Emotional Intelligence for Everyday Leadership @TheHighCalling

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Some leaders seem to instinctively understand people: what motivates them, what frustrates them, what inspires them. Other leaders don’t. They are blind to the emotional landscape around them. These leaders lack what is commonly known as “emotional intelligence.” EI can be defined as “the ability to perceive, control, and evaluate emotions.” The concept has a long history, but was popularized in the 1990s by psychologists Peter Salovey,John D. Mayer, and Daniel Goleman.

The director of Seattle Pacific University’s Brain Center for Applied Learning Research, John Medina, Ph.D., prefers a more scientifically verifiable concept called Theory of Mind.  He describes ToM as a gadget in the brain that allows a person to do two things: 1) peer inside someone else’s psychological interiors and understand the rewards and punishment systems inside those interiors; and 2) understand that the rewards and punishments that motivate that person are not same as the rewards and punishments that motivate oneself.

Medina says that having “terrific” ToM is what people mean when they talk about emotional intelligence. “If you’ve got really good Theory of Mind, you can make a terrific manager, because you can understand your emotional landscape all around you very, very quickly. If you have very poor Theory of Mind, you’re an emotional blunt instrument. You just bang around inside people’s hearts and make them mad and make them happy and inadvertently you do both and you have no idea how you do it, because it’s random, because you don’t see anything, because you’re an emotional idiot,” he said. (Note: This kind of forthright talk typifies the Medina Grump Factor, which is how Dr. Medina and others describe his commitment to rigorous scientific methodology.)

Whatever one calls the intuitive ability to read and respond well to others, nurturing this characteristic can help leaders create and foster cohesive, productive teams. After all what leader wants to be an “emotional idiot”? …

Read the whole thing at The High Calling.

What I Wrote This Week @UrbanFaith: February 13 – February 17

Hitchhiker, NYC

  • On Location at Whitney’s Farewell: What reporting on location at Whitney Houston’s semi-private, gospel-filled funeral taught me about spiritual battles, grace, and celebrity.
  • Marriage Is for Black People, TooRalph Richards Banks’ book ‘Is Marriage for White People?’ made him the target of angry critics. Now, the author has his say about interracial dating, the link between fewer marriages and the crisis in black communities, and his take on conservative scholar Charles Murray’s latest book on class and race.
  • Obama Birth Control Compromise Take 2Activist Lisa Sharon Harper and ethicists Cheryl J. Sanders and Charles C. Camosy weigh in on the Obama administration’s contraception mandate accommodation.

A Quarter Century of Jersey Shore HIV/AIDS Response @NJShorePatch

Tyler Alyxander and Ina Kaplan at "A Night of Illusion" fundraiser.

I well remember when the thought that I could have AIDS first occurred to me. It was 1986 and I was newly married. I had gotten pregnant by an East African man two years earlier and my husband had fallen in love with both me and my baby.

All seemed well, until I began paying attention to the news that AIDS had first appeared in sub-saharan Africa among heterosexuals. I dutifully got tested, then waited anxiously for the phone call that told me I was not infected.

Other people I knew heard different news. There were whispers that a high school classmate who had been an intravenous drug user and died of a drug overdose had taken his own life after getting the diagnosis.

It was a scary time, especially for anyone who had been anything but virginal. …

Read the rest at Manasquan Patch.

Integrating Faith &Psychiatry: A Summary

On the Way to Gettysburg 2

Psychiatry and faith offer complimentary insights into the human condition and can help us to lead healthier and more satisfying lives, we learned in our seven-part series with Laity Leadership Institute Senior Fellow, Allan Josephson, M.D. …

To read a summary of those posts, go to The High Calling.

Allan Josephson: Integrating Faith & Psychiatry, Part 5: Narcissism & Relationships @TheHighCalling

On the Way to Gettysburg 2

Dealing with the narcissists in our lives is never easy, but there is hope for improving these difficult relationships, says Laity Leadership Institute Senior Fellow AllanJosephson, M.D.

Narcissism develops out of early relationships and is sustained by subsequent ones, so it’s important to nip the problem in the bud. How one does that depends on the nature of the relationship. In this article, we’ll deal with three kinds of relationships: parent/child, husband/wife, and employer/employee. …

You can read more about  narcissism and relationships at The High Calling.

Allan Josephson: Integrating Faith & Psychiatry, Part 4: Work & the Self @TheHighCalling

On the Way to Gettysburg 2

Eric had leadership written all over him. Intelligence, good looks, and interpersonal drive had led to an MBA at a major university. When his first business venture failed, he was on to another that succeeded. Several other business successes followed, as did personal leadership projects undertaken at church and in his community.

He was politically active both locally and nationally. His wife and children were also achievers,  but a sense of balance was missing from his life.. He suffered two major depressions in his adult life and another as retirement age approached and he was confronted with financial difficulties and the interpersonal consequences of chronic over-extension. His retirement was forced and he was emotionally adrift.

Disordered Thinking 
“The driver for many who lack balance in their lives is disordered thinking about the relationship of work to self and God,” Laity Leadership Institute Senior Fellow Allan Josephson, M.D. says.

Although he recognizes that striving for a balance between personal and professional domains facilitates development in both, Josephson has something else in mind when he considers this kind of disordered thinking. …

Read the whole article at The High Calling.

Integrating Faith & Psychiatry, Part 3: Narcissism @TheHighCalling

On the Way to Gettysburg 2

It goes without saying that narcissists have an inflated view of themselves, one that frequently masks a hidden sense of emptiness and inferiority. What’s not so obvious, according to Laity Leadership Senior Fellow Allan Josephson, M.D., is that those who are in relationship with a narcissist “by definition become depleted or depressed, because life always has to reflect the grandeur, the beauty, the intelligence of the narcissist.”

The key hallmark of narcissism is a lack of empathy, Josephson said. Empathy is when you put yourself in someone else’s shoes as much as is humanly possible and try to understand what their world is like. Good parents empathize with their children, and spouses in healthy marriages empathize with each other.

“Narcissists can’t do it. It’s like they have a mirror in front of their face.  At this extreme, the narcissist’s view is all that matters. ‘It’s all about them,’” he said.

Predictably, relationships for narcissists, both personal and professional, tend to be short lived. …

Read the whole article at The High Calling.

Integrating Faith & Psychiatry, Part 2: Scriptural Principles for Growing Healthy Children @TheHighCalling

On the Way to Gettysburg 2

Parenting is hard, and not just because we struggle to balance work and family. The stakes are high. We parents all raise our children, hoping they will become spiritually, emotionally, psychologically, and physically healthy adults. We look for answers from pastors, pediatricians, and parenting “experts,” but we should not neglect the wisdom of mental health professionals.

Healthy child development reflects God’s character and purposes, says Laity Leadership Senior Fellow Allan Josephson, M.D., and Scripture provides guidelines that children desperately need.

In his 1994 paper, “A Clinical Theology of the Developmental Process: A Child Psychologist’s Perspective,” Josephson outlines eight areas of child development that not only illustrate his theology, but also offer sound parenting principles.

To learn more about these principles, go to The High Calling.

Allan Josephson: Integrating Faith & Psychiatry, Part 1 @TheHighCalling

On the Way to Gettysburg 2

When Laity Leadership Institute Senior Fellow Allan Josephson, M.D. decided to study psychiatry 30 years ago, persons of faith often wondered how he would fare as a Christian in the field. The influence of Sigmund Freud’s atheism has waned, Josephson said, but it was pervasive then.

Josephson not only survived, but flourished and became an agent of change. Today, he is Vice Chairman for Child & Adolescent Psychiatry Services at the University of Louiseville School of Medicine in Louiseville, Kentucky, and author of three books. One of them is the Handbook of Spirituality and Worldview in Clinical Practice, a text he edited and contributed to that is used in psychiatric residency programs to help psychiatrists understand the diagnostic and therapeutic implications of their own and their patients’ worldviews. …

In this series we’re going to tap into Josephson’s wisdom to explore this theme as it relates to:

  • How healthy child development mirrors Scriptural principles.
  • What children need in the contemporary family for healthy development.
  • Why there is an increase in people, particularly children and adolescents, who exhibit narcissistic behavior, and what can be done about it.
  • The psychological effects of technology.
  • How work defines the self.

Both psychology and theology have much to say about these topics. We hope you’ll join us for the discussion.

You can read more about Dr. Josephson’s journey at The High Calling.

Deceit & Hidden Cameras in the Abortion Debate @TheHuffingtonPost

As a Christian, a pro-lifer, and a journalist, I’m ambivalent about the Planned Parenthood hidden camera sting that was perpetrated here in central New Jersey and reported sporadically by news outlets this week. The California based anti-abortion activist group Live Action sent two actors into a clinic posing as sex traffickers and recorded an employee doling out unethical, dangerous, and illegal advice that would keep the duo in business.

As a Christian I’m uncomfortable with both the failure of the office worker to report the couple to authorities and the entrapment of her by the activists. When is it appropriate to lie? The biblical stories of the midwives who refused to kill male infants as commanded by Egypt’s pharaoh and Rahab’s deception that saved Jewish spies in Jericho both seem to affirm lying when it’s done to save lives, but I question whether or not any lives will be saved as a result of this action.

As a pro-lifer, I doubt this kind of activism ultimately advances the goal of reducing abortion. On one hand, undeniable truth is exposed. On the other, the bad will it inspires is a serious blow to the common ground efforts that I believe hold the best hope of actually bringing down the abortion rate in the United States. Also, as pro-lifer Rachael Laramore writes at Slate,

“Planned Parenthood should be responsible for the actions of its employees. It should at least be held to the same standards that the left wants crisis-pregnancy centers held to–no false advertising, no erroneous medical information. But it’s extremely unlikely that there are multitudes of men walking into Planned Parenthood trying to get cheap abortions for their sex workers. And the young women who count on the group’s cheap birth control will be the ones who are harmed if Planned Parenthood loses its federal funding.”

As a journalist, I’m ambivalent about the use of hidden cameras and deception. At the journalism resource Poynter.org, several articles address the ethical problems inherent in using deception to reveal truth. When it comes to using hidden cameras, an article by Bob Steele offers the following factors to consider:

The Importance Threshold

“Since we are in the business of pursuing truth, there is more than a hint of hypocrisy when we use some form of deceit to pursue the truth. We can only justify that inconsistency and the use of deception when we truly serve a greater principle, such as pursuing a highly important and otherwise elusive truth. Therein lies the first standard for deciding when it is appropriate to use hidden cameras. To justify deception we must be pursuing exceptionally important information. It must be of vital public interest, such as preventing profound harm to individuals or revealing great system failure.”

Tools of Last Resort

“This covert method of newsgathering amplifies any accusations we make. We must insure that the tone and emphasis of hidden camera video meet standards for factual accuracy and contextual authenticity.”

Trinagulate & Test Assumptions

“We must devote enough resources, time and attention to gather the right facts and make sure our facts are right. We must supplement the surreptitious video with insightful observations, seeing and retaining important details of a scene that might not be captured by the camera.”

Know and Respect the Law

“We must pay close attention to the legal land mines in hidden camera reporting. Stations must develop sound strategies that recognize matters of defamation and privacy, including false light and intrusion torts. We can be vigorous in our reporting if we are clear on the law regarding fraud, trespass and surreptitious recording of audio. The law appropriately protects citizens. We should honor the law while also responsibly serving the public.”

Live Action’s amateur investigative work meets the Importance Threshold in my opinion, but I’m not sure it meets the other three criteria. A quick search of the bios on its website reveals that no one on the leadership team has journalistic training. Their success causes me to not only question the veracity and ethics of the work, it makes me lament the fact that more professionals aren’t doing excellent, unbiased reporting like this from ProPublica’s Marian Wang.

In the New Jersey case, the first outcome is that one woman lost her job. While she seems incredibly callous in the video, I assume that hers is a tragically misguided attempt to minimize the consequences of sex trafficking on underage girls who are beyond her reach, or as one commenter at GetReligion suggests, perhaps to get them into the clinic away from the pimps so that they can be helped.

Hidden camera video doesn’t reveal what is in a person’s mind and I don’t believe this is a singular story. The woman identified in the video as Amy Woodruff is culpable for her actions, but she has also become a convenient scapegoat. It’s understandable that pro-life activists wouldn’t be interested in what it means for Woodruff’s family for her to lose a job they believe is immoral, but as a Christian I am concerned about the harm that was done to them in the name of the cause.

*Update: Three additional videos have been released from clinics in Virginia.

Update 2/7: This article has now been published at The Huffington Post.

On the Bridge: A Conversation Between a Pro-Lifer and an Embryonic Stem Cell Researcher @TheHuffingtonPost


When I investigated human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research for Christianity Today in 2005, the debate about the ethics of the science was heated and tense. I was a pro-lifer who’s child had an incurable disease. What I wanted to know was: what would I do if hESCs could cure my child’s Neurofibromatosis? As part of that investigation, I spent ten days attending a National Institutes of Health (NIH) training course for post-doctoral scientists at Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC) in Southern California. Every other attendee was there to learn how to create and grow stem cell lines from five day old human embryos (blastocysts). Because it was an NIH funded course, no new embryos were destroyed to grow the lines the researchers manipulated.

I was the invited guest of Phil Schwartz, who is both director of the Human Neural Stem Cell Resource at CHOC and a Christian opposed to embryo destruction. Schwartz ran the course with Jeanne Loring, director of the Center for Regenerative Medicine at The Scripps Research Institute in San Diego, California. Loring is a cell biologist who has been working with hESCs since 1997. Before that, she worked with another Christian, Francis Collins, on mapping the human genome. She describes herself as a “cultural Catholic,” but practices no religion and has never had any doubts about the ethics of her hESC work.

In 2008, Schwartz invited me to attend the course again and I did. The political tenor had changed considerably with the advent of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), which are derived from adult somatic cells and thus are not controversial.

Writing on the Center for Genetics and Society’s blog, Project Director on Biotechnology Accountability Jesse Reynolds predicted,

“With the end of stem cell research as a political vehicle, its advocates are likely to temper expectations. They’ll not just move out the goalposts on the timeline towards treatments, but the touted uses of stem cells will shift from potential cellular therapies to models of human diseases in Petri dishes and better drug testing methods. These new purposes will win fewer votes than ‘your own personal biological repair kit,’ but they are also much more realistic.”

And yet, here we are again, with advocates lamenting a lawsuit that brought a temporary injunction against NIH funding of hESC research. (The injunction was quickly reversed.) So, I called Jeanne Loring and asked her thoughts on the lawsuit and the current state of the field. Here’s that interview, edited for space:

SCHELLER: What do you think of the legal situation?

LORING: For scientists, the embryonic stem cells have been the basis for all of the research, including the induced pluripotent stem cell research. Also, they’ve had a lot of influence over adult stem cell research, although I don’t think those guys would admit it. … There’s a gradual growing excitement … because of what you can do with them. So we have people with all sorts of different skills that are all focusing on hESCs or iPSCs or stem cells in general. What the legislation does is it puts a halt to an awful lot of research that’s ongoing right now. Maybe in another ten years, it wouldn’t have such an impact because people would have already done all these things and it would all be in the hands of companies, but right now it’s in a really frantic research phase. We’re discovering things all the time. It’s the worst possible time to have money taken away.

SCHELLER: Who brought case?

LORING: A researcher who used to be at [Harvard] MIT. Harvard [MIT] denied him tenure and he went on a hunger strike. That’s what he was famous for. I knew I’d heard of him before.

SCHELLER: Was he opposed to the research on ethical grounds?

LORING: There are two people: a woman from Louisiana, I believe, opposing the research on ethical grounds and this guy. In legal terms, in order to get an injunction, you have to show financial harm. He said he was being financially damaged because hESC research was unfairly competing with adult stem cell research at NIH. It’s outrageous. It’s foolish. It’s silly. Because research funded by the NIH is funded on merit and there’s no one pot for all stem cell research that gets divided up differently. There’s a big pot for all sorts of research and depending on the stage of the science and the urgency of the need, the research dollars go in a lot of different directions. Adult stem cell research gets far more funding than embryonic stem cell research and it continues to, mostly because it’s already well established.

SCHELLER: Do you think the spinal cord hESC therapy human trials that have been approved by the FDA [the first of their kind] at the Reeve-Irvine research Center in Southern California will work?LORING: I don’t know. Scientifically, I think there’s a possibility. As a scientist, what I really want are for those cells to not harm anybody because it’s a Phase One trial and the object of a Phase One trial is to show that it doesn’t do any harm, and that will be a huge step forward if they can show that.

SCHELLER: In 2008, we heard from Geron Corporation funded Oxford scientist Paul Fairchild that the immune challenge with hESCs wouldn’t be overcome. Has that changed?

LORING: No. They are going to have an immune problem, but they’re going to treat it like an organ transplant. They’re going to use the minimum amount of immune suppression that they can get away with. … This is not a fix for immune rejection. I just got a grant to develop of way to trick the immune system into thinking transplanted cells are theirs. There are several projects going on along those lines. The cells themselves are not going to move into another body and not cause a reaction, which is actually good because if your immune system is not aware of something and that cell became cancerous, you couldn’t do anything about it.

SCHELLER: California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) co-founder Robert Klein is the father of a diabetic child. I’ve never understood the trade off of insulin dependency for immune suppression that diabetic patients would potentially make if hESC therapies become available. Do you grapple with that at all?

: Sure. Ranking diseases is always difficult. A lot of what diseases are going to be treated with cell therapy really depends on a balance between how serious they are and how deadly they are and how easily they can be treated with cells. So, diabetes seems to be, relatively among all diseases, probably easier than most to treat, but it’s not life-threatening. So you have to get a really good therapy, but definitely require immune suppression before you would actually use it.

: So there’s a benefit/risk analysis?

LORING: Yeah, that’s right. So there is progress to be made. All this immune system stuff is sort of catching fire now, so people are not going to just stand by and let the immune system reject everything. They’re going to try to modify the immune system, not with immune suppression, but in a way that will last. Now people are also encapsulating cells so that the immune system can’t get at them.

SCHELLER: They’re still able to function when they’re encapsulated?

LORING: Yeah, in diabetes they certainly are because all they have to do is react to glucose in the blood and make insulin.

SCHELLER: Last time I talked to you, you sounded more excited about iPSCs than hESCs.

LORING: I am more excited for a lot of reasons about iPSCs because you can make them from any individual. As far as the way they act in the culture dish, they’re exactly the same as embryonic stem cells. You have the same problems and the same advantages.

SCHELLER: Is it much harder to get them to turn into other cell types than it is with hESCs?

: No. It’s very easy to get them to turn into other cell types. They’re essentially equivalent. If you look at 100 iPSCs and 100 hESCs, you’ll find there are outliers in both groups–cells that are difficult or act funny. But on the average, among those 200 cell lines, you really couldn’t tell them apart.

SCHELLER: 2009 was the last NIH funded course you directed with Phil Schwartz. Is there no longer a need to train scientists?

LORING: My lab is still running courses. We’re doing it semi-independently and also for CIRM. They are more popular than ever. We modified them so we are actually offering them every couple of months because there are so many people in line waiting to take them.

SCHELLER: So it’s not the case then, as it was in 2005, that you have more cell lines than scientists to do the research?

: No, it’s not like that at all. People really want to get involved in this field. We still teach embryonic stem cell culture methods because that is still the fundamental technology that underlies all of this work.

SCHELLER: Do you need new hESC lines?

LORING: No, I don’t need to make hESCs. This is a dilemma. You make hESC lines from five-day old blastocystes that have been donated by people in in-vitro fertilization (IVF) clinics. I’ve been getting repeated frantic emails from people who want to donate their embryos. I don’t really have any need for them, but I’m feeling like I should start a bank. The alternative is throwing them away. Nobody’s going to adopt the embryos, so they’re paying to have them stay frozen and they want to see some good come of them. I want to start a bank. It’s just that I don’t have funding for it. I’m cooperating with an IVF physician who’s temporarily taking the embryos in. We definitely don’t need to make embryonic stem cell lines. There are probably 400 around now. All you have to do is call somebody and ask them for them.

SCHELLER: At the 2008 course, an IVF physician called his field “Cowboy Science” because of the lack of regulation. It seems to me that this lack of regulation may be a bigger ethical problem than hESC research because it creates the excess embryos.

LORING: I have no objection to increasing regulation of IVF. It’s like any medical practice. It shouldn’t be hurt by oversight.

SCHELLER: We also heard about the potential for exploitation of egg donors in 2008.

LORING: The egg donation issue in 2008 was very hot. That’s died out considerably with the advent of iPSCs because people were looking for alternative sources for pluripotent cells and now there is an alternative source.

SCHELLER: As you know, I first investigated this topic because my first pregnancy was unplanned and I didn’t believe I had the right to end it. My child was then born with Neurofibromatosis. So I had an ethical dilemma to think about when hESC research first emerged.

LORING: Yeah, I understand. I obviously don’t feel it in my heart, but I understand.

SCHELLER: How would you describe your ethical convictions about hESC research?

LORING: I find it completely ethical. I have absolutely no problems with it. It isn’t abortion, so my opinion about abortion is irrelevant. The fact that these embryos would be thrown away and not used for research, I think it would be unethical not to use them.

SCHELLER: You’ve never had any doubts?

LORING: I’ve never had a doubt.

SCHELLER: How long have you been doing this research?

LORING: I started in 1997 in northern California. I started my own company to make hESCs. I didn’t know then that there were so many embryos being thrown away every day. So it made me nervous to have embryos in the lab and I made sure that I got good cell lines out of them. It would still do that to me now. They are really precious, but if you can’t do anything else with them. I was interviewed by a reporter for a Christian newspaper maybe a year ago, I actually wanted to talk to this guy because I wanted to suggest that the churches should put up embryo banks because there’s no adoption for embryos. It would be like starting an orphanage. If they want to keep the embryos from being used for research or being thrown away, then they should set up a bank, a freezer somewhere and just keep them.

SCHELLER: And then do what with them?

LORING: Whatever they want.

SCHELLER: In other words, they should take responsibility for their convictions?

LORING: Exactly. Nobody took me up on it. I’m happy to say that again though.

SCHELLER: People say similar things to pro-life Christians about abortion.

LORING: This would be really simple, though, simple and cheap because you don’t have to raise them. All you have to do is keep them frozen. And then you can figure out what should happen to them after that. That’s not my problem.

SCHELLER: Do you get any flack from your Catholic relatives about your work?

LORING: No. As you know, many Catholics also think birth control is okay and a lot think IVF is fine. So it all follows from that. My relatives are pretty intelligent people, so I don’t get any trouble from them. There might be an outlier somewhere, but not a close relative.

SCHELLER: Thanks for talking to me Jeanne. I always appreciate the fact that you shed light rather than heat on this issue.

LORING: If somebody wants controversy, they’re going to have to go somewhere else.

Check out the reaction to this interview at The Huffington Post.

The Case for Male Circumcision @Her.meneutics

I really had no idea how passionate people could be about this topic until I tweeted my intent to respond to a BloggingHeads.tv discussion of it. Below is the intro to my allegedly man-hating take. Above is a photo of my two precious boys.

What mother hasn’t, in the halcyon days after the birth of a son, felt her ferocious she-wolf instincts kick in when it comes time for her boy to be circumcised? Having perhaps suffered violence to her genitals during the birth, the physical ache to all that is vulnerable in her world can seem unbearable. And then it is done, and life goes on.

Anti-circumcision activists would have us believe that life does not in fact go on, that boys grow into men whose sexual pleasure (and that of the women they love) is compromised by this act of “genital mutilation.” While increasing numbers are swayed by both argument and sentiment, I’m stupefied by the controversy.

Male sexual pleasure is not my highest priority, having rarely witnessed a lack thereof. Nor is my own, if in fact I’m speaking out of my ignorance of the delight foreskin can deliver. What I am concerned about is sky-rocketing rates of sexually transmitted diseases, and the gender inequality evident in these rates. …

Read the rest here. For a taste of the emotion this topic inspires, be sure to read the comments, and my response to them.

Update 9/14/09: I posted this definitive comment in response to the 90+ comments on my post, and will have nothing further to say on this topic for the time being.

I really appreciate all the insightful, civil comments on this post. I’m not going to respond to them or to the hostile ones, as I’ve said my piece and others have filled in the blanks.

What I would like to explain is that as a journalist, I look for an angle on a topic that has not been covered sufficiently elsewhere. In my research for this post, I noticed that the writers I was reading seemed to miss the comparison to women’s embodied experience, so I chose to highlight that comparison.

I always consider what I write a contribution to public conversation, not a definitive statement on any given topic. Thus, I am gratified that what I’ve written has spurred people to think about something they might not have otherwise considered. If readers disagree with me, fine. Let the conversation continue and lead to change where it might be necessary.

In regard to this particular issue, I confess a subtle bias that I did not reveal in the post. I trust the Bible as my primary source of authority and have a bias towards its commands and injunctions. For example, I suspect that a kosher diet is probably healthiest, even though I don’t keep kosher. When God told women to stay outside the camp during menstruation, I think of that as a mercy. In the case of circumcision, I tend to think that if God ordained it, there is something inherently beneficial in the act itself.

When Abraham was commanded to be circumcised, he was a grown man, and must have been as horrified as many of you. Family members who did not hear from God must have been even more horrified. (LL Barkat made this point to me privately.) Still, circumcision became the sign of faith. Even if there were no medical benefits that science would later suggest, there are other values demonstrated in the act: pleasure is not our highest end; we are to acknowledge God’s sovereignty over our most vulnerable, intimate issues and trust him with our whole selves; logic is not to be our final authority, etc.

Don’t misunderstand. As I’ve already stated, the apostles declared circumcision of the heart the true sign of faith, as was consistent with Jesus’ reforms. Our Lord affirmed the Law though, and so I respect it, even when I don’t entirely understand it or live it out or think we are subject to it. I simply have a bias towards it.

I confess that there is a superstitious element to my reasoning. I also confess that scientism is probably the bigger problem with all kinds of medical procedures. If postmodernism has done nothing else, it has given us back a willingness to own our instincts.

Which brings me back to our faithful reader, Christian Lawyer, who I chose to engage because she consistently makes good points.

This I agree with: “If you want to teach our young people that they are powerless in the face of the “culture,” have at it, but don’t be surprised when these same young people succumb to the buffeting winds of suggestion, peer pressure, and defeatism rather than learning to stand strong and take responsibility for themselves and the circumstances of their lives.

The paternalism of the far right complementarians, just like the maternalism of the the far left feminists, is disempowering to women and instead breeds weakness.”

However, I never said I was powerless. I said I was influenced. Because of public conversations like the ones we have here at Her.meneutics, the excesses of both feminism and FAR RIGHT complementarianism may weaken. I hope to advance those goals.

With this, I disagree:

“Advocating cutting off men’s foreskins to protect women, rather than advocating education and contraception for women so they can protect themselves, is just another creepy example of the disempowerment of women under the guise of ‘protection.'”

Not either/or, but both/and. I am grateful that my mother took me to a gynecologist for contraception when she knew I was having sex and had no intention of stopping. However, this doctor (like the one who performed my tubal ligation) doled out treatment without asking a single penetrating question. I think this was a combination of both sexism and scientism.

Finally, I am no longer going to respond to anyone who does not own their comments with their full name and/or a link to their website or blog. I own my public comments both here and elsewhere. When I comment on other blogs, I usually do so under my initials, CAS, and leave the link to my blog when that feature is offered. In this way, internet searches of my name lead only to my work, but I am still held accountable for what I write online.

Thanks again for your interest. I look forward to what my colleagues have to say on this topic.