People who reply “Happy holidays” to a “Merry Christmas” cheer have been caught in their own trap. When secular therapists boycotted any hint of religion because it was not evidence-based, they left themselves wide open to reproof by scientific study. And by a two-to-one margin, these studies report better outcomes when religion is indeed integrated into therapy. To keep face, the secularists counter that religion must remain out of therapy, because they can’t be trusted not to impose their own beliefs on their patients. Shooting oneself in the foot like that might explain why secularists remain a minority here in America.
We at the National Association of Voice Activated Therapists (NAVAT) propose to break this impasse. In 1990, NAVAT established a call center to meet a formerly unrecognized need—emergency personal counseling. Since our inception, we have advised over fifty million patients. They phone in for reasons of immediacy, confidentiality, and frankly, cost—NAVAT pioneered the use of quarter-hour billing. These patients are frugal, which denotes a highly intelligent customer base.
In addition to saving cash, NAVAT customers choose their therapist by faith. Not only can Jews counsel with fellow Jews, they can get advice from Christians, Muslims, or, for that matter, Scientologists.
As the statute of limitations for libel and invasion of privacy runs out, we have been uploading tape recordings of these conversations to the internet. You can find them at NAVAT.sci, though in all due candor, it would take you a couple lifetimes, not including potty breaks, to listen to them all, and many of them concern banal beefs, such as bathroom stalls without toilet paper and men who can’t clean up after themselves. (Please read these examples as unrelated.)
To save you a lifetime or two, we have transcribed eight interventions from 1991 that we think exemplify the successful integration of religious belief in therapy. One’s heart cannot but be warmed listening to patients bare their souls to better navigate life’s vicissitudes. The transcripts are marked with P for the patient and T for the therapist. Thank you for taking the time to review this inspired testimony.
P: Would you mind giving your credentials?
T: Not at all. I am a Jesuit, received my orders in nineteen fifty, a doctoral of Divinity in fifty-five, of English in fifty-seven, and my LPP–Licensed Professional Psychologist—in sixty-six.
P: You’re getting to the end of your leash then.
T: Which has the advantage of not having to prove myself.
P: That’s well put. Wish I didn’t feel I had to. What do you do for a living?
T: Besides teaching English to high school seniors, I am their guidance counselor.
P: You work exclusively with children?
T: We call them early adults.
P: I see. How long have you been doing this over-the-phone?
T: Since NAVAT’s inception. I found it proper to offer my services consistent with my vow of charity.
P: Charity? NAVAT’s therapists aren’t paid?
T: All earnings go to the Society of Jesus, as I have also taken a vow of poverty.
P: Commendable. And this is all confidential? No leaks? One hundred percent.
T: If you are familiar with the sacrament of confession, this will go to my grave. And as you pointed out, it’s not that far away.
P: Okay, Father Whitten, listen to me. We need to decide whether or not to wage war against Iraq. Hundreds of thousands of people, some God-fearing Americans, will die. I don’t want to kill anybody, but my political party insists this will guarantee my reelection. That’s really silly, isn’t it? Killing people to be reelected. I’d rather play tennis. I had figured war was a thing of the past. I became president because being a decorated war veteran, moneyed, and faithful to one’s wife is a very small field. Now here I am, having reached the pinnacle of success and my reward is killing people.
T: Are you a spiritual man, Mister Seven Five Three Nine? May I call you that? That is the identification number of this call.
P: Yes. That’s fine. Seven Five Three Nine is as good as any. My surname is either a common flora or a sexual innuendo. And yes, I believe in God. I was raised an Episcopalian but now I am a Methodist. Methodists focus on service to mankind.
T: But you do know all Protestant religions are spinoffs from the Roman Catholic Church?
P: Need to go into that, Father?
T: Of course not; you are right. Sorry I brought that up, and I commend you for your government service.
P: Good. I asked for a Catholic because I wanted to hear from another faith. The Quakers are anti all war. They were against our involvement in World War Two even after Pearl Harbor. I fought in World War Two. Dropped bombs on Japanese ships. Interesting that Nixon was a Quaker … anyway, I know the difference between life and death is a matter of divine providence. I was lucky, which was better than being good.
T: We are not going to indulge in determinism, are we?
P: Touché. Sorry I brought that up. Anyway, I didn’t choose a Jewish or Muslim analyst for conflicts of interest. As for Buddhists and Hindus, to be honest with you, I haven’t read a word of theirs I’ve understood.
T: Well, the Catholics believe in just wars.
P: What is just, Father?
T: There are four criteria: first, the damage inflicted must be lasting, grave, and certain.
P: Iraq has invaded and taken over Kuwait. Kuwait is, was, an ally of ours.
T: Fulfilled then. Let’s examine the second criteria: all means of resolving the aggression have been found impractical and ineffective.
P: Saddam has laughed at our threats for him to either leave or face our military at his doorstep.
T: Fulfilled again. Condition number three: there must be a serious prospect of success.
P: That’s interesting, in light of the Crusades.
T: We have had centuries to learn from our errors.
P: Talking cakewalk here, Father. We have the most powerful armed forces on the planet.
T: Deserts can be hard terrain to fight in, can’t they? How do you push off sand?
P: Not going to do that. Air superiority wins wars, Father, not infantry. We’d seldom set foot on land. It wouldn’t be prudent to give more of our strategy away than that.
T: Then there is number four: a victory must not make matters worse. What is your afterward peace plan?
P: Wham bam, thank you ma’am.
T: What about reconstruction, such as we did after World War Two?
P: Nah, nah, nah, not getting sucked into that again. Let the Muslim-surrounding Iraq sort that out.
T: You have met the just war requirements. Carry on.
P: It’s that easy? What about the sixth Commandment, “Thou shall not kill”?
T: It doesn’t apply to your enemies.
P: That’s a mighty large exception to a Commandment.
T: The Catholic religion is not perfect. We are in overtime. Grace be with you Seven Five Three Nine. If you call again and want to talk to me specifically, please reference that number.
P: Thank you for your blessing, Father. We have ginned up a mighty force, and it won’t be long before everyone will be chanting “mission accomplished.”
P: Sounds like a friend of Alley Oop.
T: My friends call me Bibi.
P: I’ll call you that, then, Bibi.
P: You are a Rabbi?
T: I am member of the Knesset, picking up a little feed money on the side.
P: Kanesset … Bibi, then, here’s my beef: everyone bows before me, but it feels wrong, ya know? I’ve lost a sense of wrong from right. I get away with everything. I feel it’s only because they’re afraid I’ll punch ’em if they bitch.
T: That’s healthy paranoia. This is unremarkable and incredibly Hobbesian.
T: Hobbes wrote a book, Leviathan. A word from Hebrew Scripture that means sea monster. It is a metaphor for man’s nature to seek more and more power over everyone else. An individual’s pursuit of power establishes his hierarchical position in society.
P: Higher what?
T: Pecking order.
P: Damn straight. It’s not easy being champion. Everyone wants a piece of me, but nobody wants to pay back. They just give me a blank stare. So, I just take it. Have you seen my pecs? Have you seen them dance? I’m a sensitive guy. I wasn’t born a boxer. I fought to defend myself. People started betting on me. Then came all the food and fixings I wanted, the bling, wheels, women …
T: Yes, I have seen your pecs. They arouse the beast in me. You box like you are fighting for your life. That is excellent.
P: Yeah, but I want people to give me what I want because they respect me, love me, not because they’re scared to death of me. It’s wearing me out. I’m a mess.
T: This then is your weakness.
T: Success is achieved through strength. In the ring, does retreat help?
P: Nah, just lets the other guy run away and tire me out.
T: Exactly. Why give him that? You want your opponent to like you?
P: I want to knock his nose bone into his brain and eat his children.
T: Perfect. Bow before no one but the Lord. The ring is no different.
P: I’m okay, then?
T: No, you are very sick.
P: That’s what I thought; it’s why I called. What do I do?
T: Stop this grousing. Strike, then strike harder. Let nothing get in the way of what you want. Only the powerful survive. Seeking power is as natural as shaking down lunch money from the class misfit. Giving away power is suicide. No one ever gives it back. They just return, hungry for more.
P: I got it! Fucking beautiful! That’s why I picked a Jew, because Jews are nobody’s fool. I’m cool, Baby.
P: Yeah, right.
T: Put your hands in water. Make sure the tips of your fingers are entirely immersed. I’ll pick up the readings on my E-meter from here.
P: No worry. I am calling you from a radio while floating on an air mattress in our Atlantic.
T: Salt water is perfect. I should be able to read the clearances with little distortion.
T: Clearances are what we shoot for. The E-meter will do the work. So, Eight Eight Four Four, what kind of help do you need?
P: Tell me about Scientology. I am a journalist by trade.
T: That is too much to cover over the phone. Read Dianetics.
P: A summary, please. After all, I am paying for this.
T: Yes, I see that you’ve paid for four sessions up front. Well, we believe that our minds are made up of Thetans.
P: Thetans, really?
T: Yes. They’re trillions of years old. And by the way, I can tell through the E-meter that you are being truthful. But let me be more pragmatic.
P: Let us.
T: Our minds are divided into reactive and analytic. The reactive is fear based; the analytic is rational. Scientology frees you from the reactive mind.
P: Surgery then?
T: Absolutely not. Scientology opposes medical intervention.
P: No lobotomy?
P: Just teasing. But, for instance, I have gout. I’m not to visit the surgeon?
T: Absolutely not. Illness is caused by your failure to distinguish between the two minds.
P: Fantastic. My mind makes me physically ill. Gives me cancer and heart disease.
P: So how does one free oneself from the reactive mind?
T: Through this.
T: The E-meter tells me that you are in distress. Something is about to happen that you’re extremely worried about.
P: Posh, you didn’t need a device of some kind to tell you that. My calling in the middle of the night was signal enough.
T: You are also prone to anger, to lash out when confronted, both defaults of the reactive mind.
P: This all sounds so much like primitive psychology to me. Tell me, how do members of Scientology know they are on the right path?
T: By how many we convert.
P: So, it’s a pyramid scheme?
T: Mister Eight Eight Four Four, is this a consultation or an assault?
P: Ha ha, you caught me. Getting my sea legs, as it were. Okay, truth, truth, truth. I am in a bit of a bind.
T: Infidelity then? Most people have money problems. Need a bail out. We offer loans at competitive rates.
P: It is money, loads of it, I’m afraid. Do you happen to have twenty million on hand?
T: Twenty thousand maybe.
P: No help that. The yacht payroll would gobble that up in a month. I’ve been robbing Peter to pay Paul, as they say, and run out of do-re-me. Peter is at my door with a convoy of hungry attorneys.
T: What is the problem? You can pay for four sessions up front, and you own a yacht. You may have to give up some of your goodies. Thinking about that, if it happens, is all your reactive mind. Focus on the present. What you can do.
P: But the embarrassment? Revealed as a charlatan? Imprisonment?
T: All reactive mind. We get away with what we get away with until we don’t. How can anyone know different?
P: True. My pain is the worry. Either way, I go on. I can wave at everybody I snookered from behind bars and laugh.
T: With bells on. This is just one lifetime. You’ve had millions, and millions lie ahead.
P: How come I don’t remember any of the previous ones?
T: That is the Thetan.
P: I remember that, hmm. Sounds pretty simple. What about remorse? The judges like the looks of contrition, you know. Cuts the prison sentence a bit.
T: That’s your reactive mind talking. You don’t know even if you are going to be alive tomorrow. The prosecution could bungle it. Look at the Rodney King beating. Do you really think those officers will be convicted?
P: There is that video.
T: Lawyers will peddle that the officers were frightened for their lives before a violent black man. We’ve seen worse verdicts.
P: I grant we have. All the time. Why am I worrying so? You know, I like this Scientology business. How do I sign up?
T: I’ll mail you a contract.
P: A contract? It’s a business proposition?
T: We don’t take it lightly, Mister Four Four Eight Eight.
P: Actually, I’m Eight Eight Four Four.
P: How about you being my auditor?
T: That would cost you a hundred thousand dollars.
P: You’ve got to be tooling me!
T: No sir, that is what my mentees pay.
P: Well, I guess you know that the easiest people to con are fellow con artists.
T: No sir, I don’t know that. But I do know that I can clear your reactive mind. You’ve been close before, but you’ve failed to grab the brass ring. And not knowing the future, I can’t tell if you’ll ever be this close again. Imagine, being free of regret.
P: I’m in. Send me the contract. Mail it personal and confidential to Robert Maxwell, Maxwell Publications, London. What’s your real name by the way?
T: Tom Mapother.
P: I’ll put your name on the check.
T: No worries. Maybe I can cash it before the banks shut your account down. Remember, we are the authorities for making everything right.
P: Well thanks, Tom. I am going to swim for a few more minutes, let this Scientology business sink in. I have been in the ocean so long my fingers are turning purple, like they are disappearing. I wonder how that registers on your E-meter. Anywho, good morning and ta-ta.
To be continued …