Expanding the Moral Circle

A couple of years ago it was my pleasure to spend time with North Point Community Church, recording some material about the psychology of hospitality for use in their training of group leaders. North Point recently put some of this material online at their blog supporting their group leaders.

If you've heard me speak on this subject before you'll remember me talking about the expansion of the moral circle, using an example I share with my students about how we treat servers in restaurants.

And let me give a shout out to all my friends at North Point. It was great spending time with you. I remember the gummy worm and dirt cupcakes quite fondly! (When you speak about the psychology of disgust this is the sort of snack that shows up.)

Richard Beck: The Moral Circle from NPM GroupLeaders on Vimeo.

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4 thoughts on “Expanding the Moral Circle”

  1. Awesome! And timely too. The lectionary texts from Sunday were the Leviticus passage and the Mark story.

  2. Hi Richard: I am again reading through Unclean (on my Top 5 books list along with Volf's Exclusion and Embrace) and have just gone through the part about moral circles and the subsequent section on how the Eucharist breaks down the moral circle. I continue to be amazed at how Jesus broke down barrier after barrier in so many ways. Fascinating reading, and I will shortly be putting up a couple of blog posts about it (including cartoons, of course).

    When I look at our typical churches, they are very mono-cultural, not only racially/ethnically, but often socioeconomically as well. On top of that, communion is often in a row at the altar rail, or taken in one's pew where one sits with "kin", rather than being a meal around tables.

    So I'm wondering what your thoughts are on how the moral circle might be enlarged today... what kinds of things have been effective at enlarging it or disrupting it in Christian communities ...

    Jesus telling us to love our neighbour as ourselves comes to mind as well, but it is so easy to see/define neighbour as those within the moral circle and to ignore those outside of it...

  3. And when the stranger becomes part of your moral circle, you are changed greatly! An example for me came when doing Clinical Pastoral Education and I was thrust into a working relationship with two lesbian women whom I would never have had a relationship with before, ended up becoming dear friends and reshaping my views on Christian sexuality. Churches have often perpetuated maintenance of the moral circle out of fear that doctrines and beliefs might change if folks were exposed to the stranger. And they are right; attitudes will shift, doctrines and positions will change. For me, that's not a bad thing, but for many, fear of change keeps them from stepping outside the moral circle.

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