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

Wisdom is a Biblical Practice

Written by: on May 12, 2019

Roth in his review of The Coddling of the American Mind declares that Lukianoff and Haidt diagnose the problematic effects of the commonly accepted “false” belief that young people are fragile. “Safetyism,” is the symptom of the “paranoid parenting” styles that the authors claim reached a peak in the 1990s. Lukianoff and Haidt do an excellent job of reminding readers that the assumption of fragility can be disempowering and instead promote “free-range” options for child rearing. Roth cautions readers to not merely dismiss Lukianoff and Haidt’s “great untruths” as only so much hype dressed in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) clothing. The authors are right to push back hard against the nurturing of fragility and victimhood and to defend free speech as essential to the mission of higher education on university campuses. Professors and students shouldn’t be afraid to express themselves, make mistakes, find better ways of thinking and living through passionate disagreement. Roth contends in his review that Lukianoff and Haidt’s common-sense advice still rings true.[1]

Other reviewers of this source seem to criticize Lukianoff and Haidt for focusing their examples on “privileged” university campuses (e.g., Yale). That is, their construct seems to indicate this scenario sits within the context of upper-middle-class and wealthy social strata. If this is true, then it would seem students from lower social strata should have advantages because they have not been so “coddled” or “disempowered.” Perhaps this criticism can also be alluded to since the authors attended and work with prestigious universities (i.e., Stanford Law School, University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Virginia.)

Typically, books like this source with macro views of our American society, do not draw my interest. That is, my practical theology focus is always on the Church and the local church in particular. Perhaps in stating my focus succinctly, I will be more aware of my lens and my blinders. Admitting my bias, I am taken by the summary of the authors in their concluding chapter on “Wiser Societies.”  That is, their three admonitions of wisdom: (1) Prepare the child for the road and not the road for the child, (2) Your unguarded thoughts can cause you much more harm than others, and (3) Good and evil is in the heart of all people.[2]

Recently, Glo and I have been watching a series on Netflix called “Street Food”. Each episode focuses on a different Asian city and a sampling of proprietors. While not at all being a food aficionado (especially street food), I am always taken by how hard each vendor works (from before sunup and well after sundown). As is typical of so many parents and grandparents, their hard labor is always to support the family and attempt to provide a better future for their children. Each new generation helps out at an early age, introduces their improvements and embellishments, and the family joys in working together towards the greater success of the family business. I am sure many of us have similar stories from our own families. We did our best with what we had to work with, shared and helped each other as best we could, dared to dream for something better, and prayed for God to make a way. While not trying to be simplistic or “Pollyannaish,” I wonder if this is not the best way to prepare the child for the road ahead (along with a healthy dose of Brene Brown’s “learning to rise – again.”)

I realize our source is not at all pretending to speak to believers of Jesus Christ. However, it strikes me how much I need the power of Christ to guard my heart and mind in these complex times. We need to model and demonstrate healthy ways to process our fears and anxieties in the midst of those that are in our circle of influence. Perhaps this is why the Bible speaks so much to guarding our hearts and thoughts and that we are not intended to live in fear. I know the environment of where we live and what we deal with daily is highly contextual. Perhaps that is why there is so much growing interest in healthy spiritual practices to help us keep our thoughts and emotions fixed on Christ. While not being familiar with CBT, I find the descriptive categories listed in the authors’ appendix 1 helpful. They even describe thought patterns I have fallen into from time to time in trying to keep up with my doctoral work![3] While we should all exercise healthy discretion to be physically safe, I need to lean more into the plenteous Biblical admonitions to cast fear and anxiety on the one who loves me and will lead me through.

As a Third Wave Charismatic, I know there is an evil one who can influence people. However, the vast majority of people I encounter are not “bad” because of their espoused views but simply different. I always desire to have a healthy dialogue to understand better how the other process their thoughts and feelings and come to their conclusions. Haidt’s previous book, The Righteous Mind, helped me to see most people did not come to their conclusions through painstaking thought, but rather intuition. Often the process of attempting dialogue is uncomfortable, awkward, and perhaps a bit humiliating for me. In an attempt to practice with no stated agenda, I have started an informal “mutual mentoring” with men in my church who are different from me. Each time I come away with how much I need to listen and learn, and how much I need to grow.

[1] Roth, Michael S., “Have parents made their kids too fragile for the rough-and-tumble of life?” The Washington Post (September 7, 2018): Outlook Review

[2] Lukianoff, Greg and Jonathan Haidt, The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting Up a Generation for Failure (New York, NY: Penguin Press, 2018) 263.

[3] Lukianoff and Haidt, The Coddling of the American Mind, 277-278.

About the Author

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Harry Fritzenschaft

Harry is the Coordinator of Coaching for Multiply Vineyard (the church planting resource arm for Vineyard USA) and part-time pastor of business administration for the Vineyard Church of Houston. He is a certified coach with the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and is pursuing a DMin in Leadership and Global Perspective with a focus on internal coaching networks. Harry has been married to Gloria for almost forty-two years and has two grown children; Michelle, who is married to Brandon and has two sons (Caleb and Judah), and Mark, who is engaged to Cannus. He loves making new friends (living and dead) from different perspectives, watching college football with Mark, and helping global ministry leaders (especially church planters and pastors) accomplish their goals in fulfilling their call. He especially loves learning about and nurturing internal coaching networks.

4 responses to “Wisdom is a Biblical Practice”

  1. mm Rev Jacob Bolton says:

    Amazing blog post Harry. Thank you for teaching me something new in every single post!

  2. Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    Jacob,
    You are an amazing leader and pastor. I so appreciate what you are and what you bring to leading your local church and influencing your movement. Thanks for your encouraging words and I always learn from you!

  3. mm Jenn Burnett says:

    Thanks for your post Harry! I appreciate your drawing out the desire for each generation to offer their children better. One of the questions that I have chewed on as a parent, is whether I actually want it better in the form of easier for my own children. While for generations the hope has been a desire to leave a legacy of decreased scarcity and increased security, the current mental health crises in iGen is confirming that there is more to well being. That combined with the dire state of our planet would indicate that I must wish for my children less stuff and less ‘safety’. What I feel compelled towards nurturing is greater simplicity, contentment and a reclamation of the value of relationships. All of these are key things the church might remember how to do. So how might we best engage with iGen in a way that would win their respect sufficiently to share your wisdom? How do we convince them that wisdom is better than disposable stuff and technologically filtered relationships? Harry thank your insights and your legacy.

  4. Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    Jenn,
    As an insightful parent and cultural observer you have stated a succinct picture of “flourishing” for your children and their generation. You ask, “So how might we best engage with iGen in a way that would win their respect sufficiently to share your wisdom?” I wonder if you have not already given us the “roadmap” for how to do this? “What I feel compelled towards nurturing is greater simplicity, contentment and a reclamation of the value of relationships.” Perhaps, it comes down to modeling these values and seriously valuing relationships above all. That is, from where we are let’s put people above performance and output. While it is not simplistic, perhaps it is what in fact we are called to in this day in our culture? I wonder…

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