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

Untruths meets Truth

Written by: on May 17, 2019

This week I am preaching on loving the Lord with all of our mind. Our church is in the middle of a series on living out Jesus’ command to love God with our whole self. Beginning with Romans 12:2 which says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God — what is good and acceptable and perfect,” We are going to consider what it means to walk the path of having our mind renewed by the Spirit. When reading this week’s text, The Coddling of the American Mind, by Jonathon Haidt and Greg Lukianoff, I recognized a possibility for analyzing their work in light of Scripture, particularly how they highlight specific growing cultural norms from untruth. If the inverse of their claims is actually true, then it should hold up in the Bible as well.

To give a little background on the authors, Haidt and Lukianoff are researchers who spend their time in higher education, Lukianoff as a First Amendment Lawyer and Haidt as a social psychologist and professor at NYU. They were originally curious about what was happening on college campuses with regard to free speech and student’s being triggered by material presented in the classroom. As they began to investigate, they found a set of underlying themes that made for three sweeping untruths spreading across the nation and beyond from parenting and education. These six interacting themes of “rising political polarization; rising rates of adolescent depression and anxiety; a shift to more fearful, protective, and intensive parenting in middle-class and wealthy families; widespread play deprivation and risk deprivation for members of iGen; an expanding campus bureaucracy taking an increasingly overprotective posture; and a rising passion for justice combined with a growing commitment to attaining “equal outcomes” in all areas”[1] undergird the untruths that young people are fragile, that feelings should always be trusted, and that life is a battle between good and evil people.

Analyzing the three untruths and their reciprocal truth, or psychological principal, they are listed here, along with a brief narrative bringing them into alignment with biblical truth.

Untruth 1: “What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker.”

The untruth is that challenging life circumstances traumatize people and, once traumatized, are not able to withstand pain or wounding. This fragility is learned by either becoming stuck in the trauma without healing or avoiding pain altogether by protecting oneself. Yet, suffering and pain are part of the human condition and are inevitable in life’s journey. Protection from suffering is not the way of Christ or the cross, which every disciple must be willing to carry. The wisdom of the authors aligns with biblical truth in that all people need preparation for the good and hard aspects of life, so they may be prepared and able to bear one another’s burdens, rather than avoid burden.

Untruth 2: “Always trust your feelings.”

While feelings are always valid and need to be understood, they can easily be misinterpreted and lead to distorted cognitive reality. Emotional reasoning rather than reasoning from objective truth can create biases that lead people into irrational fear, isolation, and broken relationships. In this section, the psychological principal is real but Scripture takes it further. The moral compass is not from one’s own right thinking but from the authority of the biblical text in conforming not to our own emotions or logic, but rather to God’s character.

Becoming resilient is one primary way of overcoming these untruths. Resilience is a Brené Brown research hot button, as well as a focal point in Haidt and Lukianoff’s text, and is even in research done by scientist, Matthew Bloom of Notre Dame. People are resilient but, as Bloom explains, resilience is like a muscle, and must be worked regularly to continue to be strong.[2] Working our resilience muscle is possible through a phrase Brown uses often that is a shorthand version of cognitive behavioral therapy, as noted by Haidt and Lukianoff. “The story I am telling myself is…” This phrase helps one to process what is going on in their head and be able to put their feelings into words to assess whether or not what they feel is even true and how it’s affecting them. Sharing the story with others helps us hear and undo distortion. Knowing biblical truth helps realign our thoughts so that we can unravel truth from untruth more quickly.

Untruth 3: “Life is a battle between good and evil people.”

This untruth hits close to home for many reasons. We have had a tragedy in our family with a crime being committed that has caused deep pain to many. In this process, it is easy to want to write a person off as evil, to wonder how you could be so wrong about a person. But this is just not true. What I am learning in new ways, is that everyone of us is made good and every one of us is sinful and broken. There are no “bad guys” out there. To even think that promotes a stereotype that only harms people and polarizes, besides being in direct contrast to Genesis 1. We are complex beings whom God loves and are worthy of love, no matter the harm we have caused. The wisdom of Haidt and Lukianoff contextualizes Romans 3:23, which says, “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” in our culture today. They state, “The line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.”[3]

The Coddling of the American Mind is an honest and well researched look at culture and where culture is headed. It is wise for the church to critically engage texts like this to be able to best understand our congregations and offer biblical truth that informs and transforms us into Christlikeness rather than allowing ourselves to be conformed to the culture at large.

 

 

[1] Lukianoff, Greg. The Coddling of the American Mind (p. 264). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[2] Bloom, Matthew. Well Being seminar. Indianapolis, IN. February, 2019.

[3] Lukianoff, Greg. The Coddling of the American Mind (p. 263). Penguin Publishing Group. 2018.

 

About the Author

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Trisha Welstad

Trisha is passionate about investing in leaders to see them become all God has created them to be. As an ordained Free Methodist elder, Trisha has served with churches in LA and Oregon, leading as a pastor of youth and spiritual formation, a church planter, and as a co-pastor of a church restart. Trisha currently serves as leadership development pastor at Northside Community Church in Newberg, OR. Over the last five years Trisha has directed the Leadership Center, partnering with George Fox and the Free Methodist and Wesleyan Holiness churches. The Leadership Center is a network facilitating the development of new and current Wesleyan leaders, churches and disciples through internships, equipping, mentoring and scholarship. In collaboration with the Leadership Center, Trisha serves as the director of the Institute for Pastoral Thriving at Portland Seminary and with Theologia: George Fox Summer Theology Institute. She is also adjunct faculty at George Fox University. Trisha enjoys throwing parties, growing food, listening to the latest musical creations by Troy Welstad and laughing with her two children.

7 responses to “Untruths meets Truth”

  1. mm Jason Turbeville says:

    Trisha,
    I would be interested to hear your sermon series it seems a well thought out time to preach on such a thing. I agree the resiliency muscle is one that too many people have let atrophy to the point of being useless. Thanks for your insight of the reading.

    Jason

  2. YES! YES! YES! I love this, Trisha. Thanks for bringing it all back to the One whose name is Faithful and True. Biblical truth is such a helpful plumb line. I love the lens that you brought to this book.

  3. Great post, Trisha!

    I thought it was interesting that you highlighted the importance of the mind. I wonder if the lack of diversified thought in the church and the quest for conformity comes from perpetuating faith without thought.

    I do question the author’s perception of the younger generations, but I do concur with their overall assessment of segregation leading to isolation. As I read their text, I couldn’t help but wonder if certain quadrants were more prone to create safe spaces compared to others. Do you think that quadrants that have a preference towards feelings or hierarchal leadership fall prey to antifragility?

  4. mm Mike says:

    Trisha,
    Great introduction and thanks for comparing the themes of this book against Scripture. Amen, there is a “cost to count” for following Christ. No matter what Mayhem does or says to convince people otherwise, God’s truth is absolute, Christians will suffer for their Good and God’s glory.
    I like the way you compared the three untruths to Scripture. I agree, preach it Trisha!
    The battle is not against flesh and blood, like you interpreted Romans 3:23. You have good eyesight my friend. Thanks for seeing the ways principalities and powers pervert our world.
    Stand firm,
    Mike w

  5. Shawn Hart says:

    Trisha, out of those three, the one I struggled with was the last one; the battle against good vs evil people. I appreciate your perspective on drawing the sinfullness light upon all of us…we need to be humbled with that reminder. However, I also believe that Scripture teaches us; “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed” (John 3:19-20). I believe that the reality is that all of us sin and fall short…but not all of us embrace the darkness. The bible declares the war that we are fighting against evil…and thus…against people that love their evil.

  6. mm Dan Kreiss says:

    Trisha,

    I appreciated how you linked the untruths with some truths of scripture and the counter that scripture provides for our often wrong-headed thinking. I wish it were easy to simply demonstrate a biblical perspective that runs counter to cultural constructs and have people accept them as such. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) that type of processing went out with modernism. This generation is far more experiential and accepts truth more readily by experience backed up by reason and/or theology. It will be important for the church not to simply preach sermons that teach critical thinking on these false constructs but actually give emerging generations experiences that call these maladaptive constructs into question so that they generate the desire to search for truth somewhere else.

    I believe that if the church is to be influential with emerging generations than we need to be prepared to be tip the balance toward experiential faith rather than mostly intellectual faith. What do you think?

  7. Dave Watermulder says:

    Thank you, Trisha! I really appreciated the way you engaged with each of the great “untruths”. I think the 3rd of those is the one that is most important to grapple with, and to help maturing Christians learn and understand. Thank you for your piece!

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