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DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

The Discipline of Curiosity

Written by: on April 4, 2019

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.[1] 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.[2]

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.

 


[1]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.

[2]Haidt, Jonathan. The Righteous Mind Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. London: Penguin Books, 2013, 317.

[3]Hebrews 6:19-20, The Passion Translation.

About the Author

Andrea Lathrop

I am a grateful believer in Jesus Christ, a wife, mom and student. I live in West Palm Beach, Florida and I have been an executive pastor for the last 8+ years. I drink more coffee than I probably should every day.

8 responses to “The Discipline of Curiosity”

  1. mm Rev Jacob Bolton says:

    What an experience Andrea . . . and thank you for this quote. Weaving into my sermon right now!

  2. Mario Hood says:

    What a great post!
    Part of my research is exploring the curiosity factor of Spirit-led leadership so I loved this, 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.

    Today self-interest seems to be normal, but I can’t help to think God has always put the other 1st. Not at the rejection of oneself, but to the inclusion of the other. Thanks for the great reminder.

    • Andrea Lathrop says:

      Mario – I love your comments on Haidt’s quote and that you are studying curiosity. I still think of Jason’s admonishment at our conclusion in HK to use ‘I wonder’ more than ‘I know’. Appreciate you!

  3. mm Tammy Dunahoo says:

    Such an excellent post, Andrea. You left this read more hopeful than I and your reasoning is the key, curiosity. I think it must be what Jesus was saying about childlikeness. Andy has been making a significant impact with his last book and it seems prophetic for our day.

    • Andrea Lathrop says:

      Thanks Tammy. I think my optimism was due more to being in a room of church leaders this week, who are not perfect but seemed open to the Spirit of God and sincere in wanting to reach others and love God all at the same time. I wrote this after a lingering time in worship with them that was very special. Now that I am back home and reading through our cohort’s blogs, I am engaging with what bothered me more with the reading. Yes, hives and bees – but how do we include?? How do conservative Christians love and listen better? What can be done or should be done to increase Christianity’s influence on culture in the West? Is that the right question, even? Ok done processing ‘out loud’. 🙂

  4. mm Nancy VanderRoest says:

    I, too, appreciated Haidt’s book and your comment about how you would like to ‘explore all his research on moral psychology and the ways we are wired to judge, exclude and include.’ Since my background is serving as a therapist for many years prior to my Hospice Chaplaincy, I am always intrigued by the philosophies of great psychologists. I loved your “discipline of curiosity” addition to your studies. I’ll join you on this journey, Andrea! lol

  5. Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    Andrea,
    Great post and great sharing of your soul searching discoveries. My take away nugget from your post is, “After all, it is much more difficult to judge and be curious at the same time.” I love your focus on curiosity. You challenge me to strive for curiosity, even when I would rather not. Thanks again for sharing your great thoughts!

  6. Digby Wilkinson says:

    One of my fav bible passages is Eph 2:14-19. It’s principally about Jews and Gentiles, but it is also an ongoing message to the church about its role as the ‘household of peace’ in a warring world.
    In spiritual formation, we often talk about the ‘curiosity of the spiritual life’. Curiosity in children is a wonderful gift often crushed by adult fears. A few years back I watched a small child stroke the arm of a very black woman in our church asking, “how did they get so black and what does it feel like? The child’s parent was horrified and apologised profusely. However, the woman roared with laughter and told the parents that their kid was a perfectly functioning kid and they were fearful adults. The child, in curiosity, moved towards a difference she couldn’t understand and there she found love. Since then I have found that curiosity did not ‘kill the cat’, fear did. In fact that well-known proverb is entirely misquoted, it originally said, ‘Care killed the cat’. And perhaps that’s the point. In John 3 Nicodemus (the beautifully inquisitive man of God) famously visits Jesus and gets a lesson in faith. in 3:8 Jesus tells him that the Spirit is consistent, but people, when filled with the Spirit are entirely unpredictable – like a white child curiously stroking a black arm, and laughter overcoming fear in the ‘household of peace’.

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