I just read this incredibly moving reflection in the Washington Post from John Fountain, actually written back in 2005: “No Place for Me” .
In it he reflects upon why he, a black man raised in and inspired by religious community through all his younger years, no longer feels the church relevant and meaningful in his life. The loss he feels is palpable. And I wonder what his reflections today would be.
There are many aspects to this that could be explored. What’s most relevant for what I am reflecting about right now is the indictment of the church that it’s core mistake has been to turn inward, concerned mostly with the perpetuation of itself, reflective of materialistic values rather than spiritual, serving the needs of the people already in the pews rather than facing outward to the needs of the community surrounding it.
Every congregation needs to take this charge seriously. Every denomination needs to take this charge seriously. Read more
It has long been assumed that when you give people greater reward for better performance, then their performance increases even more, benefiting everyone. But according to a study conducted at Indiana University it turns out that there are hidden biases in meritocratic systems. In this study, participants who were told to give bonuses to better performers gave $46 dollars more to men, than to equally well-performing women! In contrast, systems which emphasized across the board fairness gave bonuses with relative equity.
Participants in the study were 400 MBA students with substantial career experience. Women participating in the study were just as likely to give men higher bonuses as men were. The researchers theorize that when an organization upholds merit as the highest value, people tasked with making these decisions relax their vigilance about conscious or subconscious bias, because they believe they are making these decisions on “objective” criteria. Read more
There has been quite a stir recently around the work of Jonathan Haidt, the social psychologist who recently published The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion. Bill Moyers conducted an extensive interview with him in which he explains his theories more in depth.
Essentially he is saying that a basic part of our psychological makeup includes a need to “sacralize” or to attach moral weight to ideas we deem important, and that most often that act of sacralization gets reinforced by our own social enclave. In other words, what we believe gets elevated to the status of sacred, especially when we hear it repeated within our own communities. And the other natural psychological inclination is to then demonize those that do not agree with our views. Read more
I heard a fascinating piece on NPR this morning about people’s predilection for overlooking facts in political discourse when it interferes with party loyalty. For example, more Republicans right now believe that President Obama has a lot of power in influencing gas prices, and he just isn’t doing it, while Democrats believe he doesn’t have much power at all. But in 2004, more Democrats believed that George W. Bush had more power that he wasn’t exercising and Republicans defended him by saying he didn’t have much power at all.
The actual facts (if there is such a term these days) show that Presidents don’t really have a lot of ability to influence gas prices short of draconian kinds of policies. But the point of this is that loyalty trumps facts regardless of your political persuasion. (Kind of a caution to the sometimes smug assumption of liberalism that the left is more likely to attend to facts.) Read more