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Is Think, Try, Learn for Christians?

(This is a guest post that a TTL friend wrote some time ago for a defunct blog. Posted here for your consideration.)

When I ask myself if Christendom is compatible with TTL philosophy, I think first of Jesus the person (insofar as we know of him from Scripture). He is TTL in many ways. Consider: adored children ("a little child shall lead them"), loved parties, turned water into wine, doodled with a stick in the sand when the legal authorities tried to trick him into being Wrong, and advised freedom from anxiety about the future ("Consider the lilies of the field..."). I imagine him laughing, playing, and frankly mocking anyone obsessed with money and status.

Then I realize that Jesus' freedom was anchored in cognitive certainty. A Jew who had committed the Torah to memory, he spoke without doubt about his "father in heaven" (who would meet the needs of said lilies in the field) and deemed the "law" of compassion non-negotiable. He therefore challenged the view that certainty and playfulness are incompatible; his assuredness that Yahweh was caring for his needs left him child-like and compassionate. The interdependence of a cornerstone of knowledge with freedom from anxiety fits what I know of psychology: Kids from stable homes (and those who are held more than others) have fewer anxiety disorders as adults, regardless of the culture. Jesus, then, exemplifies for me what Alexander Lowen believed about human nature: that "surrender" must be balanced by "grounding"; surrender alone is illustrated dramatically by schizophrenia; grounding without surrender by Puritanism.

Susan Wennemyr is a theologian who has been a college professor, stay-at-home mom, writer, and entrepreneur in conscientious investing.

Reader Comments (4)

Two things in particular interest me here:

A) "Kids from stable homes (and those who are held more than others) have fewer anxiety disorders as adults, regardless of the culture." I believe this, but I'd be curious to see her documentation/empirical research studies.

B) "that "surrender" must be balanced by "grounding"; surrender alone is illustrated dramatically by schizophrenia; grounding without surrender by Puritanism." I'd be curious to have this fleshed out a little; I'm not completely getting it.... See More

It interests me that you post this. I'd be curious to hear sometime how that decision came about.

February 17, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermatthewcornell

So I was having computer/connection issues yesterday and couldn't post a real comment, but Rainier has hit on one of things I wanted to know more about. That is, the empirical research on children/anxiety.

I think I'm following where the author is going with the surrender/grounding balance, but I would also like to hear more.

Are the archives of her defunct blog still accessible in some way? This was really thought-provoking!

February 17, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermatthewcornell

The info. on kids is something I learned in Divinity School. The image I remember behind it is that of African women working in fields with their kids bundled on their backs -- which was a necessity that resulted in lots of touch. We learned in the same class -- Sorry I don't remember the source - that anxiety is far more common in richer countries than in any African countries, even though you'd think people in very poor nations have more to worry about.

The language of "grounding" and "surrender" I take from psychologist Alexander Lowen. He looks at both as literal, physical phenomena with psychological counterparts. As I watched the Olympic skiiers fly by last night, I thought they perfectly embodied his recipe of high surrender (the risk! the possible loss of control!) with lots of grounding (what strength, confidence, and skill!) In Lowen's view, which I like, one can "afford" as much surrender as one has grounding. Otherwise, one will fly off the mountain, as it were. He - and I - look at mental illnesses as imbalances; there's too much grounding and too little surrender, or vice-versa (plus some chemical mumbo-jumbo, of course).

A Christian who is a loyal dissenter from Puritanism, the image of excess grounding that is a fearful clinging is a lens through which I understand the phenomenon. I contrast it to my liberal view of Jesus, in which he's telling us all " If only you knew how grounded you actually are (in God's protection)! You would surrender everything (money, control) and thereby find your bliss."

If I may second-guess my friend Matt, I'd venture to say he shares my sense that Christianity is commonly construed as a stale, play-by-the-rules, not-so-adventuresome event that rules out the "TTL" philosophy. We often discuss the fact that there are many schools of Christianity and that this perception might be a misconstrual.

Thanks for your interest!

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSusan Wennemyr
Susan, this is really a very amazing post. This must be read by all parents. Kudos!
December 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBen of Control4 Canada

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