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An Interview with Christian Writer Kevin Fontaine, PhD

Author of The Jesus Cure: The 4 Keys to Living a Life of Integrity, Significance, and Peace

 

I’m interested in understanding your title, if Jesus is the cure, what is the disease?

Glad you asked that: In my view the primary disease that afflicts us is self-absorption – the belief that the world was made just for us and that our goal is to take as much from it as we can.  As imperfect humans, we’ve always been susceptible to self-centeredness; heck, the fall of man is the direct result of our selfishness.  Unfortunately, these days self-absorption is an epidemic – it’s growing and spreading, and no one, it seems, is immune to it.  It’s like a deadly virus that keeps mutating so we cannot find a cure for it.

 

I’ve noticed that in The Jesus Cure you pay particular attention to the philosophy of moral relativism.  First, what is moral relativism, and second why do you think it is a bad thing?

Moral relativism is the latest and perhaps the greatest virus of self-absorption in our history.  Basically, moral relativism says that there is no such thing as right and wrong; everything is permissible provided you believe that it is right for you.  Taken to its extreme, it makes morality idiosyncratic, a personal decision.  There are no universal standards to guide our conduct.  Imagine it – a world without some standard of what constitutes acceptable moral behavior.  That’s exactly what moral relativism is.  It would be laughable if it wasn’t so tragic.  I suppose little doses of moral relativism could be tolerated, but the problem is that moral relativism is becoming the dominant philosophy of our times; it literally saturates our culture.  Just watch almost any television sitcom or reality show and you’ll see traces of moral relativism – total disregard for standards of right and wrong. 

 

I hope you already can see the answer to your second question – moral relativism is bad because if there are no standards, no moral compass then we have free reign to do whatever the heck we want.  When we have no moral blueprint to guide us chaos and cruelty are sure to follow.  I think you could make a strong case that the growth of moral relativism is responsible, at least in part, for the decay and decline of our culture.

 

Isn’t it possible that moral relativism will increase our personal freedom? 

Oh yes, it definitely increases personal freedom.  That’s not the problem.  Indeed, our country was founded on the idea that personal freedom and liberty from oppression are inalienable rights.  There’s no question that personal freedom is a good thing.  The problem arises with unbridled personal freedom – freedom without a conscience, freedom without regard for how what you do affects others.  Since moral relativism says that everything is permissible, as long as it feels right to you, there is no constraint on freedom or how it is to be used.  The consequence of personal freedom without some sort of moral underpinning is exactly what we are witnessing today: lying, stealing, cheating, infidelity, promiscuity, teen pregnancy, abortion, school shootings – need I go on?  It’s freedom gone awry.  The ironic thing is that despite all of the freedom that moral relativism brings, our lives have never been more unsatisfying and unfulfilling. 

 

I don’t understand.  What do you mean by that?

Well, things are pretty bad.  There have never been more people on psychiatric medications, mostly for depression and anxiety.  While you could argue that more people are on these mind altering medications because we are better at diagnosing these disorders; that is not likely to be the whole story.  Despite the United States having the greatest standard of living in world history – where even the poorest among us have TV’s and air conditioners, and telephones – we are mired with the pervasive sense that life is an ordeal to be tolerated rather than an adventure to be enjoyed and cherished.  Heck, I recently read an article that reports that our youth have never felt more “disconnected.”  I read that to mean that our youth are unfulfilled, unmotivated, and uninspired.  Again, I point to moral relativism as the culprit here.  It breeds generations of uncaring morally vacant zombies. 

 

Okay, you’ve laid out what you see as the main problem but how is Jesus the cure?    

It’s simple.  Jesus’ life and earthly ministry provides a model of how we should strive to live.  His life was the antithesis of moral relativism.  Jesus lived His life with a clear moral compass – there was right and there was wrong.  His operating principle was love.  But love didn’t mean “anything goes” – Jesus’ example prompted those around Him to become more fully human, more integrated, and more morally accountable.  In short, Jesus’ character rubbed off on those around Him.  His example changed lives, changed minds and hearts.

 

Jesus was clearly a great moral teacher and Christians believe that he was the son of God, but thousands of books have been written about Jesus.  What makes your book The Jesus Cure different from all others?

You’re right.  A word search on Amazon.com will reveal over 8,000 titles related to Jesus.  He is undoubtedly the most written about person in history.  So a good question is what could I possibly say about Jesus that hasn’t already been said?  The answer is nothing.  However, what I try to do in The Jesus Cure is distill in as simple a way as possible the essence of Jesus – the characteristics of His humanity that differentiated Him from all of us.  In other words, I try to summarize what made Jesus Jesus.  I call these characteristics “keys”, and found that 4 of these keys capture Jesus and explain what made Him so spiritually and emotionally integrated. 

 

Although I believe that Jesus was the Son of God, The Jesus Cure focuses not so much on the divinity of Jesus but on His humanity – on how Jesus’ attitude and behavior provide a road map for a life well-lived.

 

So what are the 4 keys?

Well, I’m not going to answer that.  You’ll have to read the book.  What I will say is that the 4 keys are interlocking and build upon each other.  That is, the first key provides the foundation and each subsequent key builds on the previous one until you’ve got 4 interlocking and interacting keys that, if practiced consistently, will help you forge a life that smolders with integrity, significance, and peace.

 

Well then let me shift gears, are you saying that anyone who practices the 4 keys presented in The Jesus Cure will be like Jesus?

Yes and no.  Yes if someone could practice the 4 keys day in and day out.  But that’s a big “if”.  Since we are fallible humans, we cannot practice the 4 keys with the sort of regularity that would make us anything like Jesus.  We are simply not “hardwired” to behave in as fully a human way as Jesus.  In other words, we are flawed.  We are sinners who are incapable of practicing the 4 keys in the way Jesus did.  However, I think the value of The Jesus Cure is that it shows us what’s possible; it gives us a goal to aspire too.  Indeed, even if we can only practice the 4 keys in a haphazard and inconsistent way, we’d still find greater value, joy, and peace in our lives than we do now.  Thus, the 4 keys provide a guide and a standard with which to measure our conduct.  Although we’ll never be exactly like Jesus, at least we’ll have a better sense of what made Jesus the most mature and integrated human being to ever walk the earth. 

 

What made you decide to write The Jesus Cure?       

As a psychologist, I’ve always been fascinated in trying to understand human behavior – you know, why people do what they do.  Who better to study than Jesus the man?  Jesus was the realization of optimal human qualities.  In other words, He was the perfect human – God incarnate – the manifestation of perfect humanness. 

 

Many books have been written that tried to capture the qualities possessed by Jesus that made Him what He was: humanity perfected.  In looking over these books I was struck by the complexity of the portraits the authors painted.  Some presented over 20 character traits that defined Jesus.  This struck me as troublesome: How could people attempt to imitate Jesus when you’ve got to struggle to develop so many different characteristics?  

 

So I immersed myself in the 4 gospels and tried to capture the essence, a thumbnail sketch of the traits that captured Jesus the man.  It was a long process, with lots of trial and error, lots of pouring over scripture.  Over the course of several months, I whittled it down and finally settled on the 4 keys that I describe in The Jesus Cure.  Of course, we are incapable of truly capturing the character of Jesus, however, in my view these 4 keys come as close as I imagine any of us could ever get.

 

Apart from intellectual curiosity, I can’t help but feel that I wrote The Jesus Cure because I was called to do so.  I know I answered the call as well as I possibly could.            

      

For further information or to schedule an interview with Dr. Fontaine, please contact him at: afonta@comcast.net
 
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