Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Clergy Ethics Well Explained

Psyche and Spirit is one of the best resources I know for the stuff they didn't cover in seminary, things they told you that you couldn't hear, or maybe just didn't want to hear at the time. In a recent post, the email journal listed characteristics of the most ethical pastors:
  1. Respecting confidentiality
  2. Keeping good boundaries
  3. Following sound protocols based on best practices
  4. Not violating best practices even when tempted to do so
  5. Encouraging best practices in others
  6. Respect for others' feelings
  7. Restraint from speaking ill of others
  8. Honest and clear about how congregational resources of time and money are used
The authors go on by saying this about the most ethical pastors, " They don't put personal purchases on the church tab. They don't act as if the ends justify the means. They don't misuse continuing education time. They don't lead by manipulation or intimidation. They don't hijack meetings for their own ends."

Do you know of any organizations lifting up pastors or congregations for being particularly ethical? If you know of any, please let them know at Psyche and Spirit. " And consider how you might personally lift up others for their high ethical standards."

Thanks to Psyche and Spirit for their on-going and helpful ministry to clergy and the congregations we serve!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Feel Good Religion

If the taste of good mood food can be addictive, what about good mood faith? If we fill our spirits with anything and everything that makes us feel good, won't that lead us to do good things? Whatever we fill our minds with all day long is the real measure of our spiritual well being: for as we think, so are we. (Proverbs 23:7)

To push the argument a little further, who really goes to church to feel worse? Is the goal of the Christian spiritual life to be more miserable? What about the watermark of Christ- the "fruit of the Spirit," such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? It doesn't matter whether you consider these as the result of communion with the Holy Trinity, or as the by-products of your spiritual practice.

Feel good religion has been apart of the human condition for a long, long time. And part of the creed of atheism is that such ideas are wish-dreams and positive posts from ourselves to ourselves. We're endlessly creative in feeling better about ourselves. This explains the popularity of big box Christianity. I need only to adjust my thinking, or believe in Jesus, or both. Then we GIT what God has in the store for us. Others call it the prosperity gospel, because the real mark of the better life promised is upward mobility.

We come back to the argument-- who wants to feel worse? Why would anyone choose a faith that would leave them worse off? The difficulty becomes in assessing the value of feel good religion. That is, if this becomes our drug of choice, then what are the dangers- what are the caution signs?
  1. It's a problem when it subverts the work of self- examination, self- acceptance, and self-awareness
  2. It's a problem when it causes me to just "change the channel" on others' pain and need
  3. It's a problem if I use it just to puff up the ego and image-driven (false) self
  4. It's a problem if it prevents deepening my communion with God, and sharing community with others
With anything we digest either physically or spiritually, when my feeling good becomes the most important thing, we end up bending our lives to that purpose. In the journey we become less, not more, free.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

"Limitless" & Big Pharm Culture

Limitless will keep your attention. Its ending is more humorous than disastrous, though the movie does have violence on the way there. This is a pharmacological science fiction, and you won't be seeing any prime time ads for its drug of choice.

If taking a pill would turn your life around, help you avoid being thrown out on the street, and you were told that it was soon to be FDA approved, would you give it a try? Maybe not if it was a drug-pushing former brother-in-law who offered it to you. But down and out writer Eddie Morra, played by Bradley Cooper, is desperate enough to give the pill a try.

The miracle drug allows Morra to use 100% of his brain power - including all his memory. Soon he can speak in a variety of languages, masters the martial arts, and completes amazing novels in a matter of days. He becomes bored with all this and decides to apply his new brain power to the field of financial mergers. He outwits the best of Wall Street to the point that people begin to wonder about the origin of his mental prowess.

The symptoms of withdrawal? Prowling the streets, sleep deprivation, no short term memory. He learns that skipping a meal disables him. And there is no possibility of ever stopping the little clear pill entirely and surviving. An off the wall allusion to the "Twilight" saga is there too.

Limitless works because we live in the age of big pharm, which gives us a solution to everything. The movie, however, exposes our culture's strange relationship to drugs. What really makes one drug legal and the other illegal? Addictions don't know the difference between the two.

Politicians, sometimes playing the law and order card, call a "war" on certain drugs while others are marketed by big money ad nauseum. The commercials are there to convince us of our need to self-medicate. Like the magic phrase "ask your doctor" in the infernal drug ads, Limitless seems to offer no real answers, except maybe that anything can be very dangerous if it ends up in us.

Oldies but Goodies