Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Time to market the Church

Occasionally I read books on business management. I read these books partially out of my continuing interest in the subject and partially because I learned much about people and organizations through my undergraduate degree in economics and graduate degree in business administration. Although marketing was never a special interest of mine, I recently read two books about marketing. That reading prompted two lines of reflection about the Church.

First, the Church spends too little on marketing. There are some exceptions, e.g., some megachurches. But in general, the Church spends very little money or time on marketing, an activity which in ecclesiastical language broadly connotes telling the church’s story and evangelism in particular. Businesses, by contrast, routinely spend ten or twenty percent of revenue on marketing.

The history of Christian marketing is familiar to many of us. In the beginning, the Church focused on marketing. Even before the Church existed, Jesus devoted a substantial portion of his three-year ministry to forming twelve disciples committed to perpetuating his mission. After Jesus’ resurrection, the disciples’ primary focus became proclaiming the good news of God’s love in Jesus through their deeds and words. The Apostle Paul had a similar focus in his ministry. Consequently, the Church enjoyed several centuries of spectacular growth.

Then came establishment. For centuries, the missionary impulse largely waned. To be born in Christendom was practically synonymous with becoming Christian. Instead, Christians sporadically struggled amongst themselves over the correct definition or formulation of Christian identity, struggles that sometimes erupted into open warfare. Those struggles intensified as some Christians began to question how many of their baptized contemporaries truly believed and practiced Christian teachings. Still, the normative myth endured until at least the eighteenth century: to be born in Christendom meant being born into a Christian identity.

Today, Christendom is dead. To be born into a Christian family is no longer tantamount to becoming Christian. The average age of Christians and their clergy in the US and Europe is increasing. The number of Baptisms is down. Practices such as friendship evangelism in which one shares, as opportunity allows, one’s Christian faith with friends and family have obviously proven insufficient to reverse the outgoing tides of attendance, belief, and membership. Few grandparents who live in geographic proximity to their children and grandchildren can realistically expect to see those family members in church.

We Christians need, along with the Church, to return to active marketing.

Most basically, prioritizing marketing means investing time and money in telling Jesus’ story through deeds and words. Deeds may include feeding the hungry, visiting those in prison, housing the houseless, participating in healing the sick, caring for the lonely, and so forth. Words connotes explaining our motivation for performing those deeds, motives rooted in our Christian identity.

A parish with an average Sunday attendance of 100 probably has at least 300 hours per week of paid and volunteer time. Paid hours include those of the rector, sexton, musicians, administrative staff, etc. Volunteer hours include time spent in worship, education or fellowship programs, outreach ministries, and other activities. Such a parish, committed to marketing, would therefore choose to redirect 30-60 hours per week to marketing. Furthermore, if that parish had revenues of $150,000, then the parish would devote $15,000 to $30,000 to marketing. Similarly, if The Episcopal Church (TEC) prioritized marketing, TEC would realign its triennial budget of approximately $129 million to spend $12.9 - $25.8 million on marketing along with a comparable realignment of staff and volunteer time, including all time now spent on General Convention and other governance processes.

The parish numbers are hypothetical, but their import is clear. No Episcopal congregation (or diocese) of which I am aware devotes twenty or even ten percent of its time and money to marketing. Prioritizing marketing obviously entails costs for the parish (or mission or diocese) that many organizations struggling to survive would deem excessive. However, one lesson I’ve learned from the business world is that if a business fails to market itself successfully, it inevitably goes bankrupt and disappears.

Congregations struggling to pay a priest and to maintain their building may postpone the inevitable by not marketing themselves. But the only realistic chance that those congregations have for longer-term survival is to market themselves aggressively, even if that means mortgaging the building or replacing beloved ongoing ministries that cater to members with marketing initiatives.

How can a congregation (or a diocese or TEC) market itself successfully? Or, in theological language, how can God’s people through their deeds and words tell the story of God’s love manifest in Jesus in a way that attracts people who want to experience that love personally? Or, in even more conventional theological language that often leaves Episcopalians feeling vaguely uncomfortable, how do we engage in effective evangelism?

No single set of answers will fit every context. Thankfully, multiple answers are readily available. Among many helpful authors are Diana Butler Bass, James R. Adams, Michael Curry, and Kennon L. Callahan. We should also not hesitate to hire public relations firms and consultants to help us strategize and develop our marketing.

In our increasingly internet centric culture, the Church needs websites focused on newcomers and searchers, expanded reliance on electronic communications (resisting this step because current members prefer paper deemphasizes marketing), and beneficial ways to exploit social media (Twitter, Instagram, etc.). TEC and dioceses can leverage their geographic reach to support congregations by making Episcopalian Christians a constant presence on broadcast and cable TV as well as radio.

Underlying every marketing effort is the question of why anyone would choose to attend, participate in, and belong to a Christian congregation. Grappling with this question was the second set of reflections triggered by my reading on marketing. Businesses without a clear understanding of their product(s) or service(s) cannot market themselves successfully.

Historically, the Church’s answer to the question of why anyone should become a Christian was that unless a person obtains remission of her/his sins through belief in Jesus the person, when s/he dies will go to hell instead of to heaven. Today, belief in heaven and especially in hell has waned sharply among Americans and Europeans, including among Christians. In the absence of an alternative credible answer, many Christians lack clarity about their motive(s) for attending worship, participating in a church, or believing in the gospel. The good news is no longer good or news.

Decades of ministering to mostly secular adults in their 20s and 30s, reading in spirituality and psychology, and personal examination have convinced me that twenty-first century people seek at least four things that the Church is uniquely positioned to provide.

First, a large number of people seek to experience God or a deeper spiritual reality. Well done worship services using liturgies from the Book of Common Prayer and other authorized sources can draw some people deeper into the mysteries where we believe people can experience God’s presence and love. Too often, however, our worship consists of poorly read lessons, hymns sung half-heartedly, prayers read mechanistically, and a sermon that at best offers yesterday’s answers to today’s real-life questions.

Second, many people want to know the meaning of life, or at least the meaning of their individual life. This desire is closely connected to the search for God. In this secular, scientific age in which life is frequently viewed as a product of opportunistically driven evolutionary processes, finding the meaning of one’s life can be very challenging. Whether we agree with the material, discussion groups based upon books by popular authors such as Bishop Spong, Barbara Brown Taylor, Neale Donald Walsch, Lauren Winner, Karen Armstrong, and the Dalai Lama afford individuals an opportunity to explore life’s meaning. Conversely, many post-moderns have little initial interest in the Bible.

Third, individuals frequently share a commitment to make the world a more loving, more just place. The Church, when not preoccupied with its own existence, frequently offers excellent opportunities for persons to join with like-minded people in working to make a more just, more loving world. Meaningful opportunities to serve one’s neighbors may be a first step in person’s spiritual journey as s/he discovers the church strives to incarnate God’s love for others with integrity and purpose.

Fourth and finally, humans flourish in community and Christian congregations ideally are communities in which a person may safely seek God, explore life’s meaning, and work with others to bring the world closer to God’s vision for it. Sadly, I commonly hear of churches that unintentionally have become closed or broken communities. Members of twelve step groups frequently tell me that their groups embody more genuine caring for each other than does any congregation with which they are familiar.

The time is long past for Christianity to from defense to offense. This requires our regaining clarity about why anyone might choose to attend, participate in, or join. Then TEC – its congregations, dioceses, and national structures – must actually prioritize marketing the gospel, creatively adapting proven business practices.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Why Jesus suffered on the cross

For the first time since 1945, Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday coincided this year. A creative person dreamt up some novel Valentine’s Day cards especially for the occasion. One read, “Violets are blue, roses are red, Lent is beginning, no chocolates for you.” Another read, “Won’t you be my Valentine, you miserable offender.” And a third read, “Remember you are dust, but awfully lovable dust.”[1]

This week I listened to a domestic abuse survivor recount her life-changing visit to the state prison’s mental health unit. The visit’s coordinator instructed the women, both visitors and prisoners, to arrange their chairs in two facing rows, close enough to hold hands. Then they were to pray for one another.

The prayer changed both the woman who told the story and the prisoner with whom she prayed. For the woman telling the story, the depth of the other woman’s anguish – an alcoholic mother, physical abuse from every male in her family who was supposed to protect her, and years in prison – birthed an ongoing commitment to prison ministry. She is a Christian who lives Jesus’ exhortation to visit those in prison.

After seventeen years, release eventually came for the prisoner. She left prison with only the clothes on her back, no money, and nowhere to go. Not knowing what else to do, she called the woman with whom she had prayed and who had stayed in touch. This woman provided the new releasee with some much-needed hygiene items and enough cash for a couple of meals and rent for a room. Five years after her release, the former prisoner continues to struggle, but believes that only through God’s grace has she maintained her sanity, stayed free, earned a college degree, and gained a new career and family.

That story reverberated in my thoughts as I considered today’s epistle reading:[2] Christ suffered for sins, once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous. Christians generally interpret Christ's suffering using one of three paradigms or models:

·       God is perfect. Perfection of any kind, especially divine perfection cannot include imperfection because the imperfection would pollute the perfect.

·       Humans are imperfect, whether because of original sin or the universality of our failure to obey, completely and always, God’s perfect law.

·       Therefore, forgiveness requires atonement for sin, that is, someone or something must pay the penalty for our sin or offer a sacrifice to wipe away the sin that blocks our relationship with God;

·       The only possible sacrifice able to wipe the slate clean or to pay fully sin’s debt (the theological terms are propitiation and expiation) is that which itself is perfect and without sin, the unblemished lamb of God, Jesus.

The second and third paradigms build on that basic framework of God’s perfection and human sin or brokenness. The second paradigm replaces atonement with redemption (humans are captives to sin; Jesus is the only one who can set us free). The third utilizes the language of reconciliation (putting our relationship with God right, which is only possible as God sees an imperfect human through the lens of the perfect Christ).

In seminary, I found these paradigms problematic, although I could not then explain my objections. Admittedly, the New Testament seems to offer prima facie support for all three paradigms, sparking Christian theological debate that sometimes erupted into violence. Each paradigm has been transformative for persons whom I know, helping an individual accept God’s grace and live more abundantly. Nevertheless, the three paradigms leave me feeling uncomfortable.

By the time I began my doctoral work a dozen years after seminary, I could finally articulate my fundamental objection to those three paradigms. The paradigms implicitly depict God as a child abuser. God established the rules. God knew humans would sin. And God decided God’s forgiveness required a perfect sacrifice to wipe away or pay the debt of sin, or that redemption or reconciliation was achievable only through the crucifixion of God’s beloved son. In short, God knew from the beginning that Jesus’ crucifixion was an inevitable necessity.

Other objections to the traditional paradigms include the models’

(1)  Dubious reliance on a jurisprudential framework to describe God’s dynamic, creative, and uninterruptible relationship with humans, i.e., why posit that God thinks and acts as a divine version of Santa Claus keeping score of who is naughty and who is nice;

(2)  Reliance upon a Greco-Roman understanding of perfection that excludes not only imperfection but also the possibility of future growth or change;

(3)  Adoption of a sacrificial understanding of atonement that mirrors some first-century cults, which may have then been contextually and culturally helpful but an understanding that is necessarily timeless or definitive.

(4)  Presuming that belief in Jesus is the only path to salvation, a presumption increasingly challenged in our twenty-first century globalized world. Twentieth century Roman Catholic theologian Karl Rahner proposed the concept of the cosmic Christ, whose death was efficacious for all Godly people, regardless of when and where they live(d). He memorably dubs these Godly individuals anonymous Christians. Anglican theologians have widely rejected Rahner’s proposal because it paternalistically devalues other religions and the integrity of non-Christians’ faith journeys. Similarly, a continuing difficulty for Christian theologians has been how to affirm the salvation of Jews (e.g., Noah, Moses, and the prophets) while continuing to assert one of the traditional paradigms for understanding Jesus’ death on the cross.

Another paradigm for understanding Jesus’ death on the cross has persistently lingered on the margins of Christianity, a paradigm my seminary but not doctoral professors derided as an insufficient understanding of Jesus’ death. In this paradigm God is not a child abuser, celestial judge, Greco-Roman philosopher, or exclusionary lover. Instead, God loves us and all creation with the infinite, unconditional love Jesus manifested in life and death. God’s love is so limitless that neither death, nor principalities, nor powers, nor even sin can separate us from God. I see Peter employing this paradigm in today’s epistle reading and I heard it in the story of the women who prayed for each other. In Jesus, God extends God’s arms to embrace us with God’s infinite, unconditional love.

Hopefully, none of us is an axe murderer or sinner of similar magnitude. Our burdens of guilt are real but more frequently attributable to self or to other people than to our sin. Consequently, the three traditional paradigms have lost much of their power. In a world of preventable tragedies, most recently the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, we desperately need the good news of a crucified God whose open arms announce God’s readiness to embrace us in healing, life-giving, unconditional love. This image of God in Jesus suffering with us, lovingly drawing us into a life-giving and sustaining embrace, makes sense to me in our badly broken world.

May you have a holy Lent in which to journey more deeply into the mystery of God’s infinite, unconditional love. And may rainbows be for us, as for Noah, a sign of God’s abiding and loving presence in our midst. Amen.

(Sermon preached the First Sunday in Lent, February 18, 2018, in the Parish of St. Clement, Honolulu, HI)

[1] Found on the internet, source unknown.
[2] 1 Peter 3:18-22.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The future of humans

This post appears on Ash Wednesday. The typical Ash Wednesday homily or theological reflection addresses sin and repentance, explaining the symbolism of the ashes imposed on foreheads. For some thoughts on that subject, read these previous Ethical Musings posts: Rethinking Ash Wednesday and Getting Ready for Lent.

Instead, I want to consider the future of humans, not as individuals but as a biological species. Generally, this subject receives little explicit theological attention apart from affirmations that God, in God’s time, will fulfill God’s vision for creation. That also is not the focus of these musings. I just read two books on evolution, one arguing for a version of intelligent design and the other describing how Darwin’s theories emerged from his personal and familial interests. Both books emphasized evolution’s dynamism; neither book explored what that might mean for humans. Nevertheless, the books were a catalyst for these musings about future directions of human evolution.

First, I’m confident that homo sapiens are not uniquely static. Evolution, even if we cannot see it, evolution continues in our midst with our species exhibiting minor adaptations to environment that promote the survival of the fittest.

Second, cyborgs – entities that combine a living being with a machine – have arrived or soon will, depending upon how one defines machine. Replacement joints have become commonplace. Replacement sensors (e.g., an eye or touch in a fingertip or other piece of skin) are in the experimental stage. Scientists are also experimenting with a human using her/his brain to control an artificial limb. Perhaps the next major step in human evolution will be a cyborg with a human brain and an electro-mechanical body.

Third, racial and ethnic differences are disappearing through increased breeding among persons of different races and ethnicities. In Hawaii, for example, finding someone who is 100% Hawaiian is now difficult. To a lesser extent, similar trends are evident globally as global migration increases and cultural barriers against intermarriage and childbearing by unmarried women erode.

Fourth, manipulation of an embryo’s genome, selection of a particular sperm or egg, and modification of a person’s genome all portend changes to the human species. Once begun, these genetic modifications are unlikely to stop. And once begun, these genetic modifications may slowly but permanently alter the human genome. Perhaps one day parents say be able to select each of a new fetus’s twenty-six chromosomes.

Predicting the outcome of these moves is impossible. Nevertheless, rejecting all such changes as unethical is wrong. Some changes may eliminate diseases for which no known cure exists (e.g., sickle cell anemia), may reduce the incidence of birth defects or diseases such as diabetes and cancer, or may otherwise dramatically improve the quality of human life or its longevity. These subjects deserve more attention in Christian ethics, theology, and churches.

Fifth, I wonder what other evolutionary changes are currently happening to humans to which all but perhaps a few scientists are oblivious. For example, are humans, to the extent that these traits are genetically determined, becoming taller, losing certain physical capabilities, gaining or losing aggressiveness, gaining or losing resistance to particular diseases, etc.?

Sixth, how long will the human species survive? I recently met a professor of biology from Italy who teaches in New Zealand. He wonders whether popular understandings of the causes of war and other forms of human violence and oppression bode ill for our species’ longevity.

Seventh, will humans crossbreed with a species from another planet, producing a new species as unimaginable to us as humans were to their predecessors?

For me, one key theological and ethical implication of continuing human evolution is that humans do not represent the apex or culmination of creation. Contrary to the myths in Genesis 1-2, the understandable anthropocentrism of our spiritual ancestors is incorrect. Humans are simply part of creation; in calling humans to be stewards of creation, God valued all creation equally and trusted us to do the same.

Ongoing human evolution also underscores the error of believing in a utopian Eden from which humans fell out of favor with God. That erroneous belief also presumes anthropocentrism. Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday, is a time in the Christian calendar for self-examination and repenting of our errors and sins.

Thinking about human evolution identifies more questions than answers. Human knowledge has expanded exponentially over the last century, yet there is so much about which we know little or nothing. Humility, not hubris, best prepares us for today as well as the future.

Finally, ongoing human evolution, along with the continuing evolution of the entire cosmos, makes life seem like an adventure, even from God’s perspective, since God may very well not know where the processes that God initiated will eventually lead. Omniscience, after all, is a human construct. Omniscience may denote knowing everything about past and present without necessarily knowing the future.

What are your musings about the future of our species?

Friday, February 9, 2018

When winning at any cost is not worth it

The conviction of Dr. Larry Nassar for sexually abusing gymnasts he treated at Michigan State University and in the Olympic program has deeply disturbed me.

First, his crimes were heinous and numerous.

Second, numerous enablers were complicit in Nassar’s actions. These enablers turned a blind eye to warning signs, refused to act on complaints from the abused, and failed to establish adequate safeguards to prevent abuse, e.g., never allowing a male physician to see a female patient without another woman being present. Efforts to hold these enablers accountable should proceed along with mandating policies and protocols to prevent future incidents of abuse.

Third, where were the athletes’ parents? International gymnastics are highly competitive. Successful athletes depend upon family sacrifices, support, and encouragement. Having a daughter in the ranks of elite athletes who are part of a winning program feels good for parent(s) and daughter alike.

However, when the desire to win blinds a parent to the changes in his/her daughter caused by sexual abuse, then winning is no longer worth the cost. If one family had blown the whistle on Nassar years ago, that family’s daughter may not have won the gold. But she would have preserved more of her mental health, taken a step to reclaim the fulness of her selfhood, and prevented dozens and dozens of other girls from suffering similar abuse. Those victories are surely worth more than is a gold medal.

The father who attempted to physically harm Nassar during the sentencing phase of his trial acted, I strongly suspect, out of an abject sense of his own failure as a father. The judge wisely declined to take legal action against that father. Parents who failed to protect their children will have to live with their guilt. Parents who pushed their child to become a world-class gymnast when that was not originally the child’s dream will live with a double measure of guilt.

Children are precious. Parents rightly encourage and supporting a child’s efforts to achieve her or his personal ambitions – whatever those ambitions may be. Nevertheless, protecting the well-being of his/her child is a parent’s sacred duty.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

#Me too

In my last Ethical Musings post, Employment and ethics, I argued that inculcating virtue is the best approach to Christian ethics.

Women refusing to accept sexual harassment, especially in the workplace, have spawned the Hashtag Me too movement. Women are denouncing harassers; employers are beginning to take those complaints seriously, appropriately disciplining or firing abusive male employees instead of paying the accuse hush money upon signing a confidentiality agreement.

One explanatory factor for the movement, although in no way a mitigating factor in terms of a harasser’s culpability, is that women historically were not part of the workforce. World War II marked the first widespread entry of women into the labor force. Regrettably, women entering the workforce did not become a catalyst for men treating women with the dignity and respect with which men treated male members of the workforce. Instead, men continued to devalue women. Too often, men regarded women as lesser beings to be exploited as sexual objects rather than human beings equally worthy, along with men, of dignity and respect. This treatment of women as subordinate beings is evident in women typically earning less money for the same work than do men, slower or more limited promotion opportunities for women, categorizing certain tasks (domestic work, teaching, caring for the sick and elderly) as “woman’s work,” and sexual harassment.

In the Book of Common Prayer’s Baptismal vows, Christians promise to respect the dignity of every human being. No distinction is made for gender (or sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, political views, etc.). Sexual harassment – in any context – is immoral and unchristian.

Given human imperfection, sexual harassment will never entirely disappear. But the Hashtag Me too movement is an overdue growing pain as our society moves towards becoming more just, more equitable. Instead of being dismayed by the prevalence of sexual harassment, recognize that the growing refusal of women (and many men) to accept immoral behavior in the workplace and elsewhere is a sign of progress in an otherwise discouraging time.

Critically, cultivate in yourself, your friends and colleagues, and, most importantly, children and young people habits consistent with perceiving and treating all people with equal dignity and respect. These habits include use of appropriate language and touch, avoiding demeaning thoughts or words, and seeking to see God, or at least the good, in each person. Then, when confronted with a situation in which you have the opportunity to ill treat someone for your pleasure or gain, a situational temptation that is generally inevitable if not frequent, have confidence that your habits reinforced by God’s luring, will cause you to act rightly without having to think about what to do.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Employment and ethics

Recently, I talked to a man whose non-profit employer had restructured his job, significantly diminishing his title and responsibilities. The man understood that he was stretched too thin to meet expectations: he had a full-time job, another part time job, and the part time job at the non-profit from which the employer took away major responsibilities. However, what hurt was how the employer handled the change. The employer neither acknowledged the man’s key role in keeping the organization alive during a difficult transition nor had a personnel evaluation process to afford the individual time to improve before the reduction in status.

That conversation pointed my thoughts toward the Hawaii state emergency agency employee who was fired for initiating last month’s false alert of an imminent nuclear attack on the island. The employee had a record of difficulties on the job that culminated in intentionally or unintentionally triggering the alert.

What does the Bible have to say about employee management?

The short answer is: Very little. The Bible says nothing explicit about employee supervision and management except that a laborer is worthy of her/his wages and should not be defrauded (I Timothy 5:17; James 5:4).

The longer, more accurate answer is that the Bible is neither a rule book nor compilation of God’s dictates on how people are to live. Many secular ethicists and even some Christian ethicists inaccurately describe Christian ethics as “divine command ethics,” i.e., Christians find in the Bible a God-given set of precepts or commandments that govern life. Major problems with this approach to the Bible include:

1.     Deciding which commandments to obey literally and which to interpret metaphorically or in other, non-literal ways, e.g., the command for women to stay in separate dwellings during menstruation;

2.     Choosing when, if ever, to make an exception to a commandment, e.g., should one honor a physically abusive parent?

3.     Not having rules applicable to many contemporary situations, e.g., personnel management.

In the 1950s, Episcopal priest and ethicist Joseph Fletcher developed what he dubbed situational ethics. Christians were to live by two rules: love God and love one another. The Biblical warrant for highlighting these two commandments is strong. Jesus identified them as the two great commandments. Incidentally, the widespread Christian emphasis on the Ten Commandments lacks a similar warrant. Nowhere in the New Testament do the Ten Commandments receive a similar endorsement. And in the Jewish tradition, the ten are simply ten of 613 equal commandments in the Torah.

Ethically, Fletcher’s situational ethics restate utilitarian ethics, i.e., the right is that which will produce the greatest good (or most love) for the largest number of people. As with utilitarian ethics, situational ethics that adopt love as the norm for guiding behavior and choices entail applying that norm to daily life with its countless situations, contexts, and decisions, requiring repeated judgments about what appears likely to result in the most loving outcome(s) without being able to know the actual outcome of one’s choices. Emotions, knowledge, personal preferences, and many other factors invariably color those judgments in ways that an individual will rarely understand. Furthermore, nobody can look into the future. Although many Christians find Fletcher’s call for love to be the norm for Christian ethics, in practice the theory has proven highly problematic and led to poor moral choices. Ethicists find situational ethics only slightly better than the frequently asked but truly unanswerable question, “What would Jesus do?”

Instead of emphasizing rules or calculations about the most loving course of action, Christian ethics for most of two millennia have emphasized virtue ethics. Virtue ethics aims to create a person who embodies the four cardinal virtues (justice, courage, temperance, and prudence) and three theological virtues (faith, hope, and love). The Apostle Paul lists the three theological virtues in the last sentence of his much beloved discourse on love (I Corinthians 13:1-13). Since Thomas Aquinas, Christian ethicists have accepted the cardinal virtues as the minimum summary of Christian virtues, contending that other virtues such as honesty and fidelity are derivable from the cardinal and theological virtues.

Professional Christian ethicists continue to argue about the best catalogue or list of virtues. I find those arguments boring.

Rather, I’m primarily interested in helping people so inculcate the virtues that living virtuously is a function of habit and not of choice. Rarely does an individual consciously make an ethical choice. Indeed, neuroscientific research suggests that even when a person thinks s/he has consciously made a decision, that decision was made subconsciously milliseconds prior to the moment of conscious choice. Shaping behavior forms habits and over time shapes character, forming a person in Jesus’ image.

Good personnel policies are valuable in helping to ensure that employees are treated in a Christlike, healthy, loving way. Yet, as happened with the disgruntled Hawaii state employee who triggered the false alert of an impending nuclear attack, good personnel policies are no guarantee of good outcomes. Ultimately, we depend upon character, not rules or calculations about the greatest love.

May your habits be Godly!