In the United States, the American Psychological Association (APA) has been the most influential force in psychology for many years. Through its publications and approval processes, the APA has a monopoly on creating and legitimizing social scientific "objectivity" and "truth." Unfortunately, the spiritual biases of the APA have impeded the development of psychology as a science and handcuffed psychology's ability to help humanity.
Human events can be understood from two basic perspectives, or spiritual orientations. These are the psychological frameworks through which we experience meaning, an "ultimate authority" of life. We'll call the first orientation theocentrism and the second egocentrism.
For a theocentrist, the significance of life resides in a relationship with God, and life's moral choices are opportunities to love God in this life and beyond. America was built on theocentrism, and it's still the predominant framework of American consciousness.
For an egocentrist, life's dilemmas and moral choices are opportunities for self-fulfillment. Egocentrism is not simply another term for selfishness. Principled conscience (to use a humanistic psychology term) is a cornerstone of egocentrism, and egocentrically conditioned people consult God and religion. It is an egocentrist truism that by our choices, we make a heaven or hell on earth. What lies beyond is not our business.
In theocentrism, God finds people. In egocentrism, people can find God.
The egocentrist worldview dates to the so-called "Enlightenment," but it was really the rise of psychology in the early 20th century that gave it a voice in America. Through psychoanalysis, behaviorism, existentialism, humanism, and other isms, psychology helped establish a morality -- new to mankind -- that makes individual "self-actualization" life at its best.
The APA, and the science and professions that it regulates, has not proven that its recommendations lead to anywhere but hell. The APA has not proven the nonexistence of sin, nor that sin leads to anywhere but unhappiness in this life and suffering beyond. Finally, the science of psychology championed by the APA has not disproven the importance of obedience to God for earthly happiness and beyond.
Like the cyclops of Greek mythology, the APA sees the world with one eye. It is dogmatic in the science it approves and its public policies on major moral questions such as abortion rights and the normalization of homosexuality. The APA has proceeded as if it is a proven fact that the psychological processes and moral destinations of the egocentric spiritual orientation are normative, healthy, and psychologically beneficial, and that those of the theocentric orientation and morality are non-normative, unhealthy, and psychologically negative.
Let's start with abortion. Abortion rights is to egocentrism as the Resurrection is to Christians. Empty womb or empty tomb, these are the tests of a true believer.
The psychological theory underlying the "right to choose" is a centerpiece of egocentric spiritual orientation. The APA unconditionally accepts the egocentric position in its policy statements and approved research and discourages or ignores theocentric perspectives. The mother's ego is invested with total power over whether her fetus is allowed to live. Her "ego needs" supersede the relationship of her fetus to God, to the father, to the grandparents, or to anything else that may be claimed to spare a human being's life. The social science of the APA views the unborn as egoless and therefore disposable. It has never supported the restriction of abortion as psychologically beneficial in any way.
This bias fosters two superstitions: first, that absolute empowerment of an ego indemnifies it from suffering; and second, that isolating a young girl from her family during the "choice process" fortifies her individual ego and improves the outcome. APA research on abortion is always designed from the viewpoint of individual egoism. Naturally, the research consistently finds that terminating your child's life is not psychologically significant. For example, in official positions, the APA concludes that there is no psychological reason for parental notification of abortion in minors. Theocentric psychology asks questions like "What are the long-term ego benefits of sacrificing comfort or delaying goals in order to preserve another person's life?" What is the resonance throughout life when the mother is resilient enough to act for the survival of her baby?
Sex is a foundation of ego experience. Not surprisingly, the normalization of homosexuality is a central aim of the APA. In the mid 1990s, the APA came close to withdrawing the "approved" status of all programs and institutions that did not accept the organization's spiritual and moral views on homosexuality.
Virtually all psychology programs associated with Protestant, Catholic, or Jewish universities have adopted egocentric spirituality. A tiny handful of intrepid theocentric psychology programs remain. But the right of these psychologists to research, teach, and train with APA approval is protected only by a tortuous footnote in an APA policy statement. Activists within the APA continue to work for the withdrawal of approval for psychology programs that do not wholeheartedly endorse homosexuality.
In 2004, the APA published a sweeping official policy statement that endorsed numerous social and legal aspects of same-sex parenting. The position, supported by APA-endorsed research, concludes that homosexual parents are not only equal to heterosexual parents, but they may be better: "The results of some studies suggest that lesbian mothers' and gay fathers' parenting skills may be superior to those of matched heterosexual parents" (http://www.apa.org/pi/lgbc/policy/parents.html). Trust the APA to discover the superior parenting skills of homosexuals.
Interesting research would investigate the psychological benefits of transcending one's own ego, opportunities for which are uniquely available in man-woman marriage. Or are there psychological benefits of sexual ego-elimination through man-woman marriage? Don't look for those studies in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology any time soon.
There is generally a one-way transfer of information between theocentric and egocentric psychological research. Egocentric orientation is usually credited with being the more "open-minded," but it tends to ignore the perspectives, or even existence, of theocentrism. Ironically, God-based authors and theorists have made good use of psychological research. Just look at the enormous influence of Christian psychology best-sellers and faith-based self-help media.
The APA has failed to recognize society-wide attacks on the values and beliefs of people of faith. Instead, its research tends to fault religion for all sorts of psychological ills. If the spiritual assumptions of the APA are justifiable, it has failed to support people with traditional belief systems and morality. But if the spiritual assumptions the APA has advanced to millions of people are wrong or incomplete, then the APA has helped perpetrate the riskiest initiative in human history.
Deborah C. Tyler, Ph.D.