God, Heretics, and Story: The Weekend Roundup
Here are three pieces I enjoyed reading this week but haven’t had time to comment on (yet!) – perhaps they will supply you with some Memorial Day Weekend reading:
1) Jonah Lehrer, author of Imagine: How Creativity Works and How We Decide and one of my favorite science writers, dives into recent research that thinking about God improves self-control. In fact, even when subjects in a psychological test weren’t either a) religious or b) consciously aware that they were thinking about God, they still exercised more self-control when their attention was turned to subjects usually connected with God. In addition to reporting on several fascinating studies, Lehrer interviewed Rabbi David Wolpe, who was not surprised by the findings: “People drive slower when they see a police car. God is a bit like that police car: Thinking about Him makes it easier to do the right thing.” Lehrer published his article in the Wall Street Journal, but you can also read it where I found it on his blog.
2) One of my favorite theologians, Kate Blanchard, muses about reclaiming the name “heretic” for herself and, for that matter, anyone who finds themselves caught somewhere between strict creedal orthodoxy on the one hand and secular disinterest or atheism on the other. As she writes,
Embracing heresy is a way of asserting my place—however tenuous—in this ancient tradition, while acknowledging that most of what I think and do will not pass creedal litmus tests. In a religion of more than two billion adherents, this is hardly a surprise.
Kate is a wonderfully articulate and creative theologian who is the author of The Protestant Ethic or the Spirit of Capitalism: Christians, Freedom, and Free Markets, teaches at Alma College, and is a contributor to the forth coming e-book I’m editing called Renew 52: Essays on Congregational Renewal (more info. to come). You can find her essay “Coming Out as a Heretic” at Religion Dispatches.
3) The power, nature, and function of “story” is rarely far from my mind. In addition to the great clip of an interview with Ken Burns posted earlier this week, I also came across this piece on Why Storytelling is the Ultimate Weapon in Fast Company. The author, Jonathan Gottschall, has recently published a very good book called The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human on the relationship between story and humanity – yes, humanity, as in how we make sense of the world and communicate with each other. In this article, he examines the recent (and fervent) interest the business world is showing story. What’s interesting about the recent interest business folk are paying is that it almost sounds like they’re just learning what teachers, preachers, and parents have known for ages: where facts, figures, and arguments often fail to persuade, stories make their case by sneaking inside us and shaping our imagination.
Memorial Day launches summer and, similarly, the season where more of us read books than usual. If you’ve got a favorite book to recommend or great article or link you want to share, let us know in the comments. Thanks and have a wonderful holiday.