|Image of GTA by Kerry Waghorn|
"you come to really SEE yourself as you ARE--as GOD sees you--as a self-centred, hostile, shrivelled-up, rotten, vile, filthy, sinning hulk of rotting human flesh, unworthy to breathe the free air God gives you!"Colourful! Gary is rightly critical of this kind of vicious assault on our sense of self worth, and I agree wholeheartedly. Yet Ted was only elaborating on standard Reformed (Calvinist and Puritan) dogma. There is a direct line that runs from Calvin to Jonathan Edwards to GTA. God, under this paradigm, is so holy, so pure and so unlike us in all our "creatureliness" (a ghastly word when used in this context) that we are reduced to total worthlessness. Such a god can justly consign people to an eternity of suffering. We deserve nothing better.
And on this hateful nonsense is built the 'need' for a saviour. First build a spiteful fiction about our humanity, then trot out a snake-oil panacea. I'm not sure whether Ted believed what he preached on this subject... one rather got the impression that he did indeed believe what he preached when he was preaching it (but not necessarily five minutes later). He himself was almost certainly a victim of this kind of poisonous stupidity given his upbringing... which could certainly help explain his own infamously inconsistent moral behaviour. More than once he lived up to the description.
But this kind of self-loathing, projected on humanity as a whole, is not something confined to one fringe sect. It is endemic to many streams of Christianity. As Don Cupitt remarks, your average mainline minister would probably say "we wouldn't put it quite like that now."
But beneath the well-intentioned veneer of enlightened modernity, it's usually still there.