We watched The Bucket List the other night — quite a good flick. Actually, in several ways, the movie is the product of a group of aging Baby-Boomers coming to terms with their own mortality. The title and the premise revolves around the list of things that one wants to do before one dies… or “kicks the bucket,” rather. In this case, it’s not “one”, but two — Carter (Morgan Freeman) and Edward (Jack Nicholson).
Recently in our simple church gathering, we were discussing creation and evolution — more about that in some other post, perhaps. Along the continuum between a literal 6-day creation and a young earth and evolution lies intelligent design and theistic evolution. Near the end of the discussion, an excellent word picture (metaphor, even) came up to illustrate how truth can be elusive even to those who claim to have it, and uncomfortably placed for those who earnestly seek it. I’ve diagrammed the analogy for ease of explanation. At the extremes, we have fundamentalist Christianity and fundamentalist atheism. We could perhaps replace that with paganism, Buddhism, pantheism, or just about any other -ism. At the top are those who fear the “slippery slope,” refusing to yield some point for fear that if they do, they’ll slip right down into some anathema worldview.
Maybe everyone else already knew, but I “discovered” a treasure trove of addresses on YouTube, a series of archived Google Talks. Almost as much fun as TED. I mentioned the work of Philip Zimbardo (Or “Dr. Z”) a couple of months back, discussing The Lucifer Effect: Why Good People do Evil, which is pretty much the title of his new book. Yesterday, I referred to bad apples being the creation of bad barrels as a metaphor for the way in which bad systems can corrupt good leaders, resulting in the abuse of the people within those systems. The metaphor comes from Dr. Z’s talk at Google.
The image of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet is a profoundly powerful one. In introducing his account of the act, John says, “He now showed them the full extent of his love.” Today’s post is strictly visual… depictions of the footwashing in art.
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On Friday I caught the tail end of an interview with Anne Harrington on CBC’s The Current. Harrington is the author of The Cure Within: A History of Mind-Body Medicine. I’m sure I wouldn’t be down with all the ideas in her book, but a salient bit at the end was the discussion of “the placebo effect“. Harrington asserts that the telling of your story is part of the placebo effect — as is the visit to the doctor itself, before he’s even done anything for you. It works, she says, simply because we believe in western medicine. In response to the interviewer’s next question, she suggested that yes, the placebo effect would work even without the doctor.
My tag line, “Live your faith. Share your life.” has always worked for me (and still does) as a motto, a brief imperative statement of what it means to be missional. It just struck me out of the blue as part of my ongoing musing on the importance of presence (incarnation). To state the essence of “missional” as an even briefer imperative:
This morning I caught an interesting segment on CBC’s The Current, with Anna Maria Tremonti interviewing Philip Zimbardo (RealAudio). Similar to the Milgram Experiment, Zimbardo has explored the question of what makes otherwise good people act evil, stepping well beyond their own ethical boundaries. The segment intro:
The Current: The Lucifer Effect
The now infamous Stanford Prison Experiment occurred back in 1971, when a psychologist at Stanford University named Phil Zimbardo gathered 20 perfectly healthy and mentally stable young volunteers. He randomly assigned them to the role of either prisoner or guard. The prisoners got workclothes and had their names replaced with numbers. The guards got billy clubs and sunglasses to obscure their faces. The guards’ only task was to maintain order among the prisoners. The experiment was supposed to last two weeks, but after six days it had to be shut down because the guards were humiliating and tormenting the prisoners with an intensity no one had predicted.
I’m thinking about small group ministries that so many churches offer these days. Many seem to be based on good principles of mutual care, and some are based around the idea that the small group or cell is the basic building-block of the church. At one time I might have said that a church without a small group ministry is missing out on a critical element of church life. In my CLB, we were all about small groups, at least in the earlier days (they became more mechanized than organic nearer the end). I remember a lot of the cell church material as well, and the attempts at hybridizing the purer forms of cell church and the megachurch mentality. I wonder now if a church with a small group ministry isn’t sometimes an oxymoronic expression of community, an attempt to replicate in smaller units the thing that’s fundamentally missing from the larger context… but since it’s fundamentally a program, its makeup cuts across the formation of organic relationship and true community.