I found Haidt’s The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion fascinating. I wish I had more time to explore all his research on moral psychology and the ways we are wired to judge, exclude and include. I do not have to look deep at my own elephant or those close to me to know its truth.
Early on, I thought of the conversation my daughter and I had last week about a certain player on her volleyball team whom she finds deplorable. She said that at the end of the volleyball season she was going to tell her off and say she is ‘exclusive, rude and basic.’ (If you don’t know, ‘basic’ is just about as low of a blow a middle schooler can lob at another.) My response to her was ‘and you are judgmental’. She did not disagree with me.
And so am I. Thanks to Haidt, I am more convinced of not just my daughter’s, but my own predisposition to judge others.
I am at Catalyst West conference today and thinking about all kinds of things. I think about what Hunter wrote about this group of Christians and their stance of being ‘relevant to’ culture. And I am thinking about Douthat and the nerve he seemed to strike with some of us with his pessimism about the Church. It deepened my love for the Church. I watch people worship and experience the presence of God. I am working to synthesize this semester’s work with what I am experiencing here at Catalyst. I keep thinking specifically about what I am learning from Haidt and how to apply it to my reality.
I listened today to church leaders talk about the Enneagram, about suicide and mental health, and about loving Jesus and our communities. But Andy Stanley’s opening session was most impactful for me. His talk was about keeping pace with the Good Shepherd. His text was John 10:10. But he said something near the end that I needed to hear:
“Christians should be the most open-minded people on the planet. We have got to stay curious. Yes, God never changes. But everything else does. So we have to stay open. And the deeper your anchor is in Christ, the longer the line can go to reach and explore.”
I think I am adding a spiritual discipline to my formation after the first two semesters: the discipline of curiosity.
Maybe what I want for my daughter is what I want for myself and for those I serve. It is what I want for the Bride of Christ. I want us to remain orthodox and convinced of certain truths and yet extremely curious. I want us to listen better, to practice more empathy, and to not assume so much. I want us to judge less and love more. I want us to wonder more about our own elephants and those of others. I know full well that ‘closed’ is a much more natural posture than open – hence, where the discipline comes in.
I have a great deal I can learn from Haidt if I can stay curious. The six moral foundations and idea that most hold a few more dear than others is insightful to today’s political polarity. It helps with relating to others in a post-Christian context and to my own extended family, for that matter. I am also curious about his claim that reason is not our first response but that intuition actually is. And he explains that our belief in the primacy of reason has not helped our relating with each other. I want to think through the idea of morality binding and blinding. There is much to process.
After a day at a church leaders conference and reading The Righteous Mind, mostly I am encouraged and optimistic. He concludes:
We may spend most of our waking hours advancing our own interests, but we all have the capacity to transcend self-interest and become simply a part of a whole. It’s not just a capacity; it’s the portal to many of life’s most cherished experiences.
I sensed this today worshipping with thousands of church leaders. And I prayed for this in my own life and in my daughter’s life. Perhaps the practice of curiosity can temper our judgment of others. After all, it is much more difficult to judge and be curious at the same time. So I am going to continue to drop the anchor of my life to God’s love and grace and endeavor to remain curious with Him.
We have this certain hope like a strong, unbreakable anchor holding our souls to God himself. Our anchor of hope is fastened to the mercy seat[w] which sits in the heavenly realm beyond the sacred threshold,[x] 20 and where Jesus, our forerunner,[y] has gone in before us.
Hunter, James Davison. To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, & Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010, 215-6.
Haidt, Jonathan. The Righteous Mind Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. London: Penguin Books, 2013, 317.
Hebrews 6:19-20, The Passion Translation.