Church is our Classroom: Part III Faith Lutheran Church

April 19, 2009
Faith Lutheran Church, Cambridge, MA

After Easter Sunday we were looking for a smaller, more intimate, but still very feelgood/positive environment [I've heard a lot about some stern services and really am working my way into that]. The point here is that they’ve all got different methods of creating a viable meme, so how do we look into the details and figure out what they’ve got right? How do we design something based on these inherent attractions people have to certain rational or emotional responses? They have already studied this for 5,000 years, with the advantage of only the most basic scientific method [trial and error] and have come up with some very useful rules of thumb, however implicit.

Science has the potential to lift our spirits as well; as Carl Sagan said:

“In some respects, science has far surpassed religion in delivering awe. How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, “This is better than we thought! The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant. God must be even greater than we dreamed”? Instead they say, “No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way.” A religion old or new, that stressed the magnificence of the universe as revealed by modern science, might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths.”

I need to keep this boranj because we are going to our next church visit in 8 hours and I must sleep, so let’s get across the main important new thoughts: first of all - it is an underrated misconception that religion utilizes the arts for affect - rather, religion is the use of the arts to open people emotionally to ideas that are socially and personally beneficial. There is a very concerted effort on the part of the program to ebb and flow, to bring people to a certain emotional state of oneness with the universe, which is then coupled to ‘positive’ actions: give some money to the basket, shake the hand of the neighbor next to you, etc. - These actions confer positive benefit, and function as some extension of tribal boundaries where 30 people was your clan. This is evolution of the state of tribal interactions, looking to increase the size of those tribes, but it is only a first attempt, by no means is it functional or perfect.

The program seems key for this behavior. Prelude, bells, welcome, brief order of confession, opening hymn, greeting and prayer of the day, hymn of praise - these are the first elements of the program. There seems to be an oscillation of more emotional content with more rational/thought-provoking content. The artistic experiences, usually singing, are key to bring people into a certain emotionally receptive state for those other behaviors. Also, the meme of any religion must make people think that they are spreading a positive message. This is key.

The themes in these sessions hit home. I would say that about 95% of what is said is said in a way totally applicable for any human, regardless of their belief system. This sermon focused on the freedom of information [a sure Dan segment!], and dealing with change. There is extensive use of the Bible to function as archetypal reference; to bring up a story, then make it explicit by applying it to the current state of affairs, to help us make sense [or feel we've made sense] of an ultra-complex world. This is the function of archetypes anyway, and it plays beautifully here. Thinking about Jesus it is clear that he functions as a tool for the loss of one’s self - as Newberg has spoken about meditation, it can be extreme focus on something else as well as just focus on nothing specifically - and it seems this is happening here. By experiencing his loss [and subsequent rebirth etc] it is shown that we may get over our fears of the same situation.

Science can clearly utilize the arts to embed its ideas into the most palatable format; to make it beautiful, to make it easily understood, to make it emotional to allow people to connect.

‘Peace be with you’ is one of the most important parts of the ceremony - after emotional priming, everyone is asked to introduce themselves to all their neighbors. This functions as getting people to meet people at their most open and vulnerable, which leads to positive interactions [mostly] and openness. It is the spreading mechanism of the meme.

The offering [taking communion] allows every single person to have a completely singular and personal experience in the gigantic group church. It is a very powerful experience and a parallel will need to be drawn to it.

I kept having the feeling that the way the service should end is with a bunch of big bouncy beach balls, with the crowd keeping them up together… collaboration, and physical at that, while music would play.

Photos from the program with some notes:

It seems very clear that the strategy needs to be to infiltrate as many of these places as possible, all over the world; to get people studying the process.. to get as many scientists to go to church, a massive anthropological expedition; one of the most important.

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2 Responses to “Church is our Classroom: Part III Faith Lutheran Church”

  1. Alita says:

    i can’t agree even more…science do starts with religion no matter what believer you are. even our Holy Quran said “Learn from the one that is older than you and the best teacher that you can learn from is earth, go figure and you will know why things are made just how they are and we are connected with it in every way”…

    Even from beginning of time…we are curious about almost everything and curious is the key for all the achievement that people have achieve and will achieve. Curious can be good and bad but least we know something from our curiousity and thanks to God for putting this curiousity feelings in our hearts and heads and built the entire universe with so much awesomeness and let us loose to explore and enjoy every bit of the discovery.

    just like ‘peace be with you’ during the introduction, we muslim will say Assalamualaikum to other muslim and they will answer back Waalaikumsalam [peace be with you too]… even they are a total stranger, we have to answers them to show respect, the openness, and the positive interactions. [in science i don't know what law do you guys call it..but with a simple starts communication and communication leads to science and science leads to experiment..and the rest is history that you can watch in discovery or national geographic...]

    And yes..scientists should take a step back and relax and get an inspiration from the creator Himself…:p


  2. Ben Dalton says:

    “I kept having the feeling that the way the service should end is with a bunch of big bouncy beach balls, with the crowd keeping them up together… collaboration, and physical at that, while music would play.”

    I went to a great Slava Polunin clown show a few years back that he ended with a floodlight pointed out from the stage into the audience, and a giant balloon bounced around the crowd. It was a great finale.

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