Vacation is coming up in a couple of weeks and my reading list will include a couple of brain science books. The human brain is hugely interesting to me and reading about the complexities of brain science continues to be spiritually informative. I don’t understand how the brain works, but it’s so mysterious and fragile and unspeakably marvelous that my belief in a supernatural Creator only broadens.
The Bible never uses the word “brain.” It’s not in there. (Note: this is further evidence that the Bible is not a science book, but that’s for another post.)
Interestingly enough – kidneys (kelayot) are mentioned more than 30 times in the Hebrew scriptures. Poor Job’s kidneys are divinely “sliced open” as a result of his misdemeanors, committed or perceived.
And the heart – often paired with the kidneys in Scripture – is where human sin is born.
We now know that the brain has different parts with different functions. And if “Bride Brain” involves women who become obsessed with how sparkly their rings are or with the ability to match their nail color with their bouquets, imagine what “Church Brain” looks like:
- We stop connecting actions and consequences. If we don’t unlock the front door of the church (because “everybody knows to come in the back door”) we forget that guests will not be able to figure out how to enter the building. If we spend all our time writing a draconian Personnel Policy than supporting our staff, they will work elsewhere. If we talk more about the roof than What Breaks God’s Heart in the community, we will become dry and faithless.
- We lose the ability to suppress socially unacceptable responses. That’s my parking space. Those teenagers don’t know how to dress for church. Can you believe she went back to work after the twins were born?
- We lose the ability to imagine. (Enough said.)
- Our long-term memory plays tricks on us. Remember when our choir traveled to Europe every summer? (Actually they went there once and it broke the bank.) Remember how Rev. __ was the ideal pastor? (Actually his family would disagree.)
- Our language recognition becomes compromised. We forget words like grace, forgiveness, holiness, reconciliation.
I could go on and on but you get my point. Tony Jones used to tell a story about a person who informed him that her church couldn’t move the pews in their sanctuary because they were immovable. He asked for a screwdriver.
We who’ve been in the institutional church for a long time all have a touch of Church Brain. This is why it’s essential to have friends who are not part of the Church – to keep us grounded, to open our eyes, to remind us how ridiculous some of our church drama really is. This is why it’s important to step back and remember that the One who created our marvelous brains is the point of it all.
Image from Wired Magazine.