Chapter 7: The Pain of Resurrection

Besides the public humiliation, I had given up the practice of law and all of its resources to become a judge; now I was thrust back into that environment, without the tools necessary for survival. The adjustment was difficult. To complicate matters, I was mired in the mud of self-pity and financial distress. It was so debilitating that I found myself jealous when I attended the funeral of a fellow law school classmate who was also a County judge that I also helped to orient. From past experience, I recognized that I was depressed, so I sought mental health counseling with a local counselor, Dave Prescot. He happened to be a minister and a classmate of my brother, Leon, at a Kansas City seminary. David introduced me to Reality Therapy and gave me a book to read: Reality Therapy by Dr. William Glasser. Glasser writes that those who need psychiatric treatment have not been satisfying their needs of relatedness and respect. He writes of 3Rs: reality, responsibility, and right and wrong. “People do not act irresponsibly because they are ill; they are ill because they acted irresponsibly.” Wow! David also introduced me to Constructive Therapy: we color our perceptions of the world by our self talk. He helped me to understand that when I told myself that the loss of the judgeship was terrible, I allowed myself to treat it as a road block, preventing me from progressing further. If I changed the self talk to “this is difficult,” then the obstruction would no longer be a road block, but would become an object around which I could navigate.

Once I had gained some skills to move on in life, I tried to understand how I had failed as a judge. I became interested in civil disobedience as I began to interpret my loss of retention to be the result of failing to give the attorneys who practiced before me, or heard about me from others, what they demanded of me. I got several books about the life of Gandhi and of Martin Luther King. That year the movie of Gandhi’s life was released. I am not one to show emotions of grief, but I discovered that watching the movie brought on choking tears. In an attempt to understand how I had arrived at such dire circumstances, I began to write my autobiography. I also began writing on notions of justice, centering on the Supreme Court case concerning the Rulo torture and murders which were committed under a notion that they were commanded to do so by Yahweh.

In preparation for my writings on justice, I read a number of books on philosophy and theology, on the relationship of science and religion and on civil disobedience. At about the same time, a Methodist minister in a nearby town told me that he understood I was interested in process theology. He was pursuing his doctorate of Divinity, he said, and as part of that, he had to study Minjung Theology. As far as he was concerned, it was just a requirement for him to get his doctorate, and he considered it to have no value. A lawyer friend of mine, Bill Erickson, had a phrase for such willful ignorance: “Swimming in the sea of knowledge and not getting wet.” I eagerly accepted the books. I discovered that Minjung Theology had some similarity to Liberation Theology but was developed in Korea as a response to Japanese domination of their country. It was centered on the notion of “han” or the suffering of the people. Whereas Christianity had been established in their country, it was a Western form of Christianity which seemed to subjugate them to alien authority. As with other forms of liberation theology, it incorporated the notion of God grieving with his people, much as the Negro slaves yearned for freedom from their masters and from dominant white society. How they felt comforted by their spirituals which analogized their situation to that of the Jews, “the people of God,” in Egypt in which Pharaoh was brought to his knees and finally let them go.
From 1991, I worked on a draft of Cry, “Justice!” over the next 10 years. My premise was that when we bifurcate human existence into separate spheres of spirit and matter, great injustice is done to both ourselves and to others. It was such a dualism which “justified” the Rulo murderers. I also distinguished notions of righteousness as a state of right relationships from that of state of being, as in the Pauline notion of “counted it as righteousness,” as though it were a thing. When we treat righteousness as something that can be obtained and held as a badge of honor, we divorce it from the relational life which gives it meaning.

In the Omaha World Herald of November 16, 1991 there appeared an article on the religion page entitled When God’s Beard Is Gone: Researchers Probe What Happens As Childish Faith Matures by Julia McCord. She identifies six stages proposed by theologian James W Fowler:

1) God is magical and mythical – an old man who lives in the sky. Stage I is most typical of children ages 3 to 7.
2) God is whoever and whatever the church or synagogue, parent or teacher says. Stage II is most typical of school children.
3) God is a personal friend worthy of commitment, but only in the context of the teachings of church or synagogue, parent or teacher. Stage III most typically begins in adolescence or young adulthood.
4) God is a personal friend but is defined more by a person’s experience and reasoning rather than by the teachings of church, synagogue, parents or teachers. Stage IV can begin in early adulthood. But for many, it is reached in the 30s or 40s.
5) God is complex and mirrored in the beliefs of many traditions. Stage V is unusual before midlife.
6) God is transcendent and life-changing. Stage VI is very rare.

Julia McCord interviewed Gary K Leek, associate professor of psychology at Creighton University, Omaha, who defined these stages. Of the last stage, she quotes Prof. Leek: “[They] actualize love and justice. They consider all people brothers and sisters. They really try to bring the kingdom of God to earth. Stage VI will make people nervous and uncomfortable and guilty.” She writes, Leek said some religious groups and some television evangelists don’t encourage growth past stage III, settling for stage III commitment but not stage IV and V questioning.

As more fully related elsewhere, Connie and I were divorced, and I married Dawn. Those early years following the divorce were years of struggle, trying to maintain a relationship with my children, who Connie took to Papillion, Nebraska. To see them required that I make a round-trip of eight hours of a Friday evening to get them and again at the end of the weekend on Sunday to return them. Reading became a luxury that I could not afford for a number of years. In 2005, I again saw a psychologist who, again, performed a psycho – neuropsychological evaluation of me and determined that I was disabled for purposes of Social Security benefits. I volunteered at the elementary school where Dawn taught, which tended to use any free time that I may have had.

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