The Rule

Back when this blog was young I wrote what might have been one of my most controversial posts (if letters to the ACU administration is our metric). That post recounted my use of Dr. Bob Sutton's New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Business Week bestselling book to make a few observations about 1 Corinthians 13 in my adult Sunday School class. For example, one of the wonderful insights from Dr. Sutton's book is this:

...the difference between how a person treats the powerless versus the powerful is as good a measure of human character as I know.
And what I found interesting is how sentiments like this, sentiments that should resonate strongly with Christians, were making their way into best selling management books. So it seemed natural, to me at least, to think about the book from a Christian angle.

The book is now out in paperback with a new chapter "on the Rule and its surprising impact." In that new chapter I was delighted to find Dr. Sutton write about his reaction upon finding out that his book was discussed in a Sunday School class:
Among the biggest [surprises after the publication of the book] was when this book was read in a bible studies class in a Texas church. Professor Richard Beck, an experimental psychologist at Abilene Christian University, explained on his blog, Experimental Theology:

I thought to myself, "Richard, what are you possibly going to say in class that hasn't been said before about 1 Corinthians 13?" Then it hit me. I started the class by doing a book review and reading selections from Dr. Bob Sutton's new book The No Asshole Rule...

We reflected on all this in my Sunday School class. And after reflection on The No Asshole Rule, I read these famous words: "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs..."

Basically, don't be an asshole.

In the months following Professor Beck's post, I seemed to be deluged by people who linked their religious beliefs to the ideas here. I had a long phone conversation with a Silicon Valley pastor who wanted tips for a sermon that was inspired by the book. A Jesuit priest emailed me that The No Asshole Rule should be mandatory reading for every Catholic priest. Chrismon, a religious magazine in Germany, published a story on the book (translated as Der Arschloch-Faktor). Editor Nils Husmann explained that 1.5 million copies of Chrismon were printed each month and said, "We are financed by the Evangelical Church in Germany, and therefore very interested in topics that deal with how human beings interact, since that is what religion is all about." A Methodist minister I met on a plane ride told me, "The no asshole rule is just a subset of the golden rule, and even easier to remember."
Dr. Sutton has a new book out entitled Good Boss, Bad Boss. Perhaps I'll use it in a Sunday School class as well...

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5 thoughts on “The Rule”

  1. I really like this and that you had the cojones to say that in a Bible class. (Can I say that? :)
    I came to the same conclusions a long time ago, a lot of Christians are assholes and how we treat those "below us" is the true barometer of our Christianity. Ironically I did a podcast on this very topic that was based on an experience I had in Abilene in 1974.

  2. Interesting topic. As a non-Christian I can only view religion as ultimately something that allows control over other people's lives and therefore in complete opposition to the No Asshole Rule. I know many Christians and most of them do not see their religion in that light, but rather sincerely attempt to treat others with respect and in a manner that they themselves would want to be treated. But, what surprises me is the inability to see that the foundation of the religion is exactly the opposite: control over other people (and usually people who are weaker than oneself).

  3. FCA, Indeed "religion" is more often about control than love. You'll probably like this

  4. Mike,

    I'm not sure I understand your reply. I don't think I am actually blaming anything on the power side of religion. It's more that I think many religious people don't understand or notice that religion is about control. I don't understand what you mean by Jesus being in this pharmaceutical business.

    May I ask why you choose to define yourself as an un-Christian Christ-follower? Do you mean you reject much of what Christianity seems to embrace but you retain the Christ qualities? If so, why? Surely there are "better" examples in history to follow than Christ, if one even needs an example to follow.


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