Dreams, the Trump Lie, and the Spiritual Life
Once, in giving a lecture to a group about dreams, a woman asked why she needed to bother with dreams when all she had to do was affirm her belief in Jesus Christ to be saved. I think that therein lies the problem with many “devout” Christians. During the years I was growing up as a Catholic (no longer a Catholic), I had the sense that I had an inside track to heaven. As long as I stayed a Catholic, attended the Catholic Mass regularly, and went to confession, I was saved. Evangelical Christians believe that once they affirm their belief in Jesus Christ they are saved. The need for good works is pushed into the background. Of course, there is considerable controversy over this issue: Are we are saved by faith alone or faith and good works?
I don’t want to go into all the theological arguments concerning faith versus good works. I think Jesus made it very clear in the New Testament that true faith is demonstrated through good works. Without good works, we really don’t have the faith we profess. I don’t think that faith is a one-time event. My sitting in church or participating in a revival and declaring my acceptance of Jesus Christ does not give me a free pass for the rest of my life.
I like to use the following analogy. To get a license for operating a motor vehicle, I need to take a test, usually consisting of a written part and a demonstration of my capability. Once I pass the test and get my license, I can legally operate a motor vehicle on the roads. However, that does not mean that I can forget about all the things I learned and no longer have to pay attention to signs or focus on the traffic around me. Every time I drive my car, I have to apply everything I learned to avoid an accident.
I think the same reasoning applies to our spiritual lives. We may have a conversion experience of some kind or affirm our belief in Jesus Christ, but that does not mean we can go back to our old ways or think it does not relate to how we live our lives going forward. Our dreams tell us if we are actually leading a spiritual life; they remind us when we are deviating from the path we claimed to have chosen. They provide daily guidance as we deal with the challenges and temptations in our lives.
During my lifetime, I have known numerous people who were evangelical Christians. Many were wonderful people. Unfortunately, I found some to be extremely judgmental and poor examples of true followers of Christ. They believed that they were saved because of their acceptance of Jesus Christ and then proceeded to condemn anyone who disagreed with them. A few were driven by hate and they saw God as a vengeful God who would punish their enemies. They did not demonstrate the teachings of Jesus Christ. Now, I am not generalizing this to include the group as a whole. I am simply pointing out that some were guilty of being disingenuous and they would have benefitted greatly by paying attention to their dreams. They were not demonstrating the belief in Jesus Christ they claimed to have, but were oblivious of that fact.
I must confess that when I have seen numbers in the news of the purported high percentage of evangelical Christians who support Donald Trump I am perplexed. I don’t understand how avowed Christians can support someone who disseminates hate, divisiveness, dishonesty, and vindictiveness on a regular basis, and is rushing to execute as many of the federal prisoners on death row as he can. And I am further dumbfounded by the “evangelical Christians” who sport handguns and are ready and willing to shoot those perceived as threats. I don’t see any sign of Christ in their attitudes and behavior.
Recently, Donald Trump’s narcissism has reached extreme levels, even for him. The glorifying of the self to the exclusion of everyone and everything else is the opposite of the spirit of Christianity. It is the mark of the Antichrist. I do not think Donald Trump is a healthy man, psychologically. If I encountered someone like him in my daily life, I would suggest he seek out a good therapist. While I can’t make that suggestion directly to him, I can point out to others that they should recognize what he is by his behavior. If you want to do something good for him, pray for him. I do not wish that some evil would befall him, but I believe that his role in inciting his supporters to storm the Capitol is grounds for removing him from office. The last type of person I want as president is an extreme narcissist.
It really could not end any other way for Trump. His business and political careers were built on cajoling and bullying people to accept his reality. He is a great example of the power of suggestion. As I have pointed out in my books and blog posts, one way to get people to believe something is to repeat it often with conviction. Long before the election occurred, he realized that mail-in ballots would favor the Democrats. So he began a campaign of impugning them. If he won the election, he could say he won in spite of them. If he lost the election, which he did, he could blame the mail-in ballots. Now he could claim the election was stolen from him, despite the fact that he voted using a mail-in ballot himself.
Trump’s continuous repetition of his claims of fraud resonated with his base. They heard it so often that they believed it must be true. It penetrated their subconscious to the point that many became fanatical in their intent to right what they saw as a wrong. And, of course, this all played out in the assault on the Capitol. This was nothing less than the determined use of the power of repetition by a con man to bend a large segment of the population to his will and save him from the humiliation of a loss to Joe Biden. He cared nothing about the effect on this country and our democracy; he only cared about what he thought was best for him—winning at all costs.
Our dreams tell us if we are really living the life we profess. We cannot affirm our belief in Jesus Christ as a one-time event and then think we are living a spiritual life. We must demonstrate it every day and continuously evaluate our beliefs and actions. Our dreams help us do just that. A study of them may not be required for a spiritual life, but they are a great source of aid and can greatly enhance our lives.
Some rare individuals have been able to maintain a continuous awareness of the presence of God without any consideration of their dreams or even relying on periods of prayer. One that comes to mind is Nicholas Herman of Lorraine, commonly known as Brother Lawrence. He was a Lay Brother of the Carmelites in Paris in the seventieth century. The small book The Practice of the Presence of God describing how he accomplished this is still widely read today. It is available on Amazon.com from a variety of publishers.
Unless you are able to demonstrate the continuous presence of God in your life like a Brother Lawrence, I suggest you begin to pay attention to your dreams. Our dreams are an important part of our lives and can support our efforts to live spiritual lives. To ignore them is to ignore a source of inspiration and guidance. Carl Jung, the eminent 20th century psychiatrist, and many others recognized this. Jung believed that to become whole we needed to integrate the unconscious and conscious parts of our lives, a process he called individuation. Our dreams help us do that. This enormous source of help is available every night when we reach REM sleep (dreams may also occur during non-REM sleep), regardless of our level of education or station in life.
The wise adviser that many seek is there with you all the time. You don’t need to travel to Tibet to find a guru or join some cult that claims to have the inside track to God. You need only begin to start paying attention to the messages in your dreams. Wisdom and spiritual progress comes through daily application.