Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Some time ago I ran across this behavioral experiment on Richard Beck’s blog. It is fascinating because it speaks to my main curiosity – the pathology of human “evil.”
In 1973, John Darley and Daniel Batson published one of the most famous papers looking into human behavior. The study was entitled: “From Jerusalem to Jericho: A study of situational and dispositional variables in helping behavior.” The “Jerusalem to Jericho” paper is of interest to me because the study centered on a modern-day recreation of the parable of the Good Samaritan. Here's a sketch of what they did:
The study involved seminarians preparing for ministry. The students were randomly split into two groups. The first group was asked to prepare a sermon on the parable of the Good Samaritan, and the second group prepared a sermon that had nothing to do with helping others. The students were then scheduled to deliver this sermon at a given time and place. When they arrived at the place, they were told that the location had been changed at the last minute and that they were to go to a new location. At this point, the students were split into three groups. A third were put under strong time pressure, told that they needed to get to the new venue in a hurry. A third was put under moderate time pressure. And finally, the third group was told that they could take their time getting to the new venue. Along the route (an alleyway) to the next venue they had placed a person who showed signs of distress. Specifically, they were sitting slumped against the wall, head down and eyes closed. As the subject passed, the person would cough twice and groan. Basically, they showed signs of abdominal pain. As the students passed the key variable was recorded: Would they stop to check on the groaning person?
What a great study! A controlled simulation of Jesus' parable. Even the use of seminarians is a nice touch, echoing the priest and Levite in the story. Well, who stopped to help? There were three main predictions that were being tested:
1: Almost everyone will stop. These are all seminarians! They are good people, bound for the ministry. Most will stop.
2: Those who were thinking about the parable of the Good Samaritan will stop. Half of the seminarians had a sermon about the Good Samaritan in their heads. Those thinking about Jesus' parable would be more likely to recognize the situation.
3: Those who were less hurried will stop. Those who have the time, help. Those who don't have the time, don't.
So, what is your guess as to the outcome? It was 3. The single biggest factor in helping was hurry. The relevant contrast is striking. No hurry: 63% offered aid. High hurry: 10% offered aid. Some seminarians in a hurry literally stepped over the groaning person on the way to deliver their sermon on the Good Samaritan!
So, here are some observations about this study:
First, virtue is contextual. We are a different kind of person when we are hurried versus when we are unhurried. There is no “real” you. There is “hurried you” and “unhurried you.” And, as your family, friends, and coworkers can attest, hurried you and unhurried you are really two very different people.
Second, the Jerusalem to Jericho study makes this observation: Most people pursue spirituality as a hobby. Life with God is a leisure activity that compliments our cozy suburban lives. It’s compartmentalized along with baseball, football, PTA, and work. Why do I say this? Because hobbies and leisure activities are what we pursue when we have “free” time on our hands. But when we have “stuff to do,” we tend to place our hobbies to the side. They are not allowed to interfere with our urgent agenda. If so, then the Jerusalem to Jericho study suggests that helping others, for many, is a hobby. It's something to do on weekends, when you have some spare time, rather than a central and urgent feature of your life.
Third, hurry is a form of evil, if evil is defined as lack of empathy for other human beings. Hurry turns us into self-interested, callous jerks. Love sometimes involves slowness.
Monday, July 28, 2008
Here is a story out of Australia I thought I'd share. I really love the magistrate's quote at the end.
SYDNEY (Reuters) - An Australian man convicted of his seventh drunk-driving charge was spending about $1,000 ($972 U.S.) a week on beer - enough to buy more than 2,500 small bottles a month, a newspaper said Tuesday. The heartbroken construction worker began drowning his sorrows after breaking up with his partner five years ago, the Northern Territory News said, quoting his defense lawyer as telling a court in Australia's remote, tropical north. The magistrate declined to jail the father of four, Michael Leary, noting he had quit drinking since his latest arrest, but he banned Leary from buying or even holding a beer for 12 months. The magistrate also poked fun at Leary's favorite beer, Melbourne Bitter, in a part of the country where drinkers can be as loyal to beer brands as they are to football teams. ''That is poor judgment on two counts there - drinking that much, and drinking Melbourne Bitter,'' magistrate Vince Luppino was quoted as saying.
Friday, July 25, 2008
I was listening to the radio yesterday, and some guy called in with this gem: "We Christians aint like the Muslims. They believe that the Koran can change. Christians don't do that. Jesus said, 'If anyone adds or takes away from the book,' they'll be punished! Now some people think that the snake didn't really talk. That's takin away from the book, and God will punish them cause they aint real Christians!"
Okay, let's go:
1. "Muslims" are divided into 2 hostile sects: Sunnis and Shi'ites. The Sunnis believe that God's revelation in the Koran was fixed at the time of Mohammed's death. Shi'ites believe that subsequent prophets received equally as authoritative revelation.
2. "Christians don't do that." HELLO?? The NEW TESTAMENT claims to be a subsequent and more authoritative revelation than the OLD TESTAMENT. The early Jewish Christians were the Shi'ites of first century Judaism!!
3. The warning in Revelation 22:18-19 about "adding" or "taking way" from "this book" applies ONLY to the book of Revelation.
4. Christians have a number of different INTERPRETATIONS about scripture. One interpretation is not more right because it's more literal, and being literal DOES NOT equal more respectful. As far as I know it's only fundamentalist, conservative, evangelicals who take all of the Old Testament literally. Many Christians and virtually all Jews understand much of the OT (the 6 days of creation, Adam and Eve, the flood, Jonah, etc) to be myth - a parable to make a point.
Fellow Christians, please THINK before calling in to national radio shows!
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Is it just me, or is Honda's new ad campaign the most annoying thing on T.V.? This "Mr. Opportunity" cartoon character seriously makes me feel ill. Wouldn't you love to wipe that smarmy smirk off this guy's face? I'll never buy a Honda if they think this little of their customers.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
From Eugene Peterson:
"The churches of Revelation show us that churches are not Victorian parlors where everything is always picked up and ready for guests. They are messy family rooms. Entering a person’s house unexpectedly, we are sometimes met with a barrage of apologies. St. John does not apologize. Things are out of order, to be sure, but that is what happens to churches that are lived in. They are not show rooms. They are living rooms, and if the persons living in them are sinners, there are going to be clothes scattered about, handprints on the woodwork, and mud on the carpet. For as long as Jesus insists on calling sinners and not the righteous to repentance – and there is no indication as yet that he has changed his policy in that regard – churches are going to be an embarrassment to the fastidious and an affront to the upright."
Friday, July 18, 2008
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Monday, July 14, 2008
Happy Bastille Day Froggies! On July 14th 1789 French peasants stormed the Bastille, setting off the French Revolution. Since the French Revolution was largely caused by their aiding the American colonies in our war against Britain, I feel we Americans ought to tip our hats to our French brethren every July 14. So, let the Tricolour fly, let there be an abundance of cheese and wine, and jour de Bastille Heureux! (Happy Bastille Day)
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
** DISCLAIMER **
I love America. I have loved her for as long as I can remember. It has been hard leaving home and going through the interminable process of becoming an American. America has faults, and I'm quick to point those out, but I am more in love with the IDEA of America and all she can be than I ever have been. DO NOT confuse my need for critical thought and my loathing of politicians with a disdain for America!
As this political season really heats up, you will often hear allegations that certain people or parties or positions are “unpatriotic,” or “un-American.” You will no doubt hear about how we are sliding into the morass of godlessness, and evidence of this secular slide comes in the form of court decisions – like the decision from a few years back ruling it a violation of our constitution for a public school to require their students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, or that the phrase, “under God” should be removed. Does that make you angry? Why? From 1892 to 1954 the words “under God” were not even part of the Pledge.
The pledge was written in 1892 by the socialist Francis Bellamy. He devised it on the occasion of the nation's first celebration of Columbus Day. It’s wording omitted reference not only to God but also, interestingly, to the “United States.” It said, "I pledge allegiance to my flag and the republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” The key words for Bellamy were "indivisible," which recalled the Civil War and the triumph of the Union over states' rights, and "liberty and justice for all," which was supposed to strike a balance between equality and individual freedom. By the 1920s, reciting the pledge had become a ritual in many public schools. The campaign to add "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance was part of the flood of religiosity of the early 1950’s. It's unclear precisely where the idea originated, but one driving force was the Catholic fraternal society the Knights of Columbus. In April 1953, Rep. Louis Rabaut formally proposed the alteration of the pledge in a bill he introduced to Congress. The “under God” movement didn't take off, however, until the next year, when it was endorsed by George M. Docherty, the minister of the Presbyterian Church in Washington that Eisenhower attended. In February 1954, Docherty gave a sermon - with the president in the pew before him - arguing that apart from "the United States of America," the pledge "could be the pledge of any country." He added, "I could hear little Moscovites repeat a similar pledge to their hammer-and-sickle flag with equal solemnity." Perhaps forgetting that "liberty and justice for all" was not the norm in Moscow, Docherty urged the inclusion of "under God" in the pledge to denote what he felt was special about the United States. The ensuing congressional speeches offered more proof that the point of the bill was to promote religion. The legislative intent of the 1954 act stated that the hope was to "acknowledge the dependence of our people and our government upon the Creator,” and to “deny the atheistic and materialistic concept of communism." In signing the bill on June 14, 1954, Flag Day, Eisenhower delighted in the fact that from then on, "millions of our schoolchildren will daily proclaim in every city and town the dedication of our nation and our people to the Almighty."
This had not always been the case, however. In 1943 Chief Justice Robert Jackson wrote the following when the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional to force school children to recite the Pledge: “Compulsory unification of opinion achieves only the unanimity of the graveyard. There is no mysticism in the American concept of the State or of the nature or origin of its authority. We set up government by consent of the governed, and the Bill of Rights denies those in power any legal opportunity to coerce that consent. If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.”
And, one more thing. Should Christians pledge allegiance to any flag or government or nation anyway? Jesus said, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's." Caesar (any government) may have your money, but only God is entitled to your allegiance and full devotion. The Jehovah's Witnesses may be right on this one. Your thoughts?
Monday, July 07, 2008
One of the most popular blogs worldwide is called Postsecret. All they do is post anonymous confessions that people write on one side of a postcard and mail in. This is hardcore heartbreaking stuff. This one really grabbed me by the hear!
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
In the spirit of making fun of our government, all elected officials, and especially the State Department, I offer this video from The Onion. Enjoy.
Nation Of Andorra Not In Africa, Shocked U.S. State Dept. Reports
Nation Of Andorra Not In Africa, Shocked U.S. State Dept. Reports