Psychopath? Well, At Least You Can Trust Me More Than My Dad

I listened to the Relevant podcast this morning while driving to Tapestry’s monthly Leadership Team breakfast. During the podcast they talked about a list of of jobs most likely & least likely to attract psychopaths. Here are the two lists.

Most likely:

  1. CEO
  2. Lawyer
  3. Media (Television/Radio)
  4. Salesperson
  5. Surgeon
  6. Journalist
  7. Police officer
  8. Clergy person
  9. Chef
  10. Civil servant

Least likely:

  1. Care aide
  2. Nurse
  3. Therapist
  4. Craftsperson
  5. Beautician/Stylist
  6. Charity worker
  7. Teacher
  8. Creative artist
  9. Doctor
  10. Accountant

The list comes from a book called The Wisdom of Psychopaths (which I haven’t read). This article on the list and book mentions that the “why” behind the attraction probably has something to do with the ability to connect and really empathize with people. That actually surprised me a little at first because I think one of the main attributes of a good minister is the ability to connect and empathize with people. I am sure that my Dad (a salesman at heart) would say the same thing about good salesmen. Of course, I also know clergy and sales people who are able to take an ability to connect with others and use it for their own power motives rather than empathizing with others.

I guess that is why some of the best people I know in the world (people who are giving, creative, sacrificial, passionate, etc) are ministers and some of the worse people I know in the world are also ministers. When those talents are focused on other people it is a wonder to behold and amazing things happen. When those same talents are focused on one’s own motives they are destructive and terrible. I think my dad would say the same thing about sales people.

The good news is that Pam is a therapist at heart and thus on the least likely list. So the boys have at least one good role model. 🙂

Infinite Worth Quote from Bonhoeffer

While working on Sunday’s sermon I ran across the following quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

Christianity preaches the infinite worth of that which is seemingly worthless and the infinite worthlessness of that which is seemingly so valued. What is weak shall become strong through God, and what dies shall live.

I was challenged by it, liked it, and thought I would incorporate it into Sunday’s message. I do however hate attributing things to secondary sources so I thought I would go find the original source and look at the context of the quote. I found it in a collection of Bonhoeffer’s writings from 1928-31. I think the context makes the quote even better. Unfortunately it is rather long to share on a Sunday evening so I am, therefore, posting it here on the blog.

Ethics and religion and church all go in this direction: from the human to God. Christ, however, speaks only and exclusively of the line from God to human beings, not of some human path to God, but only of God’s own path to humans. Hence it is also fundamentally wrong to seek a new morality in Christianity. In actual practice, Christ offered hardly any ethical prescriptions not already attested among his contemporary Jewish rabbis or even in pagan literature. The essence of Christianity is found in its message about the sovereign God to whom alone, above the entire world, all honor is due; it is a message about the eternally other, the God removed from the world who from the primal ground of his being has loving compassion for those who render honor to him alone, the God who traverses the path to human beings in order to find there vessels of that honor precisely where human beings are nothing, where they fall silent, where they give space to God alone.

Here the light of eternity falls upon that which is eternally disregarded, the eternally insignificant, the weak, ignoble, unknown, the least of these, the oppressed and despised: here that light radiates out over the houses of the prostitutes and tax collectors . . . here that light pours out from eternity upon the working, toiling, sinning masses. The message of grace travels over the dull sultriness of the big cities but remains standing before the houses of those who spiritually speaking are satisfied, knowing, and possessing. It pronounces upon the death of people and nations its eternal: I have loved you from eternity; stay with me, and you will live. Christianity preaches the infinite worth of that which is seemingly worthless and the infinite worthlessness of that which is seemingly so valued. What is weak shall become strong through God, and what dies shall live. 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “The Essence of Christianity.” In Barcelona, Berlin, New York: 1928-1931. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2008. pp. 354-55.

Image of Evil

Quarterback Brett Favre holds up his new Minnesota Vikings jersey at a news conference at a practice facility in Minneapolis

For a few years now I have been using this image of Brett Favre whenever I spoke about examples of evil during a message at a Tapestry worship gathering. I am beginning to think it is time to give #4 a break and beginning to acknowledge that there is another great example of evil that I could use during sermons. This new example of evil is the oblivious left lane occupant. ARGH! You left laners drive me nuts.

left lane occupant

Jesus as Threat

Pam  and I have recently begun watching “The Good Wife.” Please don’t spoil anything for us because we are only in the second season right now. One of the things that I have found most interesting about the series thus far is how the concept of faith has been dealt with in the show. A couple of the main characters (bouncing off the title I would refer to them as “the bad husband” and “the do the wrong thing daughter”) have had close encounters with Christian faith and the response of the family around them has seemed to be to view the possibility of these discovers of faith as a threat to their political ambitions and way of life. This might change in future episodes, like I said Pam and I are only in the second season right now. All I know is that I love this portrayal of faith as a danger to the present power. I believe it is honest.

Real faith in Christ is a threat to one’s present way of life. Jesus has a manner of coming into a person’s life and turning everything around. He especially likes to play around with the power dynamics of a culture that a believer lives in. That whole “first shall be last” and “when [you are] weak, then  [you are] strong” thing goes against the way a society typically functions. If it is really lived out it has a tendency to really mess with people and society.

The Romans understood this about early Christians. Jesus was killed by the Romans because he was viewed as a threat to the peace of the Empire. He was handed over by the religious leadership of His culture because he was viewed as a threat to their power and possibly sparking trouble with Roman. Jesus and His kingdom were a threat to the powers of the culture of the day because Jesus’ kingdom would change everything from priorities to practice. Powers don’t like that kind of change.

Power has a tendency to deal with threats of that kind of change by trying to annihilate the threat. After all, those of us who are followers of Christ know that Jesus gave His life for sinners like me to have a relationship with God, but the Empire of the day thought they were sacrificing Him to maintain their power. From their view the only appropriate response to the threat of Christ was to get rid of Him. Caiaphas, the high priest, saw the threat Jesus’s new kingdom represented and said “it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” It made sense to them because they needed to protect the powers of that time, which they thought brought stability, from the obvious threat of instability that Jesus brought with Him.

After Jesus death and resurrection His followers continued to be a pain in the side of the powers of the day. Thus the persecution of the early church.  Early Christians were killed over a theological debate but the debate wasn’t was

Some of the Anabaptist leaders that I admire the most viewed suffering and persecution as a mark of the actual church of Christ. As the Anabaptists learned from personal experience the powers of a society don’t respond nicely to people that they view as threats to their power and way of life.

If Jesus would only morph into everyone’s personal agenda then everything would be nice and cozy. He wouldn’t be a threat then. He would just be a god who wanted us to be better citizens and work within the powers of the society to make everyone nicer. He wouldn’t be pushing His own kingdom where everything that the powers value is flipped on its head.

Of course, the real Jesus doesn’t fit into other people’s agendas. He has His own agenda and that is summarized in His kingdom where the last are first and weakness equals strength. Jesus is the type of God where even those who eventually will become some of His closest followers initially respond to the threat that He is by saying “go away from me, Lord.” You don’t say that to a god who isn’t a threat to your agenda for a nice life, but you might say that to the God Who is a threat to it.

I guess that is why I like the portrayal I have been seeing on “The Good Wife.” These characters see the possibility of another character  that they love encountering Jesus as messing everything up and playing around with the present power dynamics. I think they have it right because that’s is exactly what Jesus does.

For me the question comes back to whether Jesus is changing the priorities and values or my life and how I live within my culture. Is He messing with my life by changing my values into the values of His kingdom. Is He doing it in your life? Is Jesus a threat to the status quo of us and our society?

SIDE NOTE – If you are wondering about the above photo it is from “Threat Level Midnight.”

Source of Hope – Moltmann quote

“But the ultimate reason for our hope is not to be found at all in what we want, wish for and wait for; the ultimate reason is that we are wanted and wished for and waited for.  What is it that awaits us?  Does anything await us at all, or are we alone?  Whenever we base our hope on trust in the divine mystery, we feel deep down in our hearts: there is someone who is waiting for you, who is hoping for you, who believes in you.  We are waited for as the prodigal son in the parable is waited for by his father.  We are accepted and received, as a mother takes her children into her arms and comforts them.  God is our last hope because we are God’s first love.  We are God’s dream for his world and his image on the earth he loves.  God is waiting for his human beings to become truly human.  That is why in us, too, there is a longing to be true human beings.  God is waiting for human human beings; that is why he suffers from all the inhumanities which we commit personally and politically.  God is waiting for his image, his echo, his response in us.  That is why he is still patient with us and endures the expanse of ruins in our history of violence and suffering.  God isn’t silent.  God isn’t dead.  God is waiting.  To be able to wait is the strongest strength.  God is patient with us and puts up with us.  God gives us time and gives us future.”

–Jürgen Moltmann, The Source of Life, 40-41

Loving What You Do

I am at Emy J’s right now (as is common) and just finished a 30 minute conversation with an individual that I haven’t seen in at least a year and a half that blew me away. His name is Travis and he was the college recruiter that connected Adam, Pam and my oldest son, to Northland college. I believe Adam would say that Travis was one of the main reasons he eventually went to Northland (Adam has since transferred to UW – Eau Claire because Adam changed his major and Northland did not offer that major). When we initially met with Travis, Adam and I both felt a connection with him. He was passionate about his school and helping young students to find the best educational match for them. His passion for Northland was infectious.

What was so impressive with this conversation I just had with him was that Travis saw me first and said “Hi Robert.” He remembered me even though we I had not seen him in quite some time and even then only met with him a few times. Yet he still remembered my and Adam’s names. He not only remembered our names but also remembered many specific details of our lives. He asked specific questions concerning how things were going with Adam and even remembered that I pastor a church. He remembered all this even though he meets tons of people all day long. Either he is stalking Adam and me or he has an excellent memory. 🙂 I was so impressed by his memory that I told him so. He responded by saying it wasn’t that difficult because he really loved this part of his job. He said connecting with students and parents was the part of the job that he got the most out of and it enabled him to make it through the parts of the job that he didn’t connect with as well. In my opinion you tend to do well in jobs that you love.

Travis’s love for his job reminds me of one of my favorite movie quotes ever. It comes from the movie “Charlie & the Chocolate Factory” (a movie that I don’t really care for other than this quote). Charlie discusses the idea of selling his golden ticket for money for the family. Grandpa George responds by saying:

There’s plenty of money out there. They print more every day. But this ticket— There are only five of them in the whole world, and that’s all there’s ever going to be. Only a dummy would give this up for something as common as money. Are you a dummy?

Sometimes you have to work at a job you hate just for survival. When you do that it is admirable and praiseworthy. You are doing what is necessary for the survival of your family. That is a sacrificial action and I can’t say enough about how much I respect such actions. On the other hand, when you don’t have to work at a job you hate for survival and you are doing something just for the money that is a different story. I’ve known people who worked jobs that continually tore them down just because they made a lot of money at that job. It was horrific to watch. They always print more money but finding a job you actually love, well that is rare. You’d be a dummy to give up a job you love for something as common as money. Are you dummy?

I am so glad that Pam & I love our jobs. I hope and pray for the same for our kids. I am pretty sure we haven’t raised dummies.