Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Tim LaHaye's Four Temperaments

Just mucking about on the web, I came across an article regarding Tim LaHaye. Mr. LaHaye, along with having done the first contemporary evangelical sex manual (The Act of Marriage), and also having co-written the wildly successful "Left Behind" series, began his authorial career with a pop psychology book called The Four Temperaments.

Katherine Yuricka delves into the background of that first book, and for a Christian in particular it makes interesting reading:

For the fact of the matter is that Tim LaHaye resurrected a discredited pseudoscience that owed much of its success to physiognomy, (the divinatory art of discovering temperaments and character from outward appearance as from facial features.) He simply borrowed his “Four Temperament Theory” from writers who borrowed from the long tradition that grew out of the ancient Greeks’ concept of causes of illness.

For centuries, people believed in the notion that four excessive bodily fluids (or humors) caused diseases. This belief later led physicians to the odious practice of bloodletting by using leeches or cupping. But the four bodily fluids were also linked to distinctive personality attributes, and this theory, called the “humoral theory of personality” was assiduously followed by everyone from crackpots to scholars from the early Greeks to the nineteenth century. It gave birth to the term “temperament,” which was used to indicate the prevailing mood of a person, which in turn was based upon the individual’s supposed prevailing bodily fluid.

Thus an excess of yellow bile would supposedly cause a person to be chronically angry, hence the word choleric (hot tempered, quick to react), which literally means bile. Similarly, an excess of black bile would supposedly cause a person to be chronically sad and depressed, hence the word melancholy. An excess of phlegm meant a person was slow-moving, impassive and apathetic from the cold, moist influence of the humor, hence the word phlegmatic. And an excess of blood was supposed to produce a warm, pleasant mood, hence the word sanguine, which literally means blood.

All that remains of the humoral theory of temperaments today are the four words with their singular meanings still basically intact from the original Greek usage. In fact, the word “temperament” has disappeared entirely from psychology textbooks in the modern western world largely due to the discrediting of such typological theories.

And Yuricka goes on to explore parallels between LaHaye's "typology" and that of Astrology, with somewhat painful results. Both, she concludes, are rooted in pseudo-science. She concludes:

After reading Tim LaHaye’s embarrassingly untrue and inaccurate historical facts; and after reading his own assertions that imply acceptance of his system by the scientific community; and after reading his claim that his scheme is not only “Christian” but compatible with the scriptures, I am tempted to paraphrase C. S. Lewis, who after hearing an incredible statement from a theologian said: “After a man has said that, why need one attend to anything else he says about anything in the world?”
And that sounds right from here. PLease read her entire article for the convincing evidence.

Perhaps I should hesitate to make the link between this sort of illogic and the Christian Right overall. But I think of the various theories offered by spokespersons such as Pat Robertson, Tim LaHaye, Rush Limbaugh (who a Christian acquaintance told me yesterday had "converted" him from liberal to conservative politics; I groaned aloud and made a face!), Jerry Falwell, and the litany of others... and I find myself thinking about our collective need for simplification.

I could add a bit more re LaHaye.

There was 80s-era "Mother Jones" incident, where his wife Beverley helped out a reporter from MJ by givng him a cassette tape when his own interview tape with her filled. That tape, it turned out later, had been used by Tim to record thoughts involving a Christian Right coalition between himself, Rev. Sun Myung Moon of the Unification Church, and Rev. Jerry Falwell. THe tape was for Bo Hi Pak, a Moon lieutenant, and whistfully wondered if then-Vice President George Bush, Sr., could be replaced by Jerry Falwell. The fact that Moon viewed Jesus' mission to earth a "failure" and view himself as the one fulfilling the mission Jesus failed at didn't seem an issue at the time; Moon was then, and continues today, to donate money to the Christian Right. Again, the lesson seems to be that some people don't mind something unchristian as long as it is labeled "Christian"... or "conservative," which seems these days to be confused with Christian.

Today, LaHaye's Uber-Zionism is evident in the "Left Behind" series and echoed by Pat Robertson's recent scandalous comments regarding both Ariel Sharon and Yitzhak Rabin, that God was punishing both men for their allowing Palestinians any of "God's land." The theology / logic behind this is just as unconvincing as the psychology behind LaHaye's "four temperaments" theories.

And just as unbiblical.

Yet his books continue to be bestsellers, whether on the four temperaments, properly submissive female sexuality, or his own strange take on the Second Coming. In the end, the real issue isn't what that says about him. It is what it says about us.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Does Pat Robertson Speak for You?

Time for Christians to draw a line in the sand. Please go to the Cornerstone Festival site and vote (plus leave comments) on whether Pat Robertson speaks for you...

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Pat Robertson: Sharon's Stroke Punishment for His Policies?

Maybe I'll get crazier and crazier as the years go by, and say whacky stuff that turns me into a joke. (Okay, okay... maybe to some I'm there already!) But Pat Robertson's latest in his own string of crazy statements -- and I do mean looney tunes, people -- must be logged, if nothing else.

Turns out that today he told his viewers, of whom there are too many if more than two, that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's stroke is because he's now an enemy of God. Well, Robertson tried to be more circumspect than that. Here's the entirety of it (thanks to Media Matters):

ROBERTSON: I have said last year that Israel was entering into the most dangerous period of its entire existence as a nation. That is intensifying this year with the loss of Sharon. Sharon was personally a very likeable person. I am sad to see him in this condition. But I think we need to look at the Bible and the Book of Joel. The prophet Joel makes it very clear that God has enmity against those who, quote, "divide my land." God considers this land to be his. You read the Bible, he says, "This is my land." And for any prime minister of Israel who decides he going carve it up and give it away, God says, "No. This is mine." And the same thing -- I had a wonderful meeting with Yitzhak Rabin in 1974. He was tragically assassinated, and it was terrible thing that happened, but nevertheless, he was dead. And now Ariel Sharon, who was again a very likeable person, a delightful person to be with. I prayed with him personally. But here he is at the point of death. He was dividing God's land, and I would say woe unto any prime minister of Israel who takes a similar course to appease the EU, the United Nations or United States of America. God said, "This land belongs to me, you better leave it alone."
Sigh... makes me warm and tingly all over.