A World without Grace? This is What It Would Look Like

What would it look like if the world ran without any grace given to others? It would fit into a pure model of social exchange, where everyone, in every interaction, tries to get the most from others for what they have to give.

Certainly social exchange happens in day-to-day life, as Jeremy Rhodes posted about earlier this week.  But there’s also a lot of grace–unmerited favor–given to others, and for that I’m deeply thankful.

Would you like insight into what a pure social exchange world would look like?  Consider the following exchange posted on a Craig’s List discussion board.


A woman posts:

What am I doing wrong?

Okay, I’m tired of beating around the bush. I’m a beautiful (spectacularly beautiful) 25 year old girl. I’m articulate and classy. I’m not from New York . I’m looking to get married to a guy who makes at least half a million a year. I know how that sounds, but keep in mind that a million a year is middle class in New York City, so I don’t think I’m overreaching at all.

Are there any guys who make 500K or more on this board? Any wives? Could you send me some tips? I dated a business man who makes average around 200 – 250. But that’s where I seem to hit a roadblock. 250,000 won’t get me to central park west. I know a woman in my yoga class who was married to an investment banker and lives in Tribeca, and she’s not as pretty as I am, nor is she a great genius. So what is she doing right? How do I get to her level?

Here are my questions specifically: [Read more…]

Want to Fight the Man? Reform is Hard Work

In his recent column responding to the You Tube hit video, “Why I Hate Religion, but Love Jesus,” New York Times Columnist David Brooks sent a clear message to many would-be reformers: if you desire reform, you are better off joining a movement tied to a tradition.

Tradition is hardly a word we hear anymore. When it is evoked, it is often used negatively. Many people distrust institutions that symbolize traditions, such as the government and religion. The free market–which can be considered a tradition in that it refers to a set of  principles on which our economy is based– has also come under fire. Change Washington, Occupy Wall Street, and give me Jesus without the church may be catchy phrases, but Brooks’s column leads us to ask: with what will you replace those traditions?

Although many critiques of government, markets, and religion may be right on, Brooks poses a challenge, which I paraphrase as: If you don’t like the tradition you see, look around for another tradition to which you would give authority. If you try to reform what you don’t like without knowing much about alternatives, you probably won’t persuade anyone to join you.

Brooks writes: [Read more…]

Valentine’s Day and Social Exchange Theory

By Jeremy Rhodes

If you watched the commercials during the Super Bowl a couple of weeks ago, you may have seen this commercial.  If you don’t want to watch it, here’s a synopsis:  A beautiful woman is getting ready to go out, presumably for a night on the town.  As she finishes, she looks at the camera and says, “guys, Valentine’s Day is not that complicated.  Give, and you shall receive.”  Cut to a bouquet of flowers.YouTube Preview Image

Really? [Read more…]

If rescue dogs are the only legitimate dogs today, are rescue humans next?

Apparently we now own a rescue dog, a term I was entirely unfamiliar with a mere 5-10 years ago. The Regnerus family was not, so far as I knew, in the market for a dog, although cute canines calculatingly kenneled in front of PetSmart, Petco, or some other such big box brand never failed to attract my children’s attention on the way to the grocery store. And that is how we eventually wound up with a dog, my first since a nine-year stint with a beloved dachshund that ended in 1989, when he was put down. He needed expensive back surgery (to walk), and well, people just didn’t do that for dogs back then like they seem to today.

Be that as it may, I find myself mulling over this rescue dog phenomenon. It seems to be a cultural badge of honor for the owner (or master, or whatever we’re called today—but please, not “mommy” or “daddy”). Dogs acquired the old-fashioned way, by a breeder, have become passé, somehow inferior. In 1980, my parents acquired Cinnamon, the family dachshund, for 50 bucks from a breeder in rural Sumner, Iowa. It seemed like a good deal at the time, and certainly in hindsight. Perhaps AKC-registered dogs are much more expensive today—I don’t know. But our rescue dog, a mostly lab, part hound mix, cost more than that just to acquire her from a rescue organization planted in front of PetSmart. I realize Austin is weird, and that we’re supposed to keep it that way, but the legitimacy issue here is striking [Read more…]

Just How Overweight are Americans?

Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church, has made it his mission to help his congregation to lose weight using something he’s termed the Daniel Plan.  From an article about the plan: “Warren, 58, says that with the plan, “we were trying to get people to eat healthier, fresher and more natural foods. The line we use is: ‘If it grows on a plant, it’s healthy. If it’s made in a plant, don’t eat it.’ My rule is no snacks, no sweets, no seconds.”

To demonstrate just how many Americans need to lose weight, here’s a powerful chart that illustrates how many people in different countries have a body mass index of over 30. Based on this, we can only hope that more pastors follow Warren’s lead in this…