Ministering in a Post-Cartesian World

Jason, in the comments to my last post, asked this question: "Of course, it's not my discussion and it's not my blog, but may I suggest a direction from here? What practical steps could preachers, seminar leaders, congregations as a whole take if such insights were implemented?"

Well, Jason, you are going to have me break one of my cardinal rules: Never be relevant. One of my favorite quotes, a sentiment that goes deeply to the heart of this blog, comes from Thorstein Veblen:

"The sole end of the truly inquiring mind should be irresponsible scholarship, idle curiosity, and useless knowledge."

And, if you know me, you know I live by that creed.

Which means, at the end of the day, you should go with Mike Cope's views on this topic (see my last post). Although we differ on psychological models of the mind, he's the one out there changing lives. Recall, he's the shepherd and I'm the sheep. And I am a recalcitrant sheep.

However, I do want to demonstrate the "applications" of my position, so I'm going to get practical.

I can't get systematically practical, I haven’t thought too much about this, but I can offer a menagerie of converging observations:

1. The Civil Rights Museum
I blogged about this a while back. A few years ago I visited the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. Here's what I wrote about that experience:

Last spring I took some students to Memphis for a conference. Late one afternoon a student and I wandered over to the National Civil Rights Museum. What an amazing experience. It is housed on the spot where Martin Luther King Jr. was shot. In fact, the tour ends on that fateful balcony. At one point in the exhibit you get to sit on a Montgomery bus next to Rosa Parks while the bus driver (this is all simulated) screams at you to move to the back.

Needless to say, I was emotionally changed. Right now, as I write, I'm looking at the poster I bought at the end of that day. It is a picture of the Voting Rights March from Selma to Montgomery in 1965. I look at that poster every day.

Why do I tell you this? Because to be a good person I must attend to my moral emotions. And the Civil Rights Museum was good therapy. It tuned both my empathy and my moral indignation. I haven't been the same since.

2. Tony Campolo
A student at ACU made a comment to my last post along the same lines as Jason's comment. Here's what I wrote in response:

When Tony Campolo came to ACU a few years ago he recounted a typical exchange he has with parents of college students. The parents ask, "How can we get our kids passionate about following Jesus?" Campolo's response, "Send them to the Third World." The point being is that once you expose yourself to the plight of the poor your emotions are profoundly changed. This is what happened to Bono. But you don't have to go to the third world to find people to help. We can find those places right here in Abilene.

3. Invisible Children
Awhile back thousands of people participated in an evening sponsored by the makers of the documentary Invisible Children, the Global Night Commute. During the same evening across the country people walked the same distance that these African children must walk to find a place to sleep in safety. Then, having arrived at their destination, people slept outside for the night. It was a powerful evening in our city. What was the point? To mold empathy and compassion via identification/participation.

4. Reducing Racism
How do you reduce racism? In strong volitional models I guess you could say "Racism is a choice. Love is a choice. So choose love!" I doubt this will work. But psychologists do know how to reduce racism. It involves "cooperative equal-status contact." Let me unpack this:

i. Contact: The racial groups must come into contact.
ii. Cooperative: The groups must work together on a common goal.
iii. Equal-status: The groups must be on a level playing field.

It is known that when these three things are in play racism attenuates. Lets' now apply this to a common church intervention: Benevolence.

Benevolence, a common church ministry, is often not very transformative. Why not?

First, benevolence typically has only (i), contact. But the contact is not cooperative (ii), rich and poor are not working toward a common goals (The rich are cooperating with each other on behalf of the poor, but not cooperating with the poor). Further, the contact is hierarchical, with the rich (generally White) feeding the poor (generally Black or Hispanic). That contact is not equal status (iii).

The point being, psychologists know how to reduce racism. The church just has to take those insights and apply them.

5. Liturgy
I'm currently reading a book by Peter Rollins called How (Not) to Speak of God. I will blog about this book in the future because it is the best book on Christianity I have read in some time. Rollins works with a faith community called Ikon in Ireland. The first half of the book gives Rollins' articulation of emerging Christianity. In the second half of the book Rollins walks us through some Ikon liturgies.

In one liturgy the goal is to confront the participant with our consumerism and "health and wealth" notions which are related to our feelings and apathy toward the poor. In this liturgy, after hearing a "testimony" aimed at articulating this kind of consumerism and selfish approach to Christianity, the participants are asked to come up and take the Lord's Supper. But here's the rub...

On the Lord's Table is chocolate cake and champagne.

Obviously, no one wants to go up and partake. And as you sit there uncomfortably refusing that kind of table, you must emotionally confront what exactly the Lord's Table is calling you to: Brokenness and death. Not cake and champagne.

In short, I think the applications are endless. We are only limited by our creativity and willingness to experiment.

Now, back to my irresponsible scholarship...

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7 thoughts on “Ministering in a Post-Cartesian World”

  1. I like #5:

    I know that *ontologically* worship is a formational experience. We become what we worship, and how we worship plays a big part in our development, too.

    That being said (and perhaps not everyone agrees), what would an impartial observer say about the type of people our current worship is creating (I'm thinking about our particular congregation here). What if, instead, we as a church (or if our shepherds) identified some adaptive challenges, some things that need to be transformed, and set out to create worship experiences to confront those. This would be powerful when it comes to matters of racism, of violence, of greed...

    But, it would also be wildly unpopular. If I had to guess, I would venture that Ikon is a smaller community. A place like ours is filled with folks who want to passively consume our religious goods and services, and if were to be about the business of transformation in a more blunt manner, we'd be a smaller community, too...

  2. I'm loving your blog; I don't know why I haven't come across it 'till now. I am going to be adding you to my blogroll very soon, yessir. And I agree, Rollins' book is amazing. I also have to give props to Shane Claiborne's Irresistible Revolution and Cynthia Borgeault's Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening as some of the most impactful Christian spirituality books I've read in the past five years. And I work in publishing, so that's saying alot. : )

  3. What can I say? Thank you!

    The practical suggestions you have made are very meaningful to me. It is not just a casual interest I have here, I serve as the deacon over benevolence in my congregation. I sincerely desire to move our benevolence ministry toward something substantiative and efficacious. Thus far, I feel our efforts, though sincere, are wrong-headed.

    This discussion has validated the drive within and, more importantly, has provided some needed traction. I will be taking a long, hard look at #4.

    Thanks, again.

  4. Jason,
    Just a quick clarification about #4. The "common goal" does not have to be very deep or meaningful. Even playing a game together on the same team can move in this direction. Or, the poor might be invited to church for a meal (many churches do this during the holidays). But the church and the poorer guest cook the meal together, or go visit a nursing home afterward together.

    Keep the common activity easy, fun, and light and attach it to something you are already doing or plan to do.

  5. The link between Mind and Social / Environmental-Issues.

    The fast-paced, consumerist lifestyle of Industrial Society is causing exponential rise in psychological problems besides destroying the environment. All issues are interlinked. Our Minds cannot be peaceful when attention-spans are down to nanoseconds, microseconds and milliseconds. Our Minds cannot be peaceful if we destroy Nature.

    Industrial Society Destroys Mind and Environment.

    Subject : In a fast society slow emotions become extinct.
    Subject : A thinking mind cannot feel.
    Subject : Scientific/ Industrial/ Financial thinking destroys the planet.

    Emotion is what we experience during gaps in our thinking.

    If there are no gaps there is no emotion.

    Today people are thinking all the time and are mistaking thought (words/ language) for emotion.

    When society switches-over from physical work (agriculture) to mental work (scientific/ industrial/ financial/ fast visuals/ fast words ) the speed of thinking keeps on accelerating and the gaps between thinking go on decreasing.

    There comes a time when there are almost no gaps.

    People become incapable of experiencing/ tolerating gaps.

    Emotion ends.

    Man becomes machine.

    A society that speeds up mentally experiences every mental slowing-down as Depression / Anxiety.

    A ( travelling )society that speeds up physically experiences every physical slowing-down as Depression / Anxiety.

    A society that entertains itself daily experiences every non-entertaining moment as Depression / Anxiety.





    To read the complete article please follow either of these links :




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