By the Book: Assessing Trump by Evangelical Standards

Since recently writing (for the second time) about evangelical Protestant support of Donald Trump and their unflinching defense of (seemingly, at least) everything he does and says  ~ or, at least, their very noticeable silence ~ I wondered just how well Trump lines up with biblical doctrine, especially since evangelicals consider the Bible the inspired, inerrant Word of God.

Mulling this over a good bit, I’m wondering just how much conservative Protestant Christians (and, I suppose, some Roman Catholics, too) are left with of Donald Trump to defend. Of course, I have to say I’ve been prompted to this by some vitriolic reactions on Facebook, and one reactionary pointedly said, “I’m willing to bet you’re not perfect either!”

Well, no I’m not perfect … but neither is the whole evangelical world defending me as both an awesome President and respectable Christian (with, perhaps, some “rough edges.”) Besides, there are some important comparisons to be made, as I did in my recent blog, for example: G. H. W. Bush professed to be a Christian; however, he did not shamelessly use his religion to gain the support of an entire block of voters.

Also, and importantly, Bush simply lived a life of upstanding character and integrity, and he was a truly patriotic (not nationalistic) public servant, who was an excellent husband, father, grandfather, war hero, statesman and gentleman. I also think of “the buck stops here” President, Harry Truman. He was an outstanding statesman and family man, honest, patriotic, and unwavering in his commitment to God and country.

Naturally, our 39th President, James Earl Carter, comes to mind, as well as his 1976 opponent, then-President Gerald Ford. Many great women come to mind, too, of course, such as: Elenore Roosevelt, first lady for a little over 12 years and, later, an ambassador to the United nations, who helped draft the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Dixie Bibb Graves, the first female senator from Alabama, and the first married woman to serve in the Senate. Nancy Reagan and Barbara Bush also quickly come to mind.

But I digress… Back to my original question: How does Trump line up with the biblical standards evangelical Protestants claim to hold so dear (as the inspired, infallible Word of God)? Well, let’s take a quick look. What do the holy Scriptures of Judeo-Christianity say about:

Strangers, Sojourners and Immigrants?

You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. (Exodus 22. 21, RSV)

You must never do wrong things to a foreigner. Remember, you know what it is like to be a foreigner because at one time you were foreigners in the land of Egypt. (Exodus 23. 9, ERV)

Do not mistreat any foreigners who live in your land. Instead, treat them as well as you treat citizens and love them as much as you love yourself. Remember, you were once foreigners in the land of Egypt. I am the LORD your God. (Leviticus 19. 33 – 34, CEV)

Then the king will say to those on his right, “My father has blessed you! Come and receive the kingdom that was prepared for you before the world was created. When I was hungry, you gave me something to eat, and when I was thirsty, you gave me something to drink. When I was a stranger, you welcomed me… (The Gospel of Matthew 25. 34 – 35, CEV)

The Poor?

You shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the LORD your God. (Leviticus 19.10, ESV)

And this next passage is particularly poignant:

If there is among you anyone in need, a member of your community in any of your towns within the land that the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted towards your needy neighbour. You should rather open your hand, willingly lending enough to meet the need, whatever it may be… Give liberally and be ungrudging when you do so, for on this account the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake.  (Deuteronomy 15. 7 – 8, 10, NRSV) 

Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, was very plain spoken when it came to riches on one hand and poverty and the poor on the other:

Jesus said to him, ‘If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ (The Gospel of Matthew 19. 21, NRSV)

And also, of course, this famous statement:

It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God. (The Gospel of Mark 10. 25, NRSV)

If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? (Epistle of James 2. 15 – 16, RSV)

Care for the Environment?

The LORD God put the man in the Garden of Eden to work the soil and take care of the garden. (Genesis 2. 15, ERV) In other words, to be the steward of creation. 

And God shows just how much he cares for creation by condemning those who “defile” it, and turn it into an obscenity:

I brought you into a plentiful land to enjoy its fruits and its good things. But when you came in you defiled my land, and made my heritage an abomination. (Jeremiah 2. 7, RSV)

This next passage is particularly appropriate for our day and age, and one must justly wonder what bearing (if any) it has on the horrible practice of fracking, on damaging oil spills, on air pollution and global warming, deforestation, and so much more … and also the fact that Trump has not only denied the scientifically proven fact of global warming, but also refused to sign the G 7 Agreement on Climate Control:

The earth dries up and withers; the world languishes and fades away; heaven fades away, along with the earth. The earth lies defiled beneath its inhabitants; because they have transgressed the laws, violated the statutes, and broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore the curse keeps on consuming, and its inhabitants are declared guilty. Furthermore, the inhabitants of earth are ablaze, and few people are left. (Isaiah 24. 4 – 6, ISV)

Scripture makes it quite clear that one day God will take vengeance on behalf of this tortured earth. Has Trump considered this? Is he even familiar with the verse of Scripture?

‘We give you thanks, Lord God Almighty, who are and who were, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign. The nations raged, but your wrath has come, and the time for judging the dead, for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints and all who fear your name, both small and great, and for destroying those who destroy the earth.’ (Revelation 11. 17 – 18, NRSV)

On Speech and/or Conversation?

Donald Trump said, “You know, it really doesn’t matter what [the media] write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass.” And he also said, “My fingers are long and beautiful, as, it has been well been documented, are various other parts of my body.” But what do the scriptures say?

Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. (Epistle to the Ephesians 5. 4, ESV)

But now you must get rid of all such things–anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. (Epistle to the Colossians 3. 8, NRSV)

These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm; for them the deepest darkness has been reserved. For they speak bombastic nonsense, and with licentious desires of the flesh they entice people who have just escaped from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption; for people are slaves to whatever masters them. (Second Epistle of Peter 2. 17 – 19)

Donald Trump falsely claimed, “There were people that were cheering on the other side of New Jersey, where you have large Arab populations. They were cheering as the World Trade Center came down.” In so doing, he slandered an entire segment of our population. What does the Bible have to say about this?

Beware then of useless grumbling, and keep your tongue from slander; because no secret word is without result, and a lying mouth destroys the soul. (Book of Wisdom 1. 11, NRSV)

Promiscuity/Adultery

Did he really say this? Yes, indeed he did: “You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful—I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the p**sy. You can do anything.” On top of this, and paying off at least two women with whom he fraternized, he is on his third marriage… Wonder why? But what do we read in Scripture?

You shall not commit adultery. (Exodus 20.14, NRSV)

But he who commits adultery has no sense; he who does it destroys himself. (Proverbs 6. 32, NRSV)

Let us conduct ourselves becomingly as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. (Epistle to the Romans 13. 13, RSV)

Lying and/or Bearing False Witness

“From a moral standpoint, I believe in it. But you also have to get elected,” Trump said. “And there’s no way a Republican is going to beat a Democrat when the Republican is saying, ‘We’re going to cut your Social Security’ and the Democrat is saying, ‘We’re going to keep it and give you more.” And he said this privately to explain to Paul Ryan why he supported cutting Social Security even though he was saying the opposite in his public campaign. This is but one of many examples of outright lying, but what does the Bible say about deceit? 

Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD, but those who act faithfully are his delight. (Proverbs 12. 22, RSV)

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour. (Exodus 20. 16, NRSV)

For such boasters are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is not strange if his ministers also disguise themselves as ministers of righteousness. Their end will match their deeds. (Second Epistle to the Corinthians 11. 13 – 15, NRSV)

For perverse thoughts separate people from God, and when his power is tested, it exposes the foolish; because wisdom will not enter a deceitful soul, or dwell in a body enslaved to sin. (Book of Wisdom 1. 3 – 5, NRSV)

Well, perhaps this is more than enough. I will only finish by noting that it was the evangelical Protestant community that berated Barak Obama so fiercely and unrelentingly, falsely accusing him of being Muslim, and even referring to him as the anti-Christ. Funny, though, he conducted himself in a far more presidential way, has always been a family man, still married to his first wife, and during the funeral for G. H. W. Bush, he could be seen and heard, along with Michelle, reciting the Apostles’ Creed ~ so much for his being Muslim ~ and singing the hymns! But has the evangelical community cut him any slack yet? No, of course not … but, thank God, they now have an authentic, evangelical Christian as POTUS, right???

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Step Through Into Fantasy: An Etheree

Steppoetry-header

And Walk

Stop and Talk

Kneel at the Door

On the Floor Before

And After Phantasies

With All to Lose to Regain

Some Very Changed Reality

Far Beyond Any Simplistic Plea

And Far Past the Life of Banality

So Forever Standing Tall as You Fall

As You Crawl into What is Bizarre

Within Phantasy Land not Far

Under the Bright Nightly Star

Wherein You Hear the Name

Of Your Childhood Fame

So Stake Your Claim

In Other Realms

With No Talk

But Walk

Stride


Note From Colleen’s Blog: The Etheree poem consists of ten lines of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 syllables. Etheree can also be reversed and written 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. The trick is to create a memorable message within the required format. Poets can get creative and write an Etheree with more than one verse, but the idea is to follow suit with an inverted syllable count. Reversed Etheree Syllable Count: 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Double Etheree Syllable Count: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 10, 9, 8, 7, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1

https://colleenchesebro.com/2018/12/04/colleens-weekly-tanka-tuesday-poetry-challenge-no-113-happy-december-poets-choice-of-words/#comment-60610

Trump and the Irremissible Blindness of Evangelicals

Except for, perhaps, the funeral of Sen. John McCain, there has been no greater, more poignant contrast between gentleman and statesman on one hand, and the putrid demagoguery of Trump on the other than our national farewell to George H. W. Bush. Our 41st President was a war hero, lifelong public servant, exemplary husband, father, friend and family man, who led this nation as Commander in Chief for four very crucial years. The current occupant of the White House is an unthinking, irresponsible, and promiscuous man on his third marriage, who has done nothing in his life apart from serving himself, often to the detriment of those around him.

Hardly anything could be more appalling than having such an individual seated in the Oval Office, except for, perhaps, the unwavering support he enjoys from the vast majority of evangelical Protestant “Christians.” It does not seem to matter that the Trump campaign quite possibly colluded with Russia in its attempts to meddle in the 2016 elections. It does not seem to matter that, during this same period, Trump was planning on building another Trump Tower, this time in Moscow. It does not seem to matter that Trump forced the resignation of Jeff Sessions, whom many consider to be a truly Christian statesman, as Attorney General simply because Sessions refused to compromise the integrity of his office to serve the President’s personal interests.

No, and it does not seem to matter that, as is now being revealed, Trump may very well have violated the Constitution’s restrictions on receiving payments from foreign governments due to his continuing involvement in his businesses during and after the Saudi government spent an estimated $270,000 to pay for a total of 500 nights in the Trump International Hotel following the 2016 elections. It does not seem to matter to evangelicals that the President has done nothing to advance their anti-abortion, pro-life cause. It does not seem to matter that Trump continues to engage in vulgar and offensive “tweets,” and race-baiting. In fact, it does not seem to matter that, while standing on the front row with other past Presidents at Bush’s funeral, he did not recite the Apostles’ Creed ~ the most basic statement of Christian doctrine with which evangelicals certainly agree … along with most of the rest of the Christian world ~ and did not even participate in the hymns.

At this properly reverent fare-thee-well to an outstanding statesman and true gentleman, there stood, shoulder-to-shoulder, former Presidents Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, Barak and Michelle Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton, the Bush family including, of course, George W. and Jeb Bush. Many other names could be named, but all were somber and reverent. All participated fully in the service … except Donald Trump. And this is the great evangelical President, who can do no wrong??? Excuse me for lecturing the evangelical Protestant community, to which I no longer belong, but it is high time ~ far past time ~ for those who are sincerely sincere about their life and faith to come to their senses! Message to the evangelical Protestant churches: You are making a damn laughing stock of yourselves, but even worse, you are bringing nothing but shame to the name of the Lord and Savior you purport to serve, in aiding and abetting an unethical, villainous miscreant! And especially to the evangelical leadership: Hold your President accountable! You say he really is Christian, then charge him and expect him to act like one!

Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, Democrat and Republican, both respected the Office of the President, and they respected themselves and the American people, whom they served. George W. Bush and Barrack Obama, Republican and Democrat, both set appropriately high standards for occupancy of the White House, and they made it their sacred duty to serve the people of this country to the best of their God-given abilities. Above all, this was also George Herbert Walker Bush, who remained unwavering in his commitment to God, family, country, and the world in which he lived. And there are so many others, too, who never made it into the Oval Office, at least not as Commander-in-Chief: Walter Mondale, Robert Dole, George McGovern, Alan Keyes, Bill Richardson, Ben Carson, and, of course, John McCain and on and on… (And the point here is character and integrity, not political perspectives or stand on particular issues.)

We can all hope and pray ~ as we should ~ that the overwhelming majority of American voters will save the executive branch of our government from further ignominy by placing it into the hands of someone of upstanding character and integrity who, like George H. W. Bush, is intent on serving our country rather than her/himself … an individual with hands unsullied and spirit undefiled … someone who has and still leads an exemplary life, who genuinely has the ability to preside over this great nation. And if evangelical “Christians” cannot see through the Trumpian fog and commit themselves to this most worthy, fundamentally important goal, then perhaps it is time for their ship to sink, even as it is now taking on the dingy water of bad repute. This would be a somewhat sad ending to the community of faith, which included the likes of Billy Graham and (the lesser known) D. James Kennedy, but … come to this end if it must.

 

Stranger in the Dark

At night under plight of sleepless blight, moonlight washes through the window
As howling wind screams round every bend of trees to appease dancing devils,
Who mark their time by death’s tollhouse chime on every hour while you cower
In bed, where you lay your weary head to rest, flying cares on wings of prayers
To heaven’s door when suddenly you hear footsteps across the floor and more,
You spy the awful face of the Stranger who walks to stalk an unsuspecting soul
In unholy rhythm with the bands of hell, demanding their diabolic allegiance,
Commanding their assistance against any resistance you might make for sake
Of your life now at stake, but you cannot feign courage nor gain the sympathy
Of lighter spirits, or even sprites, to make a defense against the odious offense
Of him who comes to terrorize, and so you realize your only hope is in appeal
To empyrean fortification beyond space and time, where majestic Life abides,
And should you in pain gain some sure help divine against this dark Stranger,
Then you might well resign the balance of your days to the valiance of virtue,
Whereby your very self becomes an eternal expression of gratitude 
In possession of endless grace without reservation or any hesitation…
But see eyes that still peer thru the dark so stark? the Stranger yet remains

Lift You Up And Let You Stand

Too many years, too many sad songs to hear in the heart striking fear,

And life becomes one long, ugly scar seen from heaven away so far,

And you say that it’s time to sound the chimes for the end to now begin

As you’ve given your all in this hellish brawl, and you’re left to crawl,

No longer standing tall, but wasting away in the light of high noon day

That feels like death dark night in which you long to take swift flight,

Fleeing this damned, doomed world where you were hurled at birth,

Never finding your worth on earth, always looking yet never finding

Any way to undo the binding of Hades upon your soul full of despair

With no hope of repair, yet you look up into the sky in a silent reply

To the promise of Promethean fire you might acquire in your heart

To burn much higher than the fires of Tartarus guarded by Cerberus,

And by this still hope to find an escape from the fate of humankind,

And so what now is in store in the outcome of this horrendous war?

Shall you be but another victim according to the dictum of Olympus?

Or shall you rise above gods as a victor with bright shining nimbus?

Even this is your choice to make, lest your very life you do forsake…

Good God, Wicked World

How can God be good, and loving, yet allow so much evil, pain, and suffering in the world? This is an acutely agonizing question that has been asked for centuries with no really satisfactory answer. Yet, of course, there have been plenty of explanations put forth by philosophers, theologians, religious scholars, priests, rabbis, and so many more. Whether one seems more acceptable — or shall we say digestible — than the others is, perhaps, up to the individual considering the subject.

Alvin Plantinga, for example, says that if God is good then it logically follows that God would create the best of possible worlds, so that if we grant that God is, indeed, good, then we must conclude that this world, as it is, is the best of all possible worlds. Two questions come to mind, though: 1) why is it so many of us humans can conceive of a much better world than the one in which we reside if this really is the best possible world? 2) And even if it is, does this really “excuse” God for all of the pain, suffering, wickedness, natural disasters, etc.?

Surely an omnipotent, omniscient, all-loving, and good God could do something, and would do something, to dislodge the evil. But, then, was it David Hume who said that either God is omnipotent and omniscient, but not good and loving, or that God is good and loving, but not omnipotent and omniscient? It’s easy to see his reasoning on this point, (if indeed it was Hume who made this observation), because it seems utterly senseless that an all-loving and good God, who is also all-knowing and all-powerful, would allow so much pain and suffering.

It may be, then, that God is not quite “GOD,” but rather “god,” and so s/he is quite loving and beneficent, yet simply unable to exercise sovereign control over all of life and the entire world.  Or it is very possible that God is all-powerful and all-knowing (and everywhere present, for that matter), yet is also malevolent. Or it may be that there are two equally powerful gods, one being completely good, while the other is completely bad. Although some would say evil in the world is not God’s fault at all; it is humanity that is culpable.

This is a particularly frustrating argument from free will, though, as several questions come to mind: 1) who gave humans free will in the first place? 2) Who instilled within humanity the capacity to commit evil, atrocities, acts of violence, and so forth? 3) Who “set the stage” in which these evils could be committed? 3) How are victims of atrocities, violence, and so forth at all responsible for their suffering? 4) Does free will cover every human being anyway, such as: infants, invalids, the mentally handicapped, sufferers of dementia, etc.?

Then again, maybe God counter-balances all of the evil with good … maybe more than counter-balances it. Perhaps s/he outweighs the evil with an overabundance of good. Within this we could/should very well include eternal life in the bliss of an heavenly realm, of course. Certainly an eternity spent in heaven — perfected with love, joy, peace, happiness, health, and so much more — would make up for all of the pain and suffering, for all of the wickedness and atrocities, right? Many human individuals would say unequivocally, “no.”

Naturally, the atheist takes care of this nasty conundrum very neatly by merely pointing out that, of course, there is no God. The atheist is, nevertheless, left with the problem of evil in the world, but s/he can always foist that off on the brutal, impersonal, and naturalistic/materialistic world in which we live. In other words, we are no more than biological machines fighting, not only for survival, but for our own perceived greatest good, or fortune, thus humans oftentimes act worse than fierce animals all to satisfy themselves.

There is another explanation laid on the table, however, and it is that of an aloof, cold and detached God…. perhaps the God of deism. In this case, God created the cosmos and at least kicked off life within it, but then just “sat back” to watch it all unfold, maybe like some grand soap opera on a divine scale. Who knows? But this is definitely not the God of the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament of Christianity. What precisely is the God of Judeo-Christianity is an open question and has been for, perhaps, just as many centuries.

Is there still another answer? Surely we have not exhausted all of the explanations for evil, pain, and suffering in the world. There are, in all likelihood, many more to consider, but at present they escape the author’s knowledge … except for possibly one more. It seems in one sense the least satisfying of all answers, but could it be that God simply has an altogether different “measure” of, or perspective upon, pain and suffering and evil? Could it be that all of this looks quite differently from his/her vantage point? Doubtless, this is the case.

Does this satisfactorily explain the presence of so much evil, though? Well, as humans we would not charge the dog with an act of wickedness in catching and killing a rabbit; rather, we would say that this is just a dog being a dog, instinct and all. And again, we would not claim the cat is acting wickedly in prancing on a mouse, for that is what cats do as part and parcel of being cats. Perhaps, then, humans are also living out very fundamentally human lives — both good and bad, righteous and evil — and this is what God sees.

And maybe this leaves God rather undaunted by war and pestilence, disease and starvation, violence and gross neglect, and all sorts of pain and sufferings endured by countless millions upon millions of individuals, families and communities. In other words, it may be that God views all of this from an entirely divine perspective without being able to relate to the uniquely human viewpoint. Which is almost (if not entirely) to say that God cannot, perchance, “lower” him/herself to the crude level of humanity.

This won’t fly with Judeo-Christianity, though, because this is exactly where the Incarnation of Christ Jesus comes into crucial play. According to this central doctrine, God the only-and-eternally-begotten Son was conceived in the human womb of the Virgin Mary, from whom he assumed an authentically and completely human nature. And it was in this capacity that he suffered torture and death on the cross, being completely innocent of any wrongdoing, enabling him to literally understand pain, suffering, and victimization, (and so much more.)

Moreover, through his resurrection he is said to have somehow sanctified pain and suffering. At least, believer-followers of Christ are somehow able to mystically participate in the sufferings of Christ Jesus in and through their own pain and suffering. Does this satisfy the question/problem of the good God and wicked world? Well, it does seem to move closer to an important resolution, that is: God did not (and does not) stand idly by, watching all of the evil and wickedness in the world… No, s/he has actually, fully participated in suffering.

This still does not quite answer why an omnipotent, omniscient, all-loving, completely good God would allow so much evil, pain and suffering when it (seems) well within his/her ability to mitigate it all. Yet this may well be where some kind of free will argument, coupled with some best-of-all-worlds claim, enters into the equation … both carefully refined and nuanced, then astutely tied in with the argument from the Incarnation. Even still, this probably cannot be sufficient. So long as horrendous evil exists, nothing will likely entirely satisfy.

Phantasy of a Phantom Lover

It was something about having three kids instead of two, so-and-so having the ace of spades rather than the ace of clubs, hot-air balloons, and how very much “Jill” has always liked working on hot-air balloons. And then I heard my friend, “Jane Doe,” say to “John,” her boyfriend, that she really wanted to spend at least two years together before having a family and taking on more responsibilities.

All through this “conversation,” her boyfriend seemed to answer, or at least Jane was, at times, evidently responding to John. None of this really surprised me, because I’d lived with my friend in a group home for 14 months already and, thus, was quite used to her strange and  quirky “conversations,” and none of this is really unusual for schizophrenics. But Jane’s case is indicative of another condition, called “phantom-lover syndrome.”

Phantom-lover syndrome is “a type of erotic delusion elaborated around a person who in fact does not exist,”[1] yet for Jane her boyfriend (and fiancée, for that matter) is very real, indeed. In fact, he is said to be an older man, veteran of the Korean War, spiritual leader and Bible teacher, who is so close to the Lord that they communicate directly on a day-to-day basis. But this case of phantom love goes even further with Jane.

Asked where he lives, she usually answers, “up in Alaska.” Asked about how and when they communicate, (because no one has ever noticed her on the phone with John), she responds that they communicate “spiritually.” You see, John really lives inside of Jane, not in Alaska. She shared her secret with me, and explained that she doesn’t tell this to others because they would think she is crazy. (Well, that is, perhaps, quite understandable!)

And why does John live inside of Jane? Because, unfortunately, he currently has no body of his own. He will rectify this one day, finding a suitable body of his own to inhabit, and then John will come to fetch Jane away to be his wife, and the date for this is always December 31st of whatever year… Of course, many years have passed now and, obviously, John has never come to whisk her away, yet Jane continues to believe John, never suspecting that he might be lying to her or, better yet, that he might simply be an illusion.

Obviously, John inhabiting Jane’s body, (without kicking her out, mind you) sounds like some form of possession, although not malevolent, which in turn points toward some kind of dissociative disorder.[2] But possession may not be the best descriptive, as Jane experiences no apparent loss of control over herself, nor does she obviously enter into any kind of trance.[3] On the other hand, John exercises some control over her life, i.e. how she thinks and feels, what she wants and does not want, what she will and will not do, etc.

For example, although Jane presents herself as a staunchly conservative, evangelical Christian, she is apparently not allowed to attend church. As the reason for this prohibition, she claims that she and her boyfriend only like and/or appreciate “house churches.” When asked, in other words, she will simply say, “My boyfriend and I don’t go to regular churches. We don’t like organized religion. We only go to house churches.”

Of course, one could easily charge that Jane is merely using her “boyfriend” as an easy excuse for not attending church, which is something she would otherwise feel obligated to do, given her background and present beliefs. Perhaps, then, a better example would be her promise to an older friend that, after a year or so of marriage, she and her husband will bring her into their home and take care of her. Why? Because her boyfriend said so … but during their first year of marriage, of course, they have a lot of business to which they must attend.

Perhaps all of this is common with phantom lovers, I don’t know, but one fact is certain: There is no convincing Jane that her boyfriend is really illusory. I have not made the attempt, but know others who have, and Jane’s reaction is very predictable: She becomes upset, if not angry, and simply cuts off any relationship with that person. So … how would a counsellor/therapist address this problem? How can it be constructively addressed? Of course, she is on medication — she receives a shot once-a-month — but the medicine does nothing to alleviate her suffering … or so it seems to me.

Then again, maybe she’s not suffering? This is a distinct possibility, I suppose. After all, she appears to be happy, or at least content, most of the time. Maybe, then, John is more of a welcome addition to her life? I guess this is possible. Sometimes (oftentimes?) real reality can be like a living hell, which is why not a few people try somehow to escape as much as they can. And who among us has not built some fantastical world for ourselves? I know I have Point in fact, I still do, just without communicating with some phantasy lover/companion.

There is one downside in her relationship with John, (maybe more, of course), and that is that he frequently makes her itch all over. Why? She has never given a reason, but if unwanted itching is the only negative she has to put up with in her “relationship” with John, then Jane might be better off than a lot of folks with real lovers! Who knows? But at least she seems fairly happy with the arrangement… It might actually do her worse if a counsellor/therapist somehow managed to disrupt her para-reality. Best, then, to just leave it alone? Maybe so, and who knows? One day I might enjoy having a phantom lover myself!


[1] American Psychological Association, APA Dictionary of Psychology, 694

[2] American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), 300.14, although no loss of personal agency or amnesia is evident, 292 – 294; perhaps, instead, 300.15, Other Specified Dissociative Disorder, which “includes identity disturbance associated with less-than-marked discontinuities in sense of self and agency, or alterations of identity or episodes of possession in an individual who reports no dissociative amnesia,” 306

[3] Jonathan Smith and William Scott Green, eds., The Harper Collins Dictionary of Religion, 850