Trinity Forum Reflections

Wed, Mar 2 2016
by: Cherie Harder
There is a certain appropriateness to Super Tuesday falling mid-way through the Lenten season – an illustration of the attention-grabbing demands and distractions of the world around us in a time traditionally dedicated to spiritual reflection. If Lent encourages silence and solitude, presidential campaigns are about messaging, marketing, and mobilizing – all necessarily noisy endeavors, and this campaign perhaps noisier than most. As such, the Lenten invitation to reflection is easily drowned out amidst the din. But our need for silence and reflection may well exceed our felt need; mystics and poets have long pointed to a connection between noise and inward chaos, even suggesting that noise is hell on earth – or Hell itself. In Paradise Lost , John Milton named the capital of Hell “Pandemonium;” Dante’s pilgrim knows he has entered the Inferno in part by the noise. In The Screwtape Letters , C.S. Lewis’s demon-bureaucrat Screwtape declares:...
Wed, Jan 21 2015
by: Cherie Harder
A Shocking Lack of Solitude " All of man’s troubles stem from his inability to sit quietly in a room alone. " -- Pascal It is a truth long acknowledged that it is not good for man to be alone. But new research suggests that our aversion to solitude is so great that many actually prefer painful electric shocks to their own company. A recent study conducted by University of Virginia psychologists and released in Science magazine sought to measure how Americans handled undistracted solitude – and the results were disquieting. The study initially asked a group of nearly 150 college students to simply sit quietly in a room without distractions for six to 15 minutes. Most reported a great deal of difficulty and disliked the experience. Researchers then planned follow up tests with a wider variety of ages and backgrounds represented. In the next series of tests, they left...
Thu, May 29 2014
by: randy
Dilemma: A Forum For Transformation in Prison Here in the Tomoka maximum security prison outside Daytona Beach, roaring car engines from the distant superspeedway call out to the inmates inside during race weeks. The sound of swaying palm fronds past the razor wire can be heard. But inside its gates, like all prisons, it is a stark, orderly environment filled with lonely stories of broken lives. In an effort to offer inmates more than a holding cell for their term of incarceration, Horizon Communities in Prison , was established to usher better behaved inmates into community living and offer enhanced education. The 320 qualifying inmates live in a cavernous one-room complex, with access to computer terminals and educational opportunities. A group of businessmen enter the Horizon communities to meet with prisoners for two hours of discussion on the Abrahamic faiths. I’m a long time volunteer for Horizon, and an avid...
Fri, Apr 18 2014
by: Cherie Harder
The Greatest Story Ever Told The power of story is getting unlikely attention. In a fascinating collaboration, literary scholars and neuroscientists have teamed up to explore the physiological impact that stories have on the human brain. A recent Wall Street Journal article by Allison Gopnik entitled “Want a Mind Meld? Tell a Compelling Story,” described a variety of brain scan studies that show that stories not only shape one’s thoughts, but also foster a connection between a story-teller and listener. The closer the connection, the greater the understanding of the story. Gopnik concluded that “results suggest that we lowly humans are actually as good at mind-melding as [Star Trek’s] Vulcans or the Borg. We just do it with stories.” Other experiments have looked at how stories help develop neural pathways, and affect our relationships by altering how we order and understand information. Such timely research sheds new insight on the...
Mon, Feb 24 2014
by: Cherie Harder
Readers, Viewers, and Players "We become what we behold. We shape our tools and then our tools shape us." - Marshall McLuhan Sometimes sales data can provide useful insights into what we as a society value, and how we are changing. Compare, for example, sales of last year’s top-selling book compared with the best-selling video game: the leading video game of 2013, Grand Theft Auto V , sold over 12 million copies in the US alone (and over 26 million worldwide). In contrast, the best-selling book in all print categories, The Diary of a Wimpy Kid , sold a mere 1.8 million hardcopies. By some measures, the total of all hardcopy (hardcover and paperback) book titles sold in 2013 was a little over 500 million. In contrast, the top ten video game titles alone sold over 70 million units. The total quantity of book titles being published (or self-published) has...
Mon, Dec 23 2013
by: Cherie Harder
The Singularity of Grace In What's So Amazing About Grace? author Phillip Yancey recounts: During a British conference on comparative religions, experts from around the world debated what, if any, belief was unique to the Christian faith. They began eliminating possibilities. Incarnation? Other religions had different versions of gods' appearing in human form. Resurrection? Again, other religions had accounts of return from death. The debate went on for some time until C. S. Lewis wandered into the room. "What's the rumpus about?" he asked, and heard in reply that his colleagues were discussing Christianity's unique contribution among world religions. Lewis responded, "Oh, that's easy. It's grace." Lewis was not asserting that other faiths did not value or extol mercy or kindness, but that they each posit steps to earning a deity’s approval (or at least placating divine anger), rather than declare the love of God as a gift to be...
Tue, Nov 26 2013
by: Margaret
"In everything give thanks, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 5:18 The Bible is not subtle in its calls for thanksgiving. Repeatedly, urgently, and throughout its many books the reader is urged to "give thanks to the Lord, for He is good," and "in all things give thanks." In both Old and New Testaments, both Gospels and Epistles, we are urged to consider our blessings, and the character of the One from whom they flow, and to offer praise and thanks in response. Centuries later, Martin Luther described gratitude as "the basic Christian attitude" and the Puritan theologian Jonathan Edwards asserted that a spirit of thankfulness to God was an indicator of one's spiritual state. Why, one might wonder, is thankfulness so important? The act of thanksgiving requires both memory and humility -- both reflection on the causes and sources of gratitude, and the...
Thu, Oct 24 2013
by: Margaret
The Trinity Forum recently hosted an Evening Conversation with Andy Crouch -- editor of Christianity Today and author of "Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power." In the talk, Crouch talked about how, from the beginning, God has a plan to move things from good, to very good, to glory -- and that human and government institutions, when following that plan, can create human flourishing. But when they abuse that plan the result is an idolatry that can cause suffering. Responding to Crouch is Washington Post columnist Mike Gerson -- who served as chief speechwriter to President George W. Bush, and was an eyewitness to the practical exercise of power in the White House. Below is a Trinity Forum video with highlights the event. The entire event can be viewed in the link at bottom. View the full video
Fri, Oct 11 2013
by: Cherie Harder
Recently, a friend asked me to accompany her as she received electric shocks while participating in a study to better understand friendship and attachment. (For real.) We drove to the University of Virginia, where electrodes were strapped to her ankles and she was pushed inside an MRI machine, and a test series consisting of images of either an “X” or an “O” flashed before her eyes. When an “O” appeared, she knew no shock was coming. But if an “X” popped up, she had a 20% chance of receiving a strong electric shock. My job was to literally hold her hand through part of the process. The rest of the time, she either endured the test (and shocks) alone, or held the hand of a stranger (in this case, a UVA lab assistant). Sensors attached to her skull read neurologic activity in each case, measuring levels of fear and distress...
Tue, Jul 16 2013
by: Cherie Harder
Last week, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAAS) released a compelling report affirming the necessity and centrality of the humanities and liberal arts in developing citizens and perpetuating democratic self-government. Entitled "The Heart of the Matter," the report was drafted in response to a bipartisan request from Members of Congress, and incorporated input from a large commission of luminaries, including university presidents, scholars, business executives, artists, journalists, and even poets such as our own Trinity Forum Senior Fellow Dana Gioia. The report articulates goals of educating Americans in the knowledge, skills and understanding necessary for citizenship, fostering a society that is innovative, competetive, and strong, and equipping the nation for leadership in an interconnected world - and argues for strengthening the teaching of and research in the humanities and social sciences, expanding lifelong learning programs, strengthening the teaching of American history, and encouraging the use of new digital...