March 25, 2020 at 5:46 pm #5789
I hope you and your family’s are well and safe from this virus.
Benkler’s article raised a couple of thoughts with me. With regards to his first point, I agree the dialogue “will help groups of faith feel respected and understood.” I would add that the groups of faith need to be open to and respect those people of secular groups.
I have also seen the polarization or parties along religious lines. I have difficulty understanding the “groups of faith” joining with a political party that, to me, has no consideration for “the least among us” and pass legislation that targets people because of religion, race, sexual orientation etc., creating an elitist society.
With regards to Benkler’s second point, I see a move in our legislators to push a Christian agenda when not everybody is Christian. Yes, 75% may be religious, but that is not a reason to push this on everyone through the legislative process. I agree that equipping students “with basic understanding of a way of life central to the lives of a majority of Americans” is good, but, for me, that does not mean giving up on one’s way of life. I see it as religious view vs. worldview.
Where I live, there is a push to allow business owners to serve or not serve people on based on sexual orientation. I see this leading also to race, religion etc. This is driven by people of religion, in particular “Christian”. What happened to “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself.”
Groups of faith may feel disrespected and not understood at Harvard, but I believe outside of Harvard, it is vice versa. Again it goes both ways.
Benkler talks about teaching empathy. I wonder if that can be done. I believe everyone has it, but some people stuff it. I believe empathy is, in part, shaped by the experiences we have and how they affect us. Understanding this comes from self-awareness and connected to the self. Unless one faces one’s feelings, emotions, etc., how can walk with another in another’s shoes?
March 27, 2020 at 7:15 am #5795
Good morning Rick, Jennifer, and Mike.
The sun came up again today. My pumpkin seeds are growing nicely.
I didn’t see thread three yesterday so I put my first reflection at the end of thread two. I don’t want to copy and paste it, so if you wouldn’t mind going there to read it I’d appreciate it.
Professor Swinton had some interesting ideas.
Spirituality again is defined as meaning purpose value hope. The soul ish part of Humans that is different form the animals and plants. We are created in the image of God. We are created to be in relationship, to love and be loved, to care for and to listen to one another.
I like what he said about religious people do better in recovery than non religious people. I believe that is because of the hope that is often inherent in having a faith.
I am happier as a person of faith than I was when I didn’t have faith. I see it in the nursing home. Obviously it is an over simplification. Professor Swinton refers to research so there must be something to it. But then he foes into saying that prosilytizing is not good. So here is my soap box. If it is true that people tend to do better if they are religious and I would add spiritual and/or also in community I find it troublesome that I as a care giver can’t offer them something that might help them beyond just listening to them. It is sort of like finding a person who is lost in the woods. I hear about how they came to be lost in the woods. I affirm their story with a good deal of reflective listening. I ask them what options they have considered about finding their way out of the woods, none of which have worked. I know how to get out of the woods, but can’t offer it to them as I don’t want to offend them. Or I can offer a few options to see f they are open to this. If they choose not to accept then that is there right, but to just affirm their lostness seems wrong. I’m not saying I want to ram Jesus at them, but if someone is hurting and searching and doesn’t know about other options, it seems my best healing would be to help them explore their options including my own which I know the best and worksfor some people.
Also, there is the subtle undertone in our chaplaincy that proselytizes the no proselytizing element. I know I may be coming across as angry and maybe I am, but I feel this is probably the only place I can express these things to people who may get it even if you don’t agree with me.
Professor Swinton’s thoughts on pain are also interesting. it is part of the Hospice philosophy that pain reduction opens up people’s hearts and minds to focus on the emotional social and spiritual part of themselves. It all overlaps. But God also uses pain. I think of the Psalms and C.S. Lewis’ thought that God shouts to us in our pain.
I love the idea of chaplain listeners. The Dr. listens to the heart while the chaplain listens the heart of the soul.
March 27, 2020 at 3:21 pm #5798
Hey Michael, Wally, and all,
Michael, I too, wonder if empathy can be taught. Typically, I think it takes a period of crisis or darkness before one can truly experience accurate empathy. I remember in one of John Patton’s books, he argued that forgiveness is a process and not a transaction. That is to say, one must come see how they could or have done the same unkind things to others that they are truly able to forgive.
Wally, I am glad that you feel free to express your honest feelings and questions here. Who am I to judge you and what is right for you. With all humility and understanding, we here probably do have differences of opinion on this subject. To that end, I have searched through hundreds of You Tube videos and published articles that represent varying opinions on our topic and challenge. I don’t agree with all of what is posted in the resources, but I too, am challenged to think and feel through my current position.
One of the places I struggle with helping persons “get saved” or in “accepting Christ as their savior and Lord” as I learned in my own traditional Southern Baptist upbringing was the over emphasis on the experience being a transaction. I experienced too many persons using fear and guilt to get me and others saved. Moreover, today in many Southern Baptist churches, preachers are using these emotions and this transaction approach to get them re-baptised. Much like forgiveness, I think salvation is a transformation process for most folks. We serve as gardeners who plant the seeds of love, faith, hope and grace and water the seeds. God does the saving and transforming.
One of things about Oates seminar discussions that I like is the collaborative learning that takes place in a respectful and safe environment.
Please continue to share your thoughts, questions, as we move toward our close over the weekend.
Rick @ Oates
March 27, 2020 at 9:56 pm #5802
Mike, you remarked on having trouble understanding the way that certain religious folks tend to join a political party whose actions can seem un-Jesus-like. (You said it more tactfully than that). Very often I agree with you, but having some family members who lean that way, on my more generous days, I try to glimpse their perspective. An email from my sister sticks in my mind. She and her family go to a non-denominational megachurch-with-satellite-sites. We don’t talk religion much – we go with what we have in common and gloss over the differences. For some reason just after the 2016 election she sent me and my dad (maybe mom too) and email explaining that she and her husband had voted for our current president because of the likelihood that he fill at least one Supreme Court vacancy, and it was very important to them that the new justice(s) be pro-life. She’s an authentic person, intelligent, raised in the same Presbyterian household I was. I don’t totally understand how she could look past some very unchristian behavior by then-candidate Trump, but at least she explained what was important to her. Taking a wider look at this, I can see some ways in which it would appear to conservative Christians that Republicans are creating an environment that allows certain aspects of Christian belief and life to flourish. For what that’s worth – just my attempt at empathy on that subject. It all goes with the sticky issue of commitment vs. humility from the first article. I believe in making room for many people’s belief systems, but if one has great conviction that Christianity is the best and only way, then they will want to do whatever it takes to elevate that religion. (Though like you, I see a different focus in Jesus’ ministry than these hot-button issues.)
March 27, 2020 at 10:05 pm #5803
Thank you for creating a space for honest questions.
I agree about the importance of spiritual transformation rather than religious transaction. As James put it, faith without works is dead. Does my faith draw me towards the light and my better self or is it an excuse for me to continue to act selfishly.
My life was changed for so much the better by my salvation experience. Unfortunately that is not always the case in my observation. Instead of making people kinder and more loving, it can create a self righteousness.
Mike, I appreciate your points of view. I think empathy is more caught that caught.
political polarization it seems is part of our democratic process. I don’t think people should be allowed to discriminate in their business based on secual orientation. And to clarify, I think gay people should have the right to get married. I just don’t think I have enough theological clarity to perform a gay marriage. As I tell my gay brother in law. I will gladly come to your wedding, I just can’t perform the ceremony. It seems we circle back to the original question. How can we listen to others who don’t share our views and yet be true to our selves. Chaplaincy has certainly helped me in the listening to others who are different form me. It’s being true to myself that is the tricky part. For me listening and loving and accepting others on their journey is very much a part of my Christian faith.
March 27, 2020 at 10:21 pm #5804
Benkler’s article prompted me to think about when and where in my life I was taught to understand other faiths or secular viewpoints. Did I learn any of this in college? In seminary? Both broadened my worldview gradually, but I don’t recall specific teaching about how to take others’ perspectives on religion. It was more getting an overview of the content of different faiths – the youth group visiting other churches, history of religion courses. I agree with Mike and Rick that the most meaningful ways of learning empathy are simply accumulation of life experiences. And CPE 🙂
Yet, for my kids, I do have hope that empathy can be taught. Maybe it’s through intentionally surrounding oneself and one’s kids with people of different backgrounds. And occasionally asking, “I wonder how they feel when…?” I love hearing my kids come home and talk about classmates who come from other cultures, maybe who celebrate Ramadan or don’t celebrate Christmas. They’re only 8, so these conversations aren’t very deep yet. But it feels like there is potential, paired with things like restorative practices and a focus on racial equity in schools.
The article presented a challenge to me – why doesn’t my (extended) family talk about religion/faith much? Our way of being focuses on getting along. We’re a pretty conflict-avoidant bunch. Yet, what richness are we missing by setting aside this part of ourselves? One of my residents complains that her family follows that rule of not discussing politics or religion, but to her those are important, and she doesn’t see why they shouldn’t discuss what’s important!
The Swinton interview was interesting. I’m not sure I agree with him about spirituality not being a real thing, but that’s probably because I have been taught a lot about it as a dimension of human existence! I appreciate his example about how pain detracts from community and connection with God, so relief of pain can be a spiritual practice. And yet, maybe that understanding is too broad to be fully useful. I find that to describe my work, to make spiritual assessments, I need a bigger definition of spirituality than just people’s relationships to God. It does involve how we connect to other people, and how we perceive control or loss of control, and how our values play out in our lives. Yet, there have to be some boundaries to what is spiritual, even if they are a bit fuzzy, to keep me from trying to play social worker or nurse. Maybe I didn’t completely grasp where Swinton was going with this. I did like what he said about our human tendency to turn mystery into puzzles to be solved.
March 28, 2020 at 11:11 pm #5807
Thank you for your attempt to see your families side of things. It is challenging and as I stated earlier, I tend to keep quiet when hot button topics come up. And as far as politics and faith, for me it is usually I like some things on both sides, but what is the key issue. Pro life is often that issue for many conservatives. I agree with you that it didn’t make sense for conservatives and evangelicals to just ignore so many things about President Trump. I couldn’t vote for either candidate in 2016 so I did a write in. As you say about Benkeler encouraging understanding of other’s points of view, my life is richer (and more complicated) because of it. When did it happen for me?CPE helped alot, but even in college in the 80’s I sensed the need to listen. I interviewed the president of the local Gay and Lesbian alliance for a paper. It was a good experience and he gently hit in me at the end of the interview which was a new experience being on the other side of that situation.
In regards to Professor Swinton, defining Spirituality is challenging as everyone interprets it their own way. What have you found that works for you in your spiritual assessment process. I find it hard to get to people’s deeper self in one or two encounters which is sometimes all we get. Also, I wonder if you experience it and how you handle people’s tendency to put chaplains in a religious box filtered through their perspective. A polite greeting, but shields up. “Hello Chaplain” Thanks for coming by. I’m good, pray for me. See you later.”
March 29, 2020 at 1:52 pm #5817
The one that I celebrate is the way each of us have been struggling with or at least, thinking about our assumptions in relation to our faith stances. I teach a graduate course at the local university on Adult and Organizational Learning and the primary emphasis is on the importance of critical thinking. In a recent class, we discussed how important it is to pay attention to our bodies and our spirituality when it comes to the process of critical thinking and feeling. There were many examples shared of how we say we believe certain things but our feelings and actions / connections or lack of connections with others indicate we believe something else. It was extremely valuable for me to go through that process when I was young and in seminary and it continues today. Recently, it has been helpful in conversations where I knew I had a different way of looking at life and theology, to share, “tell me more about that” or “from where does that passionate belief come?” To use a famous Jewish theologian and philosopher’s terminology, in having these kinds of interactions, it is very important to make sure it is an I – thou interaction.
Just a few thoughts from my deck on this sunny afternoon . Hope all are safe and well.
Rick @ Oates
March 29, 2020 at 2:03 pm #5818
Wally, Thank for the insight about Harvard, I did not know that. You said, “The answer for me was often retreating from the great commission and focusing on the great commandments.” My approach is to see the great commandments is a way of carrying out the great commission. I see Jesus winning people not by some sort of indoctrination, but by listening to them, touching them and e tearing into relationship with them. I do this by first being a non-judgmental presence with people. This I believe is letting people know the presence of God without necessarily mentioning God and God will use it show them his relationship with them.
Rohrabacher talks about God’s DNA being in all he creates. Elsewhere in his writings he talks about God saying, “Let there be light.” He says this light is not the same light that is given by the sun. It is the part of God that is in everyone and everything God creates. I see my part in the great commission is to love others and help them discover and explore the inner light within them.
March 29, 2020 at 2:21 pm #5819
There were some typos in my last post – e tearing should be: entering Rohrabacher should be Rohr. I do not know what happened, my device did it on its own.
March 30, 2020 at 1:55 pm #5833
Jennifer, With regards to our children, I think what you are doing with your kids is not necessarily teaching them empathy, but giving them the opportunity to open up and explore what they already have. I believe empathy comes form within. We need ways of getting in touch with it.
I struggled with Swinton’s interview – “interesting” is a good way to put it. I do like his adding “hope” to spirituality. I am not convinced about the pain issue, but if it works for him and others, so be it. My take is to help the person find meaning, purpose and connection in the midst of the pain. Take away the pain, then this is lost. We can cover up the pain, but I believe this does not help the person deal with it spiritually. When I have visited people in pain and listened to them and let them vent. I have found that during my time with them, the pain seems to lessen, which allows them to explore what they are experiencing.
March 30, 2020 at 2:20 pm #5834
Wally, thank you for bringing us back to the question, “How can we listen to others who don’t share our views and yet be true to ourselves”. For me listening does not mean we agree or disagree. We listen. I trust my beliefs enough to allow others to have their beliefs. That does not mean mine are not right. How was it said before, “I’m right and you’re right.” It is not either/or, but both/and. Now if in my listening and dialoguing I find a new way of seeing something and it works for me, that does not mean what I believed before is wrong. I am evolving. For me this is being true to myself to be open and explore and evolve.
March 30, 2020 at 9:14 pm #5835
Wally, you asked in a post on Saturday how I handle spiritual assessment. I tend to simply engage in conversation, and then later use a history/assessment form I adapted to think through what the person has told me is going on in their life. I ask some of the basic things that FICA/FACT get at – who is close to them, whether church/spirituality is part of their life. I listen for what is important to them and engage them in talking about that, whether it’s a health issue or what they did for a living, etc. I read about the Spiritual Distress Assessment Tool a few years ago, and the categories that uses stuck with me – sense of control is one of them, as well as how others respond to their values. There’s language about life balance. I guess in my setting I don’t push too much against those who put their shields up, since pastoral care may not be what they were looking for when they rent an apartment with us. It seems like when I get the opportunity to visit them in the hospital or acknowledge a loss, they appreciate that attention or concern, and sometimes it opens a door. One useful question that I picked up somewhere along the line (for those with some kind of Christian faith) is, “How has God been with you in that?” or “Where is God in this for you?” I don’t know if any of that might be helpful.
Rick, thank you for the suggestion of “Where did/does that passionate belief come from?” That seems like a good question to engage meaning behind people’s positions.
March 31, 2020 at 2:06 pm #5837
And I do mean friends. I am always pleasantly surprised the way folks come together in this virtual space to share struggles, challenges, insights, support, encouragement and inspiration. Since we are all from somewhat different religious and spiritual traditions and have traveled different roads in journey toward wholeness, it seems to me we have experience or demonstrated what it means to balance one’s faith while relating to persons of other faiths or different faith orientations. It has been a rich discussion and I thank you. Now that we have arrived at the end of our third week, I invite you share your closing remarks. In order to complete the course, link on the evaluation link below, complete and return,
During these uncertain and challenging times, we are trying to think of ways to support spiritual care givers other than our regular scheduled seminars. As mention before, we created a special Oates Institute Group on Facebook for persons to debrief, share ideas for self-care and other care, and support each other. Please join us there and share with others who might be interested.
Our June symposium: Trauma Informed Spiritual Care presenters have offered to do some 30 minutes presentations and Q & A. over the next few weeks on topics related to the C virus pandemic either on Facebook Live or Adobe Connect. What do you think about this idea?
We are also reaching out to ACPE and the Chaplaincy Innovation Lab to co-sponsor some of these events.
Certainly, we can tweak our upcoming 3 week collaborative learning seminars. Are there particular topics that you think would be helpful?
Appreciate you all and the work you are or will be doing.
Rick @ Oates
March 31, 2020 at 2:12 pm #5839
March 31, 2020 at 4:39 pm #5843
Thank your Rick for leading us and challenging us on this journey. Thank you all for the open and honest sharing these last three weeks. The time has allowed me to find some solace and stability in the midst of the crisis happening around us, while at the same time evolve in my own belief. I realize there are some beliefs I cling to that when challenged I get a bit territorial and defensive. I hope to be better able to keep this in check so as not to hinder dialogues I have with other people.
Thank you all again. Be healthy and evolve. Peace.
March 31, 2020 at 7:06 pm #5845
Wouldn’t it be great to go and have a root beer float together. This course has beem helpful It was an open honest place for me to process abit of my evangelical born again self with y interfaith self. Both are part of me even though they are a bit oil and vinegar. Listening is always key. Mike I agree that relationship is way better than indoctrination. Being present with people opens doors of the Spirit in ways that my preaching or quoting scripture usually doesn’t. Being motivated by Jesus’love for me that I want to share with others (even in silence) is my reason for being. I don’t do this on my own for myself but for God. That God works in ways beyond my understanding is joyful and a nbit unsettling. 🙂 Jennifer thank you for those assesment insights. People and the Spirit will usually guide us where we need to go. Your questions are insightful and helpful.
Rick THANK YOU for your guidance and all your hard and dilligient work.
March 31, 2020 at 9:09 pm #5846
Thank you all for providing space to reflect on some of these thoughts and feelings that have been swirling around within me recently. Your insights and challenges have been helpful, and I hope to move forward with greater awareness of my own actions as well as the role that faith and belief play in each person’s story.
May you each stay safe and sane in the weeks to come, and may God give you and your communities strength for the challenges of this time. I hope we can all follow Wally’s example in appreciating the simple gifts of each morning!
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