Thursday, June 23, 2011

Remaking the Heartland, by Robert Wuthnow | The Christian Century

Robert Wuthnow, a preeminent sociologist of religion, has written a new book about our region of the country. But this reviewer says he writes surprisingly little of the Christian church's influence on the culture. Odd.

Remaking the Heartland, by Robert Wuthnow | The Christian Century

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

What's So Bad About Excellence?

I had another conversation with my professional mentor last week, and she said something about me and my good friend, K, as we finished the conversation:

... "it's because you (both) over-function."

Now, if you have been part of my training in psychotherapy, you would know that over-functioning is not a great thing. It's not even a good thing. It implies that I regularly do more in my relationships than is necessary or even helpful. I felt the power of her comment today in a session with a couple in which I was working hard, being helpful, resourceful, and empathetic all at once. I was working, but I was working very hard.

But here's the rub: what's the difference between doing more than necessary and striving for excellence? Because that's what I see myself doing. Pursuing professional and personal excellence. My clients count on me to bring a centered self into their time with me, a professional who has done her homework, reflected on their lives with them in session and on my own time, and who is prepared for their questions.

If I don't bring my best efforts to my sessions, isn't that the same as me under-performing? In the context of the primary models of family therapy, doing too much in the room doesn't allow the space or energy for the client to lead their own therapy.  I want my clients to lead their own work. I just find, however, that that is only possible when I model what that means in the context of self reflection and critical thinking.

I know one thing for sure: I don't want to be an under-functioner just to show how flexible I can be. Like most things in the therapy room, I will be looking for the sweet spot of the middle way, doing my best and then, helping my clients succeed, to get out of their way and walk beside them. 

Monday, June 13, 2011

Asking Permission

One of the most irksome things I've heard people say in conversation lately is this little quip: "After all, it's easier to ask forgiveness than permission."

What this says to me is that most people are so convinced of the entrenchment of power in their various workplaces, families and organizations that they would rather move ahead on their own initiative, knowing they will have to repent and grovel for a moment or two when confronted instead of go through the rigamarole and nonsense of trying to get something done the expected or defined way.

I love initiative. I really (REALLY) hate power plays. But just doing something, knowing you will have to apologize later for it, smacks of manipulation to me. It's much more honest to try to accomplish things by the accepted process, get stopped in one's tracks, and then decide to act anyway, knowing the consequences, than to act anyway without announcing your intention.

Those whose behavior constantly calls for (planned) apologies are as much to blame for sucky organizational systems as those who hold their power and won't bend or think outside their boxes. You're in the dance together when you play these games. You're just in different corners of the same dance floor.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Does Handwriting Matter Anymore?

As someone who collects and uses fountain pens every day, I really value the importance of handwriting and what it does for and with our daily lives. According to this study, even with all the digital tools we now have, no one is about to stop writing by hand any time soon.

Will handwriting survive in the digital era? Learn the provocative results of a new study | The Hot Word | Hot & Trending Words Daily Blog at Dictionary.com

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Post Rapture: Why We're Still Here

           Did you find yourself just a little distracted Saturday night, May 21st around 6:00pm? If you were, you weren’t alone. It was hard to ignore the latest, confident predictions by fundamentalist Christian preacher and Family Radio Network owner Harold Camping about the end of the world. Never mind that he had predicted the same “rapture” of the few faithful, the destruction of the world and the suffering of millions left behind before. And had been wrong, of course.
His predictions, sent around the world via radio, newspaper articles, billboards, internet posts and video links gave him a platform of influence like never before. People persuaded of his insight are said to have sold homes, cashed in pensions, quit jobs and left incredulous families behind to publically warn their neighbors, just like Old Testament prophets of old. The date came and went. But Camping didn’t miss a beat, saying he hadn’t had all the data he needed, the real day for the rapture, he now says, is this October 21st.
Camping isn’t the only source declaring dates of doom recently. Others are focused on the end of a major cycle for the Mayan calendar in 2012, convinced that the ancient civilization had some special insight into space and time. NASA, that great brain trust of space exploration, measurement and science, has been talking about an increase in solar flares next year, and has thousands of people sending in on-line questions, wondering what might happen to everything from communication satellites to the magnetic poles of the earth.
While all the anxiety about the end of the world is as old as developed human cultures, the current anticipation reminds me of several different waves of religious people waiting for the end. I think of some early Christians who sold their belongings and waited on the hills of Rome, believing Jesus literally would return “soon.” A wave of hysteria flew around Europe at the turn of the first millennia, thousands filling cathedrals in fear as the year 999 turned into 1,000 AD. And in the periods of religious revivals from 1800 into the early 20th century known as the 2nd and 3rd Great Awakenings, ignorant, charismatic preachers had hundreds and thousands expecting the rapture at multiple turns of the calendar.
All this religious energy around the judgment of God, the return of Christ, and the mention of a special “rapture” of the faithful in the New Testament is centered in three primary religious perspectives, not shared by most American Christians.
1.     The Bible as Code. In this perspective, only specially gifted preachers can figure out the messages of the Bible. Instead of the Bible as a library of ancient documents written to a culture and people that takes some education, care and patience to understand, the Bible is treated like a codebook for an elite few.
2.     Human beings as Good or Bad. Instead of seeing individual human beings as both good and bad, capable of great imagination as well as petty selfishness, this perspective puts people in one of two camps: in/good; or out/bad.
3.     God as Angry Judge. It takes a certain theology to believe that God has given up on the world, that God is no longer actively holding the world together, and interested in humanity’s future. This theology believes it knows the mind of God, and that God is finished with the world and not only is finished, but is ready to act in violent judgment.

The next time you hear someone telling you they know exactly what the end of days will look like, have compassion on them. They operate with some pretty extreme beliefs about the God and world, convictions that makes living their lives pretty hard. Chances are, that fact alone makes them anxious for God to put an end to everything they know and have them begin anew in paradise. For them, it seems like the only real way out. And that is a sad way to live, don’t you think?