Tag Archives: perspective

A Caution About Big Evangelical Churches and Popular Ministers


Author Dan Pink, in an Intelligence Squared podcast (about something completely different from church-related stuff), responded to a question at the end of his presentation with this:

“Power ends up corrupting people’s ability to see another person’s perspective…. The more power someone has, the less acute their perspective-taking skills are. If you look at high-status people in organizations, in general, high-status people in society, they’re not very good at taking other people’s perspective.”

Grief


Yesterday was Gail’s funeral.

My wife has known Gail and her family for 30 years, maybe a bit more. Kristi and I have been married almost 21 years, and we lived in Gail’s neighborhood for about 13 years.

I don’t know how to grieve the loss of Gail.

I don’t think I completely grieved the loss of Billie Sue. She died a few years ago, and my family had known her and her son for about 30 years.

I don’t think I adequately grieved the loss of my grandfather.

I don’t think I fully grieved the loss of my grandmother.

I don’t think I entirely grieved the loss of my other grandmother.

Maybe I’ve done a better job accepting death, my own eventual death and the eventual deaths of others. Having really thought and wondered about death a lot, too much, I might have gotten to the point at which one sees all of life shot-through with this inevitable, time-bound tainting. That doesn’t lead me to think everything is futile or meaningless because the creative works and good deeds of a person can have an impact on the continuing, overlapping drama of birth and death.

More likely, however, I’ve realized that overwhelming emotions are a waste of time, and something that should be controlled. I have to guard against the derailment of my days. Am I in denial when I wittingly choose denial?

Two perspectives seem less like denial: The realization that Gail lives on in the blood of her children and grandchildren, and the realization that Gail is very much present in a uniquely human way that neither requires nor negates metaphysical and supernatural beliefs.

To put the second realization in other words, yesterday, when a full church remembered Gail, when everyone’s minds and hearts were focused on her and memories of her, she was almost present.

I don’t mean that like a psychological trick one might play on oneself. With so many people beholding Gail’s image, with so many people loving her individuality, with so many people knowing just what she would have said or done in a variety of circumstances, with so many people imprinted by her life, she almost lives on within the community of those who knew her.

I wonder if that’s what the New Testament really meant, when Jesus said, essentially, “Wherever two or three are gathered in my name, I am with them.”

If we gather in the name of, in the memory of, in the love of another person, something like a presence is present.

Gail is gone, an infuriating, heartbreaking truth. She’s not with us any more. Yet she nearly remains. We carry out the rest of our days with her imprint present in our lives.

The small things mean everything: Luke 16:10 and Chesterton explain the real crisis


“One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.” — Luke 16:10, English Standard Version

“He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.” — Luke 16:10, New American Standard Version

“If I am asked, as a purely intellectual question, why I believe in Christianity, I can only answer, ‘For the same reason than an intelligent agnostic disbelieves Christianity.’ I believe in it quite rationally upon the evidence. But the evidence in my case, as in that of the intelligent agnostic, is not really in this or that alleged demonstration, it is in an enormous accumulation of small but unanimous facts. In fact the secularist is not to be blamed because his objections to Christianity are miscellaneous and even scrappy; it is precisely such scrappy evidence that does convince the mind. I mean that a man may well be less convinced of a philosophy from four books than from one book, one battle, one landscape and one old friend. The very fact that the things are of different kinds increases the importance of the fact that they all point to one conclusion.” — G.K. Chesterton in Orthodoxy

One thing we can draw from these very different quotations is the realization that big things are built upon small things. To be responsible for much, first be responsible for a little. To understand faith or lack of faith, look at all the small details informing the point of view.

I think there’s a natural order to the way people think. In the courtroom, little pieces of evidence can add up to big murder convictions.

What happens when someone spends all his time trying to get the big things right but neglects the little things? The value of having the big things right probably won’t have any traction in the workaday world, which depends upon innumerable little things.

Here’s a similar point:

“Now, in the Bible, what we see are numerous discrepencies in lower-order arenas. For whatever reasons, the Biblical texts we have today do not always give a consistent picture of the facts of important events — events important enough, evangelicals and Reformed folks assume, to be part of God’s revelation. I think many, many people are not willing to believe the higher-order, theological and doctrinal, claims of the Bible because the lower-order issues are problematic. Again, many people will say, ‘If you can’t get your facts right, why should I listen to you about anything else?'” (this very blog, on April 9, 2012)

Better minds understand that higher-order concerns are built upon solid lower-order concerns. For example, listening to people more than talking at them, or exemplifying any number of values and manners that Christians don’t exemplify. Unfortunately, “…the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.” — Luke 16:8, King James Version (Cambridge ed.)