Dear College Families,
Thank you for helping us have a highly supportive start to the school year. We love being back together in community.
The summer holiday was an opportunity for me to read a highly respected Australian Journalist’s book that defends Christianity.
Within the author observes: ‘Most people believe in God because they have experienced God.’ If God is good for us, then it’s reasonable to assume that the more we experience God, the more good we can do.
I came across the book in the general section of my local bookstore. It’s called: ‘God is Good for You’; a defense of Christianity in troubled times’.
The author (Greg Sheridan) is a national journalist, from a conservative Catholic upbringing. Interestingly, in his opinion, schools are not the most important factor in sustaining religious belief in young people. The family is the most important factor. This resonates with wisdom from the book of Proverbs (Ch 22, v6) which says: ‘Train up a child in the way [s]he should go, and when [s]he is old, [s]he will not depart from it.’ Parents spend more time with their children than teachers do. Schools can help support training that leads to increased knowledge of God’s love.
Reading Sheridan’s book reminded me of the ‘Goldilocks Principle’. In the courts of public opinion, the Church is arguably assessed using Goldilock’s principle. It invites a question worth considering: “What is ‘just right’ in our faith-first community?”.
Here’s a few further insights from the book: ‘God is Good for You’ (by Greg Sheridan)
Sheridan suggests “Catholic and Christian schools, though they do much wonderful work, have not been effective in communicating even the knowledge of the contents of Christianity to their students, much less in instilling a devotion to lifelong commitment (p 9)”. For example, he observes Christianity was a friend of Science. The first impulse of Modern Science was to discover the order [and complexity] in creation (p 19). Most people believe Christianity is at variance with science. Paradoxically, he clarifies Christianity inspired Science.
According to Sheridan’s research, ‘Christians are the most persecuted religion in the world’, a story he suggests is ‘often ignored by Western media because they conceive Christianity as the villain, not the victim (p 24)’.
He also notes with interest that the second biggest deliverer of social services in Australia after the Government is the Christian Church (p 25). One example is the St Vincent de Paul Society, the largest volunteer welfare network in the country. It has 40,000 members and volunteers. The Salvation Army is another organisation that easily comes to mind here in our local community.
Within his book, Sheridan shares the story of an American writer (J. D. Vance) who in his youth was heading for drug related despair recounts his saving grace, aka (and I quote) his ‘fiercely religious, Bible-wielding, foul-mouthed, golden hearted grandmother’. He went on to become a US Marine, then onto Yale University. Christianity set him back onto a pathway to a positively rewarding life (p 28). Sheridan also acknowledges authentic faith is strongly correlated to increased subjective wellbeing. This phenomenon is well known in the field of Positive Psychology.
Sheridan further states the Book of Genesis gives us three unmistakable and immense claims: that God created the Universe, that His creation is good in itself and good for human beings, and that God created humanity in His own image (p 38). This last statement is a clear & powerful conceptualisation of our value to Him. It’s a cornerstone belief reflecting how we view the importance of children. The Lead Scientist of the Human Genome Project (Francis Collins) was increasingly in awe of the beauty and complexity of nature, that he was naturally lead into becoming a Christian, seeing the intricate complexity and individualised beauty of God’s creation.
‘Most people believe in God because they have experienced God, and that experience of God most often comes through other people, often initially a person’s parents’ (p 43). Central to each Christian Church, is a personal encounter with God, by inviting Jesus to be our Lord and Saviour (p 72). Probably the most commonly known Christian ‘trademark’ (i.e. imperative) is Christ’s clear command – love God, and love your neighbour as yourself (p 72). In Victor Frankyl’s book ‘In Man’s Search for Meaning’, Frankyl concludes the only way to survive a holocaust type of experience is through meaning; having a sense of purpose, and the best purpose is love’ (p 82).
Back to Sheridan’s defence of the Christian faith. He believes: ‘The Christian conception of God has provided the foundation for what became an unprecedented form of human society. Christian moral beliefs emerge as the ultimate source of the social revolution that has made the West what it is’ (p 123). An example of Christian influence can be seen in the Book of Micah. Micah tells his people what he really wants from them: ‘He has told you, o mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with your God’ (Micah 6:8), (p 154).
To love tenderly
I’m curious about what it means to love tenderly. A general dictionary definition reveals to love with gentleness, and kindness (also reflected in Scripture, Galatians 5:22). All of this brings me back to SCBC’s intention of reflecting God’s love in action, as we seek to be excellent in all that we do. We are mindful that when we’re stressed, things don’t always go according to what we planned.
Following is an example strategy for developing a higher level of cognition. The strategy draws upon the ‘Goldilocks Principle’, you know … neither too hot nor too cold – i.e. just right. If familiar to you, it may be helpful to think of a normal distribution curve.
Insights about stress and higher cognition from Harvard Medical School
Following is an insight from the field of medical science that may help with a technique for loving tenderly in difficult circumstances, either at home or at work.
Herbert Benson is a Harvard Medical School Professor of Medicine, with 35 years of experience conducting research in the field of neuroscience and stress. The ‘Relaxation Response’, it’s a ‘breakout principle’. It is a physical state of deep rest that counteracts the harmful effects of the fight-or-flight response. If interested in the research, see https://hbr.org/2005/11/are-you-working-too-hard.
By bringing the brain to the height of activity (just before the peak of the curve) and then suddenly moving it into a passive, relaxed state (i.e. rapid de-escalation), it’s possible to stimulate much higher neurological performance, than would otherwise be the case. The research showed people who learn to do this as a matter of course, perform at consistently higher levels. The effect is particularly noticeable in athletes and creative artists.
Here’s my thinking, parenting involves being on-location, and in the action. To show the gentleness of Christ, and reflect God’s unconditional love all the time, in all circumstances, would require you and me to be perfect.
A strategy for reflecting God’s love in action (to others, or yourself) in challenging and stressful circumstances, maybe to enact the ‘relaxation response’. According to the Harvard Business School, you will become more likely to have a higher level of neurological function … i.e. improved cognition, or in plain speak, improved capacity for making good decisions. It requires knowing when to enter into a relaxation response, to then be able to come back to the existing challenge, and in all likelihood, be able to see a better solution to the challenge, problem, or issue.
I shared at the start … ‘most people believe in God because they have experienced God.’ The way we interact with each other will in itself help us experience God’s excellence, here in our community at SCBC.
A relaxation response to stressful circumstances may help us better reflect love-inspired excellence, increasingly helping us to achieve great outcomes for others, with kindness and gentleness.