Emotions in Church

I would like to pose some questions about emotions in church. What should be the emotions expressed from the pew? From the pulpit? How might the church’s emotion-rules hurt it’s people and hinder its mission?

Here are my thoughts:

In most churches there are clearly defined implicit rules about which few emotions are appropriate to express.

For the church goer, the modal expression should be polite interest, and the face should show either a neutral expression or, even better, a smile. It’s okay to sometimes laugh or look troubled when prompted to from the person leading the service. Attending a church service in the U.S. often proves to be a cognitively-rich but emotionally-passive experience, and I wonder if these services would hold more appeal, and have a greater impact, if the congregation was more emotionally involved in the service. Black churches, with typically more active participation from the pew in all parts of the service, seem to get this more right than white churches.

For the pastor, the rules of emotion are even more strict. Before and after the service itself, when greeting people or talking with them, pastors are limited to [Read more...]

A Social Network Map of the New Testament

It’s either really cool or social statistics run amok (or both), but here is a social network map of the relationships in the New Testament. It’s done by the folks at the English Standard Version Bible.

Obviously the New Testament is not a sociometric survey, so what we learn here is the Bible’s description of relationships. So, for all we know Luke and Titus were drinking buddies. Still, it’s a useful description of this aspect of the New Testament.
I was surprised by Peter’s circle being bigger and more central than Paul’s–speaks to Peter’s role in early church leadership.

(Click for larger size)

Christianity Worldwide, then (1910) and now (map)

Okay, this maybe the coolest map I’ve seen of the spread of Christianity worldwide.  From the Pew Center, it compares the distribution of Christianity today versus a century ago, and it does with a spatial-weighted map.  While the percentage of the world’s population that is Christian has dropped a bit (35% to 32%), the big change is in where Christians live.  In the map, the larger the country, the more Christians live in it.  Look what’s happened to Africa and Asia-Pacific.  This sea-change in the nature of Christianity has many, many implications that we have and will experience for some time to come.

Love your enemies. Sit next to them.

I saw this bit of news last week and, of course, didn’t like it too much. KLM, the airline, is discussing plans for passengers to be enabled to select their seatmates, rather than let randomness prevail. I never thought about that possibility, although clearly entrepreneurial souls out there think about such things all the time. While I get it, I don’t think it’s a good idea. But it’ll definitely happen, and it’ll likely spread to other airlines soon. Why? Because people are homophilous; that is, they tend to prefer associating and bonding with others who are similar to them. The inclination to associate with others like you is deeply rooted. It doesn’t make you a bad person. It’s not inherently wrong. It’s simply human. But the urge shouldn’t always be obeyed, of course. (Like lots of urges…).

It does make me wonder what sort of person I’d select to sit next to me. (Answer: quiet, studious type.) On the other hand, who would select to sit next to us? That part is, after all, outside of your control. (My luck: “Wow, a sociology professor—do I have some questions for him!) What I suspect it’ll lead to—instead of selecting a seat based on whether it’s an aisle or window—is obsessive rechecking of your seat selection to make sure those around you are the sort of people you’d prefer to be with for a few hours. Just like our obsessive rechecking of all sorts of electronic communications. And then, capitalizing on that impulse, advertisements will be easy to sell, since “page looks” on the seat-assignment website will soar. Imagine it: even though you may not care who you sit by, your seatmate may have thoroughly studied you and come expecting you to communicate with them in ways they expect. Who knows what they’ll know about you already? (This whole social networking thing may be starting to turn sour.)

Back to the basic idea about homophily. There are people in my wider social network [Read more...]

Finding Christmas Culture in Asia and Asian America

In Texas, Christmas time is tamales time. The grocery stores have this festive and somewhat addictive (ok it’s just me) Latino dish which I learned is a celebratory dish from multiple Latin cultures.

While it has nothing to do with Christmas, it is often seen as a traditional Christmas dish for many Mexican American households. It got me thinking about whether there are any Asian American Christian contributions to Christmas. When I think about it, I only remember eating traditional Korean foods on Christmas, maybe with some baked ham or another “American” dish to mix things up. And in my popular media recollection, there’s the hilarious depiction in the classic bit from A Christmas Story of the white Indiana family that winds up at a Chinese restaurant due to a number of stressful preceding events – watch it, it’s a good one (as long as such movies don’t actually stress you out). [Read more...]


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