A Gaslight unto my feet?
“Gaslighting” is a term I’ve recently started seeing, and it is another one of those single word terms that would have been good to describe things I’ve seen over the years.
The definition is: “a form of mental abuse in which information is twisted/spun, selectively omitted to favor the abuser, or false information is presented with the intent of making victims doubt their own memory, perception and sanity.”
I’m told, based on the original movie it comes from, that it is stuff like moving something the victims put somewhere and then saying they never put it there (basically, the sort of stuff Hubie and Bertie are known for against Claude Cat in the Looney Tunes, or Jones’ re-adaptation of this format for Tom & Jerry in “The Year of the Mouse”).
But according to the above definition, it doesn’t have to be that extreme. It can be done with arguments, instead of physical things.
Trying to think of instances where I’ve seen this, what came to mind first was (unfortunately, or shamefully, even) the realm of Christian debate.
Gaslighting in Christian debate includes such common tactics as:
“your heart is wicked” (so never mind what you feel)
“God’s ways are higher than yours” (so never mind what you think)
“Men suppress the truth” (so never mind what you see, hear, etc).
Manipulating conscience (so never mind what you intuitively sense)
All four of the cognitive functions have been invalidated. All ways of perceiving (taking in) and judging (making decisions with) data; (and then, some out there will even criticize such “psychological concepts” as this, further shutting down any analysis of their behavior).
What we’re left with is to follow whatever they say. Of course, they’ll never say that (it doesn’t “sound good”, obviously). But that, again, is basically what you’re for all purposes left with. They’ll say “read the Bible for yourself”, but it must be filtered through how they’ve already proof-texted their views, and if it doesn’t match up, you didn’t read it right.
What’s worse, is that all of these arguments have legitimate scripture references. But what the person is omitting, is that he is a human as well, who also has a wicked heart, cannot comprehend God’s ways, suppresses truth he doesn’t like, and can be judged by the notion of conscience.
In one of my “math & science” articles; I mentioned, regarding physical light, how the way it looks depends on a process of “emission, transmission, reception and perception”. Any changes anywhere along the line can change what we actually “see”.
So this basically works with mental data as well. God gives truth, it is transmitted (whether through scripture, conscience, etc), then received by us, and then perceived. Anywhere along the line after being “given”, things can be changed. It’s happened in the “transmission” phase, though archaeology helps to set that straight. But it’s the last two areas; where it has reached us, where things often get corrupted. And being all basically the same, this can happen with any of us.
The way around this generally is the whole “regeneration” concept; where they surmise that they were like that, as born, but at some point were “enlightened” by God (and it can be either by their own free will choice, or by an “effectual calling”, depending on whether the person is an Arminian or Calvinist). Now, you’ve gone totally abstract, and it’s “he says – she says”, as to who is really “enlightened” or not. (At this point, people will then try to begin appealing to works as “evidence” of enlightenment, but as the Gospels show, people can put up a front of “good works”, but beneath it all, is total darkness!)
This also crosses over into the realm of politics, where many of the same people, as well as their secular counterparts, speak of what they call “exceptionalism”, which is just a new, ‘nicer’ word for “superior”.
They then become defensive about subjects like racism, or even comparing the atrocities of Islam with the ones in Christian history, and seek to use the “facts” of their “exceptionalism”, in addition to others’ “problems” or “evils” in comparison, as the gaslighting weapon.
They can also directly gaslight you by putting the concept on you: that God will make you see the “truth” of what we are arguing by “regenerating” you, and it is just a “choice” you have to make, so there is “no excuse”. (Or this process is unconditional, but the “uncalled” still have no “excuse”).
So a lot hinges on this all too common “changed life” concept”.
What scripture really teaches, is that ALL have sinned. “None do good; no, NOT ONE!” It’s not “none except the chosen nation” (for it was precisely that “chosen nation” Paul and the Psalmist he was citing were addressing). It’s not “none except for the regenerate”, or “it was none; but now through faith in Christ and the regeneration of Spirit, a new nation (or “culture”) will arise that will do good”.
They can try to cite 1 Cor.6:11 on this last one, but Christ and the Spirit “regenerate” or “wash” us through declaring us righteous apart from our works (both evil and the imperfect “good”).