The psychology of forming, keeping, and sometimes changing our beliefs

Laura Truax:

And now, a post for those of us always wondering why the others just don’t get it…

Originally posted on You Are Not So Smart:

The Topic: Belief

The Guests: Will Storr, Margaret Maitland, and Jim Alcock

The Episode:DownloadiTunesStitcherRSSSoundcloud

Pizza Hut Pyramids

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Put your right hand on your head. Unless you are near a mirror, you can no longer see your hand, but you know where it is, right? You know what position it is in. You know how far away it is from most of the other things around you. I’m using the word “know,” but that’s just for convenience, because you don’t actually know those things. That is, you can’t be 100 percent certain your hand is on your head. You assume it is, and that’s as good as it…

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Standing with our brothers

Tamir Rice

Like many of you I’ve been watching the unfolding news these last few weeks and even months with a growing pit in my stomach. The racial divide was deepening. It was becoming increasingly apparent to me that certain sections of people are treated differently by our systems.

The very public deaths of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and now Eric Garner, have intensified my feelings that our public safety systems are compromised and are not only not working, but in some ways, are becoming instruments of increased militarization, systemic racism, and sanctioned violence that stand against the very values and citizenship I hold dear.

I can’t explain my feelings any better than what Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore said in a recent statement:

“I’m stunned speechless by this news. We hear a lot about the rule of law—and rightly so. But a government that can choke a man to death on video for selling cigarettes is not a government living up to a biblical definition of justice or any recognizable definition of justice. We may not agree in this country on every particular case and situation, but it’s high time we start listening to our African American brothers and sisters in this country when they tell us they are experiencing a problem.

For those of us in Christ, we need to recognize that when one part of the Body of Christ hurts, the whole Body of Christ hurts. It’s time for us in Christian churches to not just talk about the gospel but live out the gospel by tearing down these dividing walls not only by learning and listening to one another but also by standing up and speaking out for one another.”

Yes. Exactly.

While Michael Brown’s death was complicated to me with conflicting testimony and ambiguous actions, I am still sickened that an officer’s only perceived recourse was to shoot a suspect dead. And while others remind me that 12-year-old Tamir Rice was indeed “brandishing” his fake gun, I am still shocked that a video of the incident reveals not even a second delay to asking the boy to “drop it” before he is shot dead. And truly I have nothing but tears as I watch Eric Garner suffocate, placed in a choke hold for reasons that completely elude me.

We are better than this. Our police departments, our justice system, our moral compass is better than this. For all of our sakes it must be better than this.

There is a movement among faith leaders in Chicago to invite their congregations to stand alongside a hurting body and a hurting country by leaving their houses of worship THIS SUNDAY, December 7 and walking together in solidarity with those who are suffering. The leadership of LaSalle Street Church  – our staff, Elder Board and others –  invite you all to join us.

As many who desire will sing our last hymn and then exit onto LaSalle Street. We will walk peacefully, intentionally and prayerfully south to Ontario Street where we will turn around and return to the church.

We will speak the psalms of lament and sing the songs of praise. We will talk and listen. We will simply walk.  We ask everybody who is interested to join us,  No coercion or pressure.

What do we plan on accomplishing? We are showing those who live in fear that we stand with them. We are showing those in power that we are paying attention to this. And we are reminding ourselves that we are one body in Christ. All of us. We stand together.

Join us. 12:15, December 7, 2014, 1136 N. LaSalle, Chicago, IL. 

Faith is good…but gratitude goes one step further

It’s that time of year. Gratitude. Thankfulness. It becomes the sermon staple.  Mine included.

Yesterday I preached the great story Luke tells about Jesus encountering 10 lepers who are subsequently healed. (Luke 17:11-19) Talk about being at the right place at the right time. If only all of us were so lucky.

Jesus is heading to Jerusalem when 10 guys “in faith” ask to be healed. To which Jesus responds, “Go and show yourselves to the priest” They all leave to do just that, finding enroute that their skin is as good as new. Which is when one of them turns back to say thanks. We don’t know if he ever makes it to the priest. And it doesn’t really matter, because by expressing his gratitude, the leper is made more than healthy, he is made “whole”, complete. The Greek word is soro. (vs. 19)

Ten had their skin cleaned, but only one had his entire body altered…and it happened not because he had more “faith” but because he had gratitude. It seems faith is good, but there is something beyond faith: thankfulness.

“The gratitude effect” is the language Harvard researcher, Francesca Gino, coined for the improved productivity and good will that happens among teams when thankfulness is present. The New York Times devoted the front pages of their magazine to the question, “Is giving the secret to getting ahead?” Which makes me a little queasy since it turns gratitude into another tool for our own self-interest. Surely Jesus was commenting on something else than our own instincts and ambitions…wasn’t he?

I think it’s this: when I have a need I tend to focus on that need. A lot. I look for people who can help me solve my need. Perhaps God, perhaps someone else. And I’m happy when they help me because my need is satisfied. I can then move on to getting my next need fixed. But to stop and be grateful. To pause and reflect on them, their role, what it was about them that allowed them to assist me forces me to remove my gaze upon myself. Gratitude is not thinking about our need at all anymore — it’s fixed on the other. 

This season I want to reclaim the power of thanksgiving. Not only to God – but to those around me. Those who open the door for me, and those who serve me, and those who have corrected me and those who have advised me and a great array of others. I want to release thanksgiving regularly. Repeatedly. Without any guise of self-interest. I want it to so permeate my life that I’m not just looking good on the outside, but whole. Through and through.

How about you? Let’s not just have faith. Let’s be thankful.

Is it fear? Or is it faith?


For several hours today, the Israeli government completely shut down some of the sites held as most sacred by the Islamic faith. It was the first such closure since 1967, and it was in reaction to the shooting and wounding of Yehuda Glick, a man who many have considered one of the most extreme among Zionist activists. The man suspected of the shooting was quickly killed by Israeli police.

Today has been a bad day for religion.

When a faith-based government closes off access to a place of worship for those of another faith, it brings all of our worst images of religion to the fore: Religion is the cause of war. Religion is an instrument of oppression. Religion is violent. Perhaps we have even felt this way ourselves. When we see faith manipulated for political purposes so often, it’s hard not to be cynical.
But the thing is, the faith that so often makes the headlines is not really faith. When people are moved to control one another, that’s not faith; that’s fear. When people need to get in your face with their beliefs, that’s not faith; that’s fear. Fear is that little voice in the back of your mind that keeps whispering to you about being weak, about how important it is to be in control, to win. Faith doesn’t need to win. Faith doesn’t need to prove anything. God doesn’t need to prove anything.

God doesn’t need to be legislated into existence or defended with military might.

Today has been a bad day for religion. But for God it’s just another day of loving us despite ourselves.

Fear. And what to do about it.


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Some reactions to receiving $500 from LaSalle Street Church. I am fearful that I won’t be able to contribute any ‘good’ ideas…I’m afraid of the responsibility of it… I am afraid of taking risks…I’m afraid that I won’t be able to … Continue reading