Ritual does the important work of binding us together with other people… Ritual helps us engage in synchronous behavior with other people. We recognize our kin because they act like us. A group of people who are all standing and sitting and chanting the same way are activating their kin recognition circuits. Unconsciously, they think, “These people are my family.” If we want to help a congregation feel like family, ritual is one of the biggest ways.
Mind & Brain
The deep truth of the Shema is that the one God, our God, has done great things in the past and when we remember them, and remember our God as the source of all good things, we can imagine a future. Memory is tied not only to imagination but ultimately to hope.
Psychology can inform how we understand ourselves, how our minds work, how our emotions work, how our bodies work, and how our nervous system works. That doesn’t mean every pastor has to become a neuroscientist or a psychologist, but I think there’s so much great research on which to draw.
Our human brains are made to grab onto knowledge that we can both apply in our lives and that is also efficacious—it makes a difference. It strikes me that too often when I’ve mentioned science and faith, people tell me, “That’s too heady for me,” which can mean that it seems abstract and academic, not related to the lives we actually live 24-7. Applicability and efficacy seemed like antidotes.
What’s going on with be debate about the existence of free will? Get caught up on the basics and emerging research.