During the last two centuries, the world has become more and more rational. Emotions have given way to the scientific method. Reason is the king on the mountain of social development at least that has been the thinking since the enlightenment. David Brooks in his highly fascinating book, The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love Character and Achievement, explains that the way in which humans are formed and relate to one another goes beyond reason. Human beings, the way they love, develop and grow are formed not by mere rational thinking, but the subconscious often plays a larger role than previously thought. Brooks in many ways echoes the great commandment to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.
Brooks unfolds his work through the lives of a fictitious couple, Harold and Erica. Their lives serves as a backdrop for Brooks’ research. The unconscious mind is the key to human understanding. He states: “If the study of the conscious mind highlights the importance of reason and analysis, study of the unconscious mind highlights the importance of passions and perception. If our outer mind highlights the power of the individual, the inner mind highlights the power of relationships and the invisible bonds between people. If the outer mind hungers for status, money, and applause, the inner mind hungers for harmony and connection – those moments when self-consciousness fades away and a person is lost in a challenge, a cause, love of another or the love of God (Brooks, Introduction xi).”
If Brooks is right, then we should pause as leaders and ministers to rethink much of what we do. Recently, I have been diving into the world of Leonard Sweet. I have been researching his work to understand how I can be a better communicator through what he calls semiotics. Sweet’s approach is rather simple, we preachers must connect the message on many different levels so that people can experience God. In other words, we must preach in incarnational message. Sweet alludes the fact that the mind and soul are great mystery, and so there must be greater effort at connectivity.
Between Sweet and Brooks, I have begun to explore how I can connect to people on a greater level. Most of our modern preaching comes from the enlightened world. The methods that we have used are often times formulaic much like methods used in science. Our preaching is a carbon copy of a world based off of reason. We lay out point by point arguments with lofty words in attempt to reason with our fellow man. We often times appeal to the intellect. However with Brooks’ research, should there be more than just mere words and rational communication? If most of the mind is unconscious, then how do we penetrate that thinking?
Human beings are quite complex. As Brooks tells us, “The inner realm is illuminated by science, but it is not a dry, mechanistic place. It is an emotional and enchanted place (Brooks, Introduction, xi).” There is a vast ocean in the human mind that we often never touch with our words from the pulpit. Perhaps we must fall to our knees and ask God for his wisdom to appeal to both the head and the heart.