In case you missed anything, here are our top posts from the last month. We had a great time exploring our personalities (introversion and extroversion), my upcoming transition to the doctoral program at Wheaton College, the nature of heresy, and the relationship between the mind and worship. All in all, it was a good month!
by Matt Mikalatos
Empty streets creep me out. I prefer crowds. I try to get to know my servers at restaurants. I’ll sit by you in the movie theater even if I don’t know you, even if we’re the only two people there. I schedule a half hour for leaving my office, because I like to go around and say goodbye to each person. Most days, my “alone time” is in the bathroom, and if someone wants to stand outside the door and talk to me, I would welcome that.
I’m an extrovert.
Marc recently shared some thoughts about being an introvert, and the dangers of using your personality as an excuse for avoiding things you should do. He asked me to share some similar thoughts about extroverts.
Saint Catherine of Siena was a famous medieval mystic and theologian and is now one of the two patron saints of Italy (along with Francis of Assisi). One of the leading voices calling for the reform of the church in her day, Catherine played a key role in convincing the pope to return the papacy to Rome after nearly seventy years of “captivity” in Avignon.
Catherine died on April 29, 1380. In honor of her life and ministry, this Sunday’s prayer comes from her.
Eternal Trinity, you are a deep sea,
into which the more I enter the more I find,
and the more I find the more I seek.
The soul ever hungers in your abyss, Eternal Trinity,
longing to see you with the light of your light,
and as the deer yearns for the springs of water,
so my soul yearns to see you in truth.
Many people have pointed out the rather obvious fact that clicking a Facebook “like” button doesn’t actually do anything to help people. It’s the social media equivalent of those “honk if you like…” bumper stickers that used to be so popular. Honking communicated solidarity, but little else. Facebook like buttons are the same. Clicking one gives us that satisfying feeling that we’ve supported some worthy cause, but without the hassle of doing anything involving real effort.
Rather than just comment on the problem, though, UNICEF has produced a great little video. The point, of course, is not that we need to stop liking things. We just need to realize that liking isn’t enough.
Of course, this raises the rather awkward question of what you should do if you like this video and want other people to see it. Normally, you would click the like button in the sidebar and pass it along to your friends. But can you really “like” this video? I will, but it does seem rather odd.
- The Socially Acceptable Sin: It’s everywhere in our society and churches, yet almost never talked about.
- The Complementarian Woman: Permitted or Pursued? permit. It is a word women in complementarian settings hear with some frequency, and how our male leaders use it shapes our ability to contribute to church life.
- Isolated in America: I wonder if social isolation — not extremist religion or Chechen roots — explains the two brothers who set off bombs during the Boston Marathon, killing three and wounding more than 170.
- Foster a Culture of Gratitude: Research on gratitude and appreciation demonstrates that when employees feel valued, they have high job satisfaction, are willing to work longer hours, engage in productive relationships with co-workers and supervisors, are motivated to do their best, and work towards achieving the company’s goals.
His hands trembled, but he refused to look down. He wouldn’t give them the satisfaction. Not now. Not ever.
He wasn’t surprised—anyone paying attention for the last several days could see it coming. But it still hurt to hear the judgment of his peers, that awful act of condemnation contained in one fearful, hate-filled word, the word that sealed his fate.
It wouldn’t be official until they all signed the declaration, but he knew it was over. They had made their decision.
His hands trembled again, but now from a bone-deep weariness, an almost debilitating sadness that they couldn’t see any truth beyond the narrow confines of their accepted dogmas. Yes, he saw things differently. But was that so bad? Given the infinite mysteries of the divine being, could there not be room for more than one view?
But no, though he’d hoped in the beginning that it might be so, now he knew better. They would never allow it. They couldn’t see it. Theirs was the only way; all others must be wrong.
So he would be ostracized for being different, thinking differently.
He still refused to look down. He had nothing to be ashamed of. Maybe if he embraced his fate, meeting their condemnation with determination, others would see the truth: not that he was right, but that there can be many truths, or at least many perspectives on the truth. No one should have the power to force God’s people into a single mold. He is too big, too diverse, too creative for that.
If a heretic is someone who thinks differently, creatively, even courageously, then a heretic is what he will be. Proudly.
- Wanted: An Adult Faith in a Youth Culture: I want a church where I know and feel that the adults are in charge, where wisdom trumps enthusiasm, where historical perspective is considered, where depth is valued as much as breadth, where stories have shaped us for generations.
- There Are No Saints Online: Hate is a source of acknowledged pleasure. Hate-watching. Hate-listening. Hate-reading. These are all things that you, your friends, and your neighbors, not monsters, likely do. We deliberately expose ourselves to objects of contempt to stoke inner outrage in order to enjoy the release of fury.
- The innovation of the early American church: Although it is commonplace today for Christians to create organizations that tackle social problems, that approach was an innovation in the American Protestant church, says one of the nation’s top church historians.
- The Place of Blogs in Academic Writing: In this post I attempt to tackle a complex but increasingly important question: Should writers cite blog posts in formal academic writing (i.e. journal articles and books)? Unfortunately, rather than actually tackle this question, I find myself running sporadically around it. At best, I bump into the question a few times, but never come close to pinning down an answer.
I spend a lot of time alone. And I like it. Working on my laptop, reading a book, or just listening to the birds outside my window, I cherish any time I get to myself. As an introvert, I’m wired that way. I enjoy (some) people, but I need my time alone.
I worry, though, about the possibility that embracing how I’m “wired” can become an excuse, a temptation to avoid opportunities/responsibilities simply because I don’t enjoy them or because they’re hard for me. When that happens, my strengths turn into weaknesses and I become my own enemy.
Quite a few recent books have proclaimed the virtues of the introverted life. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Introvert Power, Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength, and The Introvert’s Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World all emphasize the importance of introversion. And Adam McHugh applied many of the same ideas to the Christian life with Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture.
And I think this emphasis on understanding introversion is a good thing. As a society, we tend to force everyone into the same extroverted mold, often failing to appreciate and develop the qualities of the introverted life.
Nonetheless, we need to be careful here. All good things have a corresponding danger, a temptation to press that good thing in unhealthy directions. And the danger of understanding how you’re wired is the temptation to avoid opportunities/responsibilities because “you’re just not wired that way.”
- The Lost Boys Give Back: The Lost Boys of Sudan are a group of thousands of young men from Sudan who fled the violence of their villages and lived in refugee camps for years before they were relocated to the United States, Australia, and other nations. After the cease-fire in 2005, many of them are looking homeward, and using the education and skills they’ve learned to help those who remain in Sudan.
- Heaven Won’t Be Boring: If you lack a passion for heaven, I can almost guarantee it’s because you have a deficient and distorted theology of heaven (or you’re making choices that conflict with heaven’s agenda). An accurate and biblically energized view of heaven will bring a new spiritual passion to your life.
- The Benefits of Church: One of the most striking scientific discoveries about religion in recent years is that going to church weekly is good for you. Religious attendance — at least, religiosity — boosts the immune system and decreases blood pressure. It may add as much as two to three years to your life. The reason for this is not entirely clear.
- The Mystery of Original Sin: We don’t know why God permitted the Fall, but we know all too well the evil and sin that still plague us.