I was intrigued to come across these two characters in recent weeks. The one in the suit is Republican Congressman Paul Broun, while the other is an old rock'n'roller called Alice Cooper. What do you think that they have in common?
Amazingly, they both claim to believe every word of the bible is true and profess to use it to guide their daily lives (see here and here)!
Incredible as this may seem, it's likely they both believe what they say. Typically, Americans over-report their church attendance - about 45% claiming to attend church each week. (Actual attendance is more in line with France - 17% to 20%). The same is true when they are asked about how often they exercise or floss their teeth - lots of people say they do it, but not many actually do.
Similarly, last week people were interviewed to get their opinion on who had won the previous night's debate between the 'First Ladies' (Michelle Obama and Ann Romney). The interviewees spoke at length about how well one or other of them had performed. The thing is, there was no such debate! How can we explain all this mis-reporting?
It is about our 'idealised self-image'. This is how we want to be seen and is at the root of such reports. Good psychologists know that self-reports are notoriously unreliable. It is not that we lie, it is simply that our descriptions are based on how we want to be seen. A small exaggeration here, a misdirection there, and before you know it, you have air-brushed your image. The road to delusion is paved with many such small steps.
We all do it to some extent, both individually and collectively. Problems emerge when we start to believe our own stories and become attached to how we want to be seen.
America's self-image as a liberal, democratic and respected member of the global community is at odds with how she is experienced by the rest of the world. Having experienced at first hand the decay of the British Empire, it is clear to me where the American Empire is heading - and fast.
The collapse is at hand - before most Americans even realise that they are an Empire. Their idealised self image lets them portray themselves as champions of freedom rather than the Evil Empire, Luke SkyWalker rather than Darth Vader - living the American Dream rather than Nightmare on Elm Street.
When our self image is inauthentic and disconnected, connection with reality is likely to be painful - for an authentic reality will always prevail. Whether the two men named at the start of this post abide by every word in the bible is not certain. But it is certain that their actions will speak more loudly than their words.
As they might quote from Matthew: "Wherefore, by their fruit ye shall know them".
Posted by Nicholas Moore 4:32:16 AM