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Rainbows and shrimp keeping us humble

Radiolab

recently had an episode that explored

colors

.

One of the things that was covered in the episode was that the human eye has three cones which can pick up the colors that you and I see. Radiolab used the metaphor of a rainbow. You and I look at a rainbow and see the light break into that ROYGBIV combination.

Can you see the difference between eggshell and off white?

This shrimp can.

However, there are other animals which see different colors when looking at a rainbow. Some animals see few colors while other animals see more. When you listen to the episode you will learn of Mantis Shrimp that can see a huge array of color that humans could only dream of seeing.

That is right, compared to this shrimp, we are dramatically color blind.

It is humbling to know that there are other creatures out there that can see more than I can see. It reminds me that there are other people that can see what I cannot see. It reminds me that I am color blind on a good number of things.

Something to keep in mind as learn to live together.

Christians can never worship in isolation

Thinking a bit more about worship lately and came into a conversation with someone who shared that she disagreed with my definition of worship. For her, worship is not limited to a corporate experience and that she can worship by herself in the beauty of nature.

I stated that while that I beautiful I would not call that Christian worship. Devotion? Sure. Worship, no.

Worship is never done in isolation. It is not something that is a part of the Christian experience. Even Jesus worshiped in the community and never alone.

What became apparent to me in my conversation with this woman I respect was that for many people "corporate" or "community" means having people around. So when going into a closet and shutting the door means one is not in a corporate setting - that person is alone.

Here is the kicker, in Christian thought we trust we are not alone. We have the Advocate (Holy Spirit) we are surrounded by the "great cloud of witnesses" we are in communion with God in Christ.

Every time we are alone and we are in a worshipful spirit, we are never alone. Our worship is a constant celebration with a community that is fully present. Christian worship is never done in isolation.

With that in mind, there are times in our lives when we are truly alone. When we are abandoned by all, but these times are not worshipful. Abandonment is something that Peter Rollins takes on full force in his book Insurrection - which I hope to post about soon.

The brain as a home for the communion of saints?

RadioLabs got me thinking again.  It tends to do that as it is rather amazing radio show.

You are faced with allowing 5 people to be run over by a train.  You can save these 5 people if you pull a lever and redirect the train, however in pulling the lever the train will kill one person standing on the new track.

Most people, according to the RadioLabs sources, say they would pull the lever.

However, if you modify this thought experiment to say that instead of pulling the lever to save 5 people your only option to save these five people would be to push one person in front of the train.  When faced with this option, very few people would push the one person.

We are generally okay with pulling a lever and killing one person in order to save five people, but we are generally not okay with pushing a person and killing a person in order to save five people.

Why is this?  It is still murder of one person just the means are slightly different.  What is going on?

The suggestion that was put forward was that our brains, through evolution, have come to have different voices vying for our attention and action.  So part of our brain wins and part of our brain looses each choice we make.  So the deep parts of the brain win out over the more advanced logical parts of the brain when we choose to not push the one to save the five.

This deep part of our brain, this emotional and raw part of our brain, is sometimes dubbed the lizard or reptilian or the monkey brain.  What if, however, this part of our brain is the collective wisdom of the past.  This part of our brain is the collective wisdom of the people who have come before us and with each choice.  You have the part of your brain that is informed by the past and does not understand the current society very well, but it has a deep wisdom that we ought to heed.  At the same time we have other parts of our brain that are "newer" and do not have the wisdom of the past but can rapidly understand the present culture.

If we dispose of the idea that one part of the brain is "higher order" than others, then we have this idea that our brain may be the house for which the communion of saints (the past humans) dwell.  We have a part of the brain that is connected, through the process of evolution, to the past.  We have a way to access the deep and rich history of the ages if we only were willing to listen to it more often.

Is the UMC set up to suffer from social loafing?

The UMC is a connectional Church which means a number of things.  So clergy are appointed by bishops and not hired by local congregations, each local church pays apportionments which fund global ministries, clergy benefits are grouped together in order to get a "group rate" and many other points of connection.  In many ways you might say the UMC is one big group working on the same mission.  Each church is a local 'franchise' of the larger Church so even if one local church closes the larger Church is not at huge risk of collapse.  Unlike say the Crystal Cathedral which when it closed so did that entire Church.

I love the connection of the UMC, it is in part why I am a UMC minister.  In light of a recent book, You are Not so Smart (of which I hope to blog about for a few posts in the coming days) has made me wonder if the thing that makes the UMC strong and global is in fact the very thing that is leading to the recent rise of the church freaking out about "metrics".

Some would say the rise of concern of counting the butts, baptisms and bucks is connected to the trend of a dying denomination.  Perhaps.  Some would say the rise of counting metrics is in response to a world that is driven by numbers and economics more than generations before. Perhaps.  Some might argue that we might not even care about these metrics if the church was blowin' and goin' and able to meet budgets across the board.  Perhaps.

I wonder if the metrics buzz is a result of the connectionalism.

In You are not so Smart, there is a chapter titled, "Social Loafing" in which argues that we have a misconception about group work.  That is we believe that when we are joined by others in a task, we work harder and become more accomplished, however in reality, once we are a part of a group, we tend put in less effort because we know our work will be pooled with others'.

Could it be the fact that the UMC has pooled our efforts together for so long that we who sit in the pews believe we do not have to work as hard or give as much because it will be pooled together and either be diluted or 'covered by' other people who are giving and working.

This overall thought that our individual slacking or lackluster work has then become the catalyst for a church in demise.  We all think someone else is going to cover the bill or pay the apportionments, but in reality no one is.

So our Church goes into decline.

We loose money and staff and members and then we have a negative feedback loop.

In a time when 1 in 4 Millennials do not associate with any religious tradition, if members of the UMC want the Church to survive then we ought to be aware that our social loafing is no longer going to cut it.