MORE: Republicans, Fundamentalism, and The Shadow

July 2, 2009

Poor Governor Sanford.  He’s going thru the pain of being faced with his own shadow.

We are looking at a classic Jungian shadow issue, this time of the entire identity of the fundamentalists who have taken over the republican party.   When one demonizes basic human drives, it causes us to fracture into the “good self” who would “never” do that; and the “bad others” who do these horrible things.   This is exactly the danger of religious fundamentalism.   It’s the cause of religious wars (well, all wars, for that matter).   All the things we can’t face in ourselves are attached to the “enemy”, who are therefore less than human and deserving of death.

Religious fundamentalists are people who would “never” do bad things, and if they did, they would surely “punish” themselves by resigning their office, or by whatever other punishment they imagine.   But guess what.   Everyone has a shadow side.  Everyone has attractions to people they aren’t married to.   Mature and healthy people notice this and pass on the opportunity. Shadow-boxers will deny the very possibility of serious temptation.  And what happens when we deny natural parts of ourselves?   These parts grow in the darkness of our denial.  The more they are denied and repressed, the more energy they have to grow in darkness, until suddenly they take over.

Other Republican fundamentalists have pretty much acted as if something had taken them over (it had) and this behavior is NOT who they really are (but it IS part of who they are).   These people have continued to deny their behavior, and since it wasn’t “really them, just a lapse” they refuse to take the punishment they’ve prescribed for others.  Unlike his predecessors, Mark Sanford is doing something different and quite remarkable.

Until he was “caught”, it appears that Sanford struggled to continue to deny parts of himself that were buried and repressed.  He attended workshops and regular Sunday marriage meetings to strengthen his marriage… as he so tragically put it “to try to fall in love with my wife again.”  He hoped the “bad” part would somehow go away.

Once “caught” and forced to face the music, he at first struggled to toe the party line, but it wasn’t true for him.   He will not deny his love affair.   He considers this woman his “soulmate”.    She clearly unveils for him parts of himself that he has denied and repressed.   This puts him in the position of a man who now MUST integrate disowned parts.  Yes, he IS a man who will break the sacred vows of marriage.   And he’s a man who is sorry that he hurt others, but he is NOT sorry he fell in love with his “soulmate.”   Looking at the psychological principles at work here, we can say with certainty that she unlocked the door to many of his shadow issues–issues that he had not previously faced and/or integrated into himself.   We can guess that some of these issues have to do with soulfulness, poetry, sensitivity, tenderness–all of which are not easily integrated into the life of a successful politician.

I haven’t tried to find Governor Sanford’s chart.  I don’t know what his public future may hold, but I can predict that this man is on the way to becoming a more soulful, more fully human, and more completely honest person than his other republican fundamentalist colleagues who have fallen off the fidelity wagon.   And while there is no question that this is also a difficult time for his wife and young sons, I cannot blame him for their discomfort.   In becoming a more honest person, he is modeling for his children a better way of growing.   They may be angry and blame him now (aided, most probably,  by their mother), but his determination to become a whole person instead of a half-person is a model they can’t banish from their awareness.   It is a heritage of value.


2 Responses to “MORE: Republicans, Fundamentalism, and The Shadow”

  1. Anonymous on July 18th, 2009 9:35 pm

    Interesting piece, but there are definitely some holes to patch.

    For one, your lump generalization of all republicans as ‘fundamentalists’ borders on appalling, and even if this were the case, the core doctrine that binds all ‘fundamentalists’ together is that the ways of old are still better than the ways of the new.

    … and under the code of the ‘old,’ people were still happy and productive (not to mention free), probably even more so than today.

    “Fundamentalist” rhetoric would deem it necessary to confront and acknowledge the aforementioned “shadow” self — If you so choose, you may adopt the same terminology that many Christians do, and acknowledge the shadow self as the “devil,” … and you will not find any passages that advise one to run and hide from the devil, but you will find a myriad of passages that tell you to confront ‘him,’ and his ‘wicked ways.’

    So to suggest that “fundamentalism,” at its core instructs one to ignore immoral or unethical urges is, to me, ludicrous, because any “fundamentalist” worth his or her salt understands the dual nature of humanity (in fact, probably more so than any “new ager,” who would be more prone, in my opinion, to cling to a moral ‘gray area’), and would be capable of dealing with unethical, libidinal urges constructively.

    The fact that you’ve, furthermore, linked this to being something that plagues republicans (and republicans alone, apparently) is also quite concerning as certainly many more democrats are guilty of infringing on self-imposed codes of moral conduct than republicans — Bill Clinton is your poster-child for this one.

    I can see where you’re going with this though, you’re trying to be ironic — trying to reinforce the implication that all republicans are religious fundamentalists and it is therefore more ‘interesting’ when one of them ‘strays’ from a transparent moral code, but I feel that beginning with this assumption, that republicans, as a group, are spiritual/religious/moral fundamentalists is a little off base. Many of them, I feel, are just clinging to the ways of old because we, as a people, were better off in a lot of ways (not including advances in gay/african-american/womens’ rights) by adhering to a concrete, transparent, unmutable code of conduct that has, as time has gone on, fallen by the wayside.

  2. admin on July 19th, 2009 8:04 pm

    There are always holes to patch, but not necessarily the ones you’ve identified as holes. First, I do NOT lump all republicans into the “fundamentalist” camp. Certainly many republicans are making their political careers based on a holier-than-thou public stance, but not all are religious fundamentalists. Cheney, Colin Powell, and McCain are certainly not religious fundamentalists.

    Second, while the WORD “fundamentalist” seems to imply “based on fundamentals”, I disagree that the doctrine that binds fundamentalists together is that the old way is better than the new way. From my perspective–and I fear we are bound to disagree from our different perspectives–the doctrine that binds them together is a reliance on a literal interpretation of selected religious texts. These texts are selected, often without basis on context, from the Old and New Testaments, which themselves are a selection from the reported teachings of Christ. And as to the question of whether “old” is better than new, I suspect there have been times in the past that were better than now and times that were worse. And as many “old” values have been bad as have been good (slavery, women and children as chattel, etc).

    Furthermore, and I agree with you on this, it seems to be an element of many fundamentalists, to identify evil and confront it –outside themselves. There is great danger in this if it’s not done carefully, and this addresses the shadow issues Sanford, Ensign, and others have stumbled upon. When individuals or groups are determined to ex-personify “Evil” –to find the devil “out there”, they forget that there may also be the “devil inside”. To point fingers to others and accuse them of evil behavior, standing up as a “good person” who would “never do that” instead of as a normal human being with many irreconcilable inner desires, is a very dangerous position. The danger is that when the “sparking begins” through an innocuous “email friendship” (to use Sanford’s language), one may be so sure of one’s “goodness” that the encroaching wildfire of romance is missed until too hot to turn off. As long as you keep thinking “this email friendship is totally innocent”, while your heart (and body) become more and more involved, you risk becoming that which you have condemned.

    Jimmy Carter, who confessed to “lust in his heart” would be far less likely to accidentally “fall in love” because his statement makes it clear that he was aware of his own inner desires, and the inherent conflict between the “lust in his heart” and his desire to be a faithful husband to his wife. He wasn’t pointing fingers at the devil outside. He was acknowledging himself to be, like all of us, a flawed human being, and was aware of his inner processes.

    There was nothing in my post to suggest that only republicans, or even only “fundamentalist republicans” have affairs. That’s ridiculous. However, the issue of affairs ceases to be a private matter between an individual, his or her conscience and his or her spouse, and a public matter when the people conducting them have built a career on condemning “immoral” behavior in others.

    In these particular cases (Sanford and Ensign), it appears that there is a whole new twist, in that many of these “holier than thou” politicians (who happen to be republicans–there, is that better?) are members of a religious cult that tells them they are not really subject to the moral imperatives of little people, because they have been chosen by god and they don’t have to follow the rules. For more information on this topic, check out the book, The Family by Jeff Sharlet . Sanford, Ensign, and nearly a dozen republican (fundamentalist) congressmen are members of this self-described “Christian Mafia” led by a man whose latter-day revelation of the “real meaning of Christianity” as Power, and who praises Hitler, Pol Pott, Mao Tse Tsung and Stalin as the only peole in the last century who really understood the meaning of Christianity. Yes, these are outrageous things to say. But they are backed up by videos shown on the Rachel Maddow show. So my original essay saying Sanford is struggling with his Shadow may be entirely false. He may have simply been caught in the hypocrisy promulgated by his group. For more info on The Family and its founder (see sermon starting in the middle of this Youtube clip) go to

    I know that you (“anonymous”, but I believe I recognize your writing style, DR) are fated to disagree strenuously on these issues, but I do thank you for taking the time to write your opinions. I don’t intend this site to be a political debate forum, so if you wish to have the last word, I’ll print your reply (if any) without further comment.

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