cupid08I love it.  Tonight’s permiere was just as good as the 1998 series.  It’s like a romantic show based on mythology and psychology.  Like, it’s made for me.  Now everybody watch Cupid so it will last more than half a season.

Seriously, watch.

And that love advice from Captain Kirk?  “Go Boldly.”  And in this case it was to Ireland to find your deported singer songwriter boyfriend, so that works for me.

I promised one more so here it is; I’ve been stewing on it for a while now.

You know how during the coverage they’d cut away to do special interest pieces sometimes about the biography of the athletes sometimes about Beijing?  Well one that I saw was an piece about the reason the athletes do what they do.  They interviewed all sorts of people and to a man they all said they do it for themselves.  That it’s not for the country or the glory or their parents or anything else.  They spend so much time and effort on training and competing and sacrificing only because they want to.

A couple of things that struck me… First their level of achievement was separate from the accolades that they stood to achieve.  And second they were not trying to prove anything.

So I was trying to come up with the things in my life that I approach with this attitude and the things that I don’t.  What have I really worked on to get better at?  Two things I think psychology and theatre.  Both things I really love.  One that I had to work on but mostly comes naturally and one that I still have to work really hard at to make even the barest improvement.

But the issue is that I have approached my psychology career and well most of my academic career with let’s say that anti-Olympic attitude.  I spent all my time trying to prove myself, to my family, to my teachers, to people that I just met.  Prove that I’m smart and special and worthy.  And it was always about accolades and achievements; what’s the next thing you can get?  When I say it, it makes sense why I’d be dissatisfied right?

So I guess what I need to do is decide if I can or I want to change my attitude about it.  To do it just for me.  I still don’t know.

There was recently an article in Slate magazine about franchising churches. It’s caused a lot of controversy over the wisdom of having figurehead pastors and huge churches. I’ve been reading stuff from mega church pastors and attenders as well as some people who have problems with any sort of “formalized, in a building, with paid staff” kind of church. It really makes me think. And when I do comment I usually do some defending of formalized structure provided by denominations (like offering national connection, providing things like health insurance to pastors and legal counsel to congregations) and medium size congregations (offering diversity of relationships as well as opportunities for small groups with like interests.) Anybody want to take a guess about what type of church I attend?

But here’s what I think it comes down to… the how is not nearly as important as the what. I think there’s much more consensus on what a healthy church should be achieving (members who display the fruits of the spirit, sacrificial giving, authentic worship) than the specifics on how it gets there. Because frankly there are a million ways and you know if somebody had it down perfect, heck I’d be there, but imperfect people form imperfect churches. So what to do? How do we get better?

Do you know how they train dolphins to do all those cool flips and stuff? It’s a conditioning technique called “shaping” or “reward for successive approximation.” The dolphin would not just do a flip all on it’s own one day you have to teach it how. So the first day the goal is to get the dolphin to touch its nose to the end of a stick. The trainer has a ton of treats and whenever the dolphin comes over the trainer puts out the stick and gives the dolphin a treat (probably some slimy fish eww.) Dolphin now thinks stick=treat… we are on the right track here. So now the dolphin swims over and the trainer touches the stick to the dolphin’s nose, he get a treat… great pretty soon he’ll be touching stick on his own (got to have that slimy fish.) Goal one down. But the next day the trainer mixes it up a bit and has the stick out of the water so the dolphin has to raise up a little to get the treat. And no more rewarding for touches in the water. Slowly the trainer will add harder elements of the behavior (like actually flipping) and remove excess things (like the stick) until they have the desired result. Now different trainers might have different techniques, some use a red stick some use blue, some use sardines, others use guppies. But what do they have in common? Patience and evaluation.

It takes a long time and many tries to get what you really want, sometimes you fall short. And evaluation, the trainer has to look at what the dolphin did and say treat or no treat, close enough or way off. Are we moving toward our goal (the “what”) or not? I think we miss that piece in churches too often. We look and look for the perfect “how” and neglect the “what.”

I was recently on a young adult retreat and the leader wanted us to discuss while we were all there and captive, whether we wanted to start meeting in our small group every week instead of just every other week. We had opinions on both sides and kept going back and forth each making valid points. Until someone said “why don’t we just try it for a few months, and if it doesn’t work we can always go back.” Eureka. Try something new and make an evaluation. Are we moving toward our goal or not?

One big but… for this to work you have to be willing to change, to go back and to move forward. There’s no way around that fact. No matter who fights you on it. Bold chances and honest evaluation have to become part of the ethos of all ministry. We have to be willing to be shaped.

Think before you lie

July 22, 2008

Recently a former presidential candidate from Columbia and three US contractors were rescued from their rebel captors after being held for over five years. (Here’s one of the first articles to cover the story.) Now besides the fact that these people were still alive after all these years there are some highlights that make this a particularly cool story. First, though the US provided equipment and intelligence, the rescue mission was carried out entirely by the Columbian military, a group that’s been plagued by political corruption (so I’d say that’s a step in the right direction.) Also the rescue team took acting classes (I mean how great is that.) (They used a rebel informant to trick the guards by saying they were here to move the prisoners on orders of some other leader.) And finally though everyone was armed with machine guns strapped to their backs, no shots were fired, no one was hurt, it was completely peaceful. When I first heard about the story I thought “wow, that would make a great movie.” But there may be a high cost for that peaceful mission.

Photographs of the Colombian military intelligence-led team that spearheaded the rescue, shown to CNN by a confidential military source, show one man wearing a bib with the Red Cross symbol. The military source said the three photos were taken moments before the mission took off to persuade the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia rebels to release the hostages to a supposed international aid group for transport to another rebel area.

Such a use of the Red Cross emblem could constitute a “war crime” under the Geneva Conventions and international humanitarian law and could endanger humanitarian workers in the future, according to international legal expert Mark Ellis, executive director of the International Bar Association.

So next time the Red Cross wants to send aid worker or monitors to check on prisoners’ conditions, or news outlets send journalists (the mission was documented on film by rescuers claiming to be journalists) those rebels will think twice. And somebody’s life is going to be in danger.

I think it had to just be a mistake in thinking out the outcome. One step too far. They obviously convinced them that they were fellow rebel soldiers; I wish they had left it at that. Sometimes circumstances require a deception, like when you’re rescuing people, or conducting a social psychology experiment. In psychology you have to justify any lies that you tell your subjects and show how you can’t do your experiment in any other way.

Why? Because lies mess with people’s attitudes and perception of others, they are powerful. I just had some money stolen from me on an online purchase. It makes me rethink whether I want to use that system again. Even though I know that hundreds of thousands of trouble free transactions go on on the site and this is only my first problem, I am still disconcerted. The bad egg messed with my psyche. Because he lied to me, I’m taking it out on all the other good sellers out there.

So lying is mainly a bad idea (doesn’t the bible say something about that?) but if you do it just be sure to think through all of the consequences.