Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Monkey See, Monkey Do.

Written by: on April 4, 2019

In, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion, Jonathan Haidt lays out a case for why moral judgments stem from emotional feelings rather than rational reasoning. In reviewing the book, Margery Lucas, a Professor of Psychology and Cognitive and

Linguistic Sciences at Wellesley College, states, “this book remains an ingenious and eloquent work that provocatively addresses the origins and psychological underpinnings of the most basic human values.[1]

Haidt provides ample research and personal stories that invite the reader to consider where they fall in the plot of politics and religion. His central three principles in the book are wrap around three metaphors. Principle one, intuitions come first, strategic reasoning second and he uses the metaphor of an elephant (intuitions/emotions) and rider (reasoning). Principle two, morality consists of more than harm and fairness, and the metaphor equals a tongue and six taste buds. Finally, principle three, morality binds and blinds, and the metaphor he employees is humans are 90% chimp and 10% bee.

Haidt leans more into the evolutionary understanding of natural selection than I would agree, but I do agree that we are bent toward selfish desires over love and putting others above ourselves. The key differences for me would be the theological understanding of sin that drives (or can drive) us towards this bias. Miller’s work reminds us that we can reach a point even in faith where desire becomes the ultimate goal and not Christ.[2]

Our previous readings of, Polanyi in The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of our Time and Max Weber’s, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, point out how if our bias (good intention or not) goes unchecked the unintended consequences can lead to systematic issues, not just personal ones. One remedy is to take the posture that life is complicated and hed Berger and Johnston advice to, 1. ask different questions (instead of having the answers), 2. take multiple perspectives (even when we disagree), and 3. see the systems (including emergence), but in reality are hard to implement because often as leaders we are more focused on what we think is right versus bringing others into the conversation.[3]

Research is showing that next generation is more open-minded because of the creation of trigger warnings and safe spaces but at the consequence of not knowing how to have dialogue or hearing an opposing view as something that can be helpful and not just harmful. Alan Levinovitz writes:

There is a very real danger that these efforts [to institute trigger warnings and safe spaces] will become overzealous and render opposing opinions taboo. Instead of dialogues in which everyone is fairly represented, campus conversations about race, gender, and religion will devolve into monologues about the virtues of tolerance and diversity. Even though academic debate takes place in a community, it is also combat. Combat can hurt. It is literally offensive. Without offense there is no antagonistic dialogue, no competitive marketplace, and no chance to change your mind.[4]

In researching a Spirit-led model for leadership that engages the next generation, Jesus continues to show up as one who does not shy allows dialogue or a challenge. As a leader, the job is not to challenge one’s thinking or reasoning to harm them or belittle them but to invite them into a narrative that challenges their status quo and gives them an opportunity to change the script of their lives.


[1]” Lucas, Margery. “Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion.” Society 50, no. 1 (February 2013): 88. http://search.ebscohost.com.georgefox.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=s3h&AN=84935903&scope=site.

[2] Vincent J. Miller, Consuming Religion: Christian Faith and Practice in a Consumer Culture (New York: Continuum International, 2003), 105.


[3] Berger, Jennifer Garvey. Simple Habits for Complex Times (p. 8). Stanford University Press. Kindle Edition.


[4] Alan Levinovitz, “How Trigger Warnings Silence Religious Students,” The Atlantic, Aug. 30, 2016. https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/08/silencing-religious-students-on-campus/497951/ (accessed April 2019).

About the Author

Mario Hood

Most importantly, I am married to the love of my life, Misty Hood, and I'm kept on my toes all day every day, by my son Dalen and daughter Cola Hood. I also serve as the Next Generation Pastor at Church On The Living Edge in Orlando, Florida, under the leadership of Senior Pastor, Dr. Mark Chironna as well as being a Youth and Family Life coach.

8 responses to “Monkey See, Monkey Do.”

  1. Rev Jacob Bolton says:

    I certainly like your Jesus as dialoguer and challenger the best Mario. Great analysis.

  2. Jenn Burnett says:

    Thanks for your thoughts Mario! I’d love to dig deeper in Jesus’ interactions with people. While we often study scripture and focus on his reasoning, the outcome of interactions was often a turning of the elephant. (I think…I’m still chewing on it, but that seems to be the case). So he couldn’t have only been giving them alternative points of view, shifting only the rider. Here is where Haidt falls short for our discussions because I think the Holy Spirit is in the business of elephant taming. That is I’m curious if the ‘dialogue or challenge’ was released simultaneously with a Holy Spirit encounter or whether you think the Holy Spirit moves us to such compelling ‘challenges’ that they are able to turn the ‘rider’ enough to move the elephant? Put another way, is good reasoning enough to change hearts? Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    • Mario Hood says:

      Absolutely, in spiritual terms, I think we can call this conviction and is one of the “jobs” of the Holy Spirit. I think even in Haidt cases there was much more of a spiritual process happening in his life than he knows it, because for me at the end of the day people can’t change people only God does that.

  3. Sean Dean says:

    It feels like trigger warnings are elephant fences. By that I mean it sounds like people are afraid of where their elephant might go if they are forced to allow their feelings to surface. I get that people don’t want to feel traumatized, but if I remember correctly, dealing with trauma is about coming to terms with it, not repressing or hiding from it. I think Jesus was sometimes purposefully provocative in order to allow people to see the wildness of their elephant – to come to terms with it. It is only in understanding their elephant that people can start to learn to train it.

  4. Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    You certainly have developed your skills in utilizing previous and other texts from your research to support your critique and undergird your proposition. Very good work an very well developed. How will you utilize Haidt within your research?

    • Mario Hood says:

      Thanks, Harry. Haidt work actually speaks to a lot of my research from the fact of what/where society is at (especially Gen Z) and provides some way to enter act with them from a leadership perspective.

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