What a Conversation Between Kermit & Fozzie Shows About Self Identity

In 1979, The Muppet Movie was being filmed. It is the only film that I know of with a product placement of both a Studebaker and pistachio ice cream.

The genius of Jim Henson Productions cannot be contained in one post, but the first two minutes of this video between Kermit and Fozzie is another example of their brilliance.

This is recording of a sound and camera check for the film and so the dialogue is improvised. Rather than going through the standard "check" or "Sibilance" there is an existential conversation about self identification.

Fozzie takes the position that he is able to self identify as a bear. Kermit plainly points out that in fact Fozzie is not a bear. He is made of foam rubber and fake fur. He does not hibernate. He is not a real life bear. Now you and I know this, but this comes as a huge shock to Fozzie who then, in a turn of tit-for-tat, informs Kermit that he has a wire attached to his arm. 

As silly as this conversation is, it is an example of how Christians think of ourselves. 

Christians in America tend to think of Christianity as an identity that we can claim all on our own. We are like Fozzie who thinks he is a bear because he says he is a bear. I am a Christian because I say that I am Christian. We live in a place where self-identification as Christian goes unchallenged. There are few Kermit-type people saying, "You cannot say you are a Christian and condemn people like you do." Or "You cannot say you are Christian and do not practice the spiritual disciplines that Jesus taught." 

Christianity is a religion that is practiced by the individual but confirmed by a community. It is like saying you can study medicine all you want but unless people agree to be treated by you, you are not a doctor. We are not Christians unless the community (and as a Methodist I affirm the community to be Bible, tradition, reason and collective experience ) confirms that your actions reflect what the community understands a Christian to be. 

We all know this in the extreme. When someone says they are Christian then murders and steals and lies and cheats, the community agrees that the person in question is not Christian - no matter how they self identify. It is the actions of the person that defines who they are, not their words.

This idea requires more space and time to unpack everything, but this is not a thesis paper. This is a blog post designed to kickstart a conversation. 

So let the conversation begin!

Source: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-pf6qyC_wo7A/Tj4d...

Cleanliness is next to Godliness? Science Suggests Maybe Not

Many religious rituals involve a washing or a bathing. This washing/bathing symbolically connects the physical cleanliness with a spiritual/moral purity. Washing is a powerful symbol for a number of reasons and Christianity uses this symbol in baptism, in telling the story of Jesus' last supper and even at his trial. When I was working for the Catholic Church I would help the priest symbolically wash his hands before celebrating communion and even as a minister today, I put hand sanitizer on my hands prior to communion. 

While the Church has long understood the validity of the sacrament does not depend upon the moral character of the minister (which is why I will not re-baptize you) we still hold onto the connection between physical and moral purity. 

Dr. Thalma Lobel writes in her Sensation: The New Science of Physical Intelligence about a study about bathing and honesty. Here is the set up:

People were given a test and when the time was up, the answer sheet was given to each person to "check their answers". The people were to use the answer sheet to mark on their own pages the number of incorrect answers they gave. They found that some people used the answer sheet and changed some of their original answers and gave themselves a better score.

Some in the group were asked to take a shower prior to the test and others were not. The assumption was that those who took the shower before the test would be physically clean and thus influenced to be morally clean when it came test time. However the study showed that those who were more likely to lie or cheat were those who took a shower prior to the test.

The reason? The researchers suggest that those who took the bath "felt clean" (both physically and morally) and thus felt they had a little more "room to get dirty". 

Clergy are constantly in a position of being physically clean. We go into hospitals and must wash a our hands. We perform rituals that require a physical washing as a part of the ritual. We are expected to have clean clothes and look "professional' and "put together", and if not then we question the if the man who looks disheveled is a very good clergy person. Clergy expectation/stereotypes involve descriptors like being "squeaky clean", using "clean" never "foul" language", and avoiding the "dirty side" of life (such as smoking and drinking and rated R movies that deal with the macabre). Could these expectations of clean clergy ironically, contribute to clergy feeling more like we have room to "get a little dirty"? 

Maybe this is in part why Jesus was not in favor of his disciples washing their hands before eating?

Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, ‘Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?’
— Mark 7:1-5
Source: http://izquotes.com/quote/313414

Catholics then Muslims. Now Psychology. Methodist next? Body Posture and Spirituality

There is research out there that shows if we stand up and take up as much space as possible (by stretching our arms and legs and reaching out as far as possible) we can affect our confidence. Amy Cuddy shares several examples of this in her TED Talk. 

Body posture is something that is often overlooked in my Mainline Protestant tradition. Most people in my UMC experience are not ones that raise hands in song or genuflex when we walk into our seats. The extent of body posture is the standard head down and eyes closed when it comes time to pray. 

I wonder if it is true taking a "big posture" makes us feel more confident, then do we need to re-consider body posture when it comes to religious/spiritual practices? Is it counter-productive to have a verbal prayer of humility and confession while we are standing tall and big? Conversely, if we want to convey the Good News that you are a person of great worth and value to God, should we be kneeling and taking a "small posture"? 

There is a time to feel big and a time to feel small. There is a time to be embolden to be human and a time to be bowled over by the transcendence of the Great Mystery. Can the UMC religious tradition embrace what other religious traditions know and psychology is discovering, that there is a strong connection between our bodies and our mind and our spirits? 

Source: http://www.limitlessyouworldwide.com/wp-co...