment.

    The philosophical problem of the existence of evil has troubled many throughout history. How could a loving God permit such misery as starvation, war and abject unhappiness to exist when he could simply will it away? Even abusive parents usually do not intentionally allow their children to suffer needlessly. Yet, God allows innocent babies to suffer from traumas during the most susceptible period of their lives.

    In spite of the contrary teachings of my church, God has always seemed distant, impersonal, callous, unfeeling, and unloving. I realize that my view of the Almighty is based on my own early birth pain. If I would have had different pain or a different interpretation of the same pain I would have developed a different theodicy. (This position was correct when written, but it was based on my limited insight. More deeper understanding was to come later. See my article, My Mother As God; God As My Mother).

    The Buddha is quoted as having said, ". . . if God permits such misery to exist He cannot be good; if He is powerless to remedy it He cannot be God."

    One should not expect a god to act as a neurotic human who can so easily tolerate the sufferings of others. But if, as my cathecism claims, we were created in the image of God, then we, like God, must have an extraordinary capacity for indifference to human suffering. The Old Testament clearly reveals the extent of His cruelty and lack of feeling towards even His chosen people.

    If it were true that man is indeed created in the image of God, then perhaps this might be another explanation for why the world has so often been plagued with wars, hostility, and indifference to human suffering and starvation. A god, who can, by an act of the will eliminate mankind's most unbearable abject sufferings, but who allows such misery to exist, must have a bit of humanity in his nature.