ACA Blog

Doc Warren
Feb 21, 2012

The latest “war” on religion

Apparently common sense has long since left the building. Hyperbole is the leading story and division is the mantra of many. Civil discourse is often ignored, a dusty tome left on a forgotten library shelf. To speak out against those who are declaring themselves the victims of this war is to be labeled an atheist, communist, socialist, pagan, devil worshiper or some other derogatory thing. Don’t get me wrong, there have been many wars on religion, real wars, violent wars, but we are using this term now simply as a political and ideological tool and it is having nothing more than a negative effect. We have had real wars on religion; the crusades were not the proudest moment in our history, nor were the Spanish Inquisition, the Holocaust or the persecution of Christians in the Roman times. In all of those we had extreme ideology and a lack of understanding, compassion or acceptance of others, be it their faith, culture, heritage or ancestry. Understanding can be lacking at times. Here in the US we had the Salem Witch Trials; a time when to be destroyed took nothing more than an accusation by the right individual or individuals. I wonder how much we have learned. When we have an “us” against “them” mindset, war is inevitable. Peace is not in reach. When we choose to understand the mindset if not agree with it we are closer to compromise and peace. We need not approve of others but can respect them for not only what we have in common but in what we differ in. At times these differences can help spawn the next great wave of creation. A little known fact about me is that besides being very spiritual, I was ordained in the past by two different churches. Now, these were not the biggest or most powerful churches to be sure and they did not require years of study, but they did require the ability to accept others. When asked to define my beliefs, I tend to try not to but if pressed I tell them that I am a “Buddeo-Christian,” that is to say that I was raised Christian and that I also study Buddhism (which is actual a philosophy and not a religion but often described as such). There is much talk about clinicians and other treators feeling forced to work with people who are different than they are both in lifestyle, religion or culture. I really don’t get it. As treators it should not matter what our religion is nor that of our client. When we work with clients what matters is that we follow our code of ethics which make it clear that we are not supposed to push our belief systems on our clients, nor try to get them to live the lives we lead. Treatment is not about us, it is about our clients. Depending on the counseling organization we belong we are guided to do the following (in brief) • Do no harm • Promote healing and wellbeing of clients • Place the client’s and public’s interests above our own. • Respect the dignity of our cliets, remain objective and act with integrity. To paraphrase a famous quote from a professional wrestler in the 90’s, we clinicians and other treators should “know our role” and not get caught up with the hype. Our position of gay marriage, birth control, religion etc. are not to cloud our judgment nor our treatment of those we have taken an oath to treat. Most of us in our careers will work with people who differ greatly from us. I personally have worked with rapists, murderers, pedophiles, adulterers, and gays, lesbians, cross dressers, democrats, republicans, rich, and poor, middle class and of every religion that I know of. I have worked with lazy people, type A people, people who were pro government, anti government, neo Nazi skin heads, anti male, anti white and anti American. There are others but I think I made my point. As treators we need to know our prejudices, we all have them, but it is imperative that we not let them get in our way. One of my prejudices is my stance on sex offenders. If as an individual I had the power to lock them up forever, throw away the key and be done with it I likely would. As a clinician however whenever I was assigned a sex offender I treated them to the best of my ability. I saw them as human beings in need of treatment and I put any feelings that I may have had regarding their sentence or lack of sentence aside and followed my oath. It would have been easier to simply say that my faith prevented me from working with them and I may have tried that initially but one of my first bosses asked me on my first day if there were folks I preferred to not to work with any why. He began to send me those that I said I preferred to avoid. At time the “charts” would be lost for the first session so I had to get to know my client without knowing what vile acts they may have committed (this was a department of corrections setting). I got to see that they were people deserving of treatment; I still did not respect nor condone their actions but I did my duty. Few people may get me but I would hope they would not condemn me because I am different. I see no real use for money other than what I need to support my family. I work for WAY less than I could and donate hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars a year to the not for profit I founded and other great causes. At 18 I had a vasectomy as a personal choice and possibly as a silent protest against all the children who are already born but lack parents and a safe place to live. A few women that I dated left once they knew that I had a child but any additional ones would need to be adopted. Thankfully my wife of 16 years, though she was surprised to learn this when we were dating, remained supportive of my right to choose. I have known those who were abandoned by their family because they “chose to be gay.” I have known someone who was raped as a way to “teach” her not to be a lesbian. She never pressed charges due to familial pressures but lived with the horror for years. I too have seen a young child at the height of the racial tensions in the 1970’s get hit by an ice cream truck and had the driver seem unconcerned because it was just another black kid from the projects (he used a far less friendly term). I saw this poor child recovering from his wounds noticing that the scars were coming in white and say to his parents “maybe if I get hit again I will be totally white” in hopes that he would be treated better. So as we make up our current war, please think of the very real ones that have been fought. Look at this war with clear eyes and ask yourself if it is really a war against you if you are only being asked to acknowledge that your ways are not the only ways in this great universe of ours. Ask yourself if you truly believe that the Grand Architect Of The Universe (*GAOTU) made everything and if you answer in the affirmative, would the GAOTU make things incorrectly or would the GAOTU have a purpose for all living things? If so, the war on religion is really just a war that we invented to attack ourselves. Instead of waging yet another war, let us instead spend our time building bridges of understanding for one another. This can start with us as treators. When we put on our work clothes we are no longer individuals, we are professionals who took an oath to do no harm. We do not have to break bread with our patients but we have an obligation to help them explore their options, which will often include options that we personally do not agree with. Somehow I think that is what the GAOTU had in mind. *(GAOTU is a generic term that I am using to include the leaders, Gods and beliefs of all people, so as to not disclude anyone for this blog). Warren Corson III (Doc Warren) is a counselor and the clinical & executive director of a community counseling agency in central CT (www.docwarren.org).

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