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Fascination at Bad Boll

October 19, 2016

Everyone should know at least something of this place. Theology, public policy and history nerds particularly. Something is happening in Bad Boll that should be paid attention to!

For some of the pictures I’m attaching it helps if you can read German, as those with text are in German.  (I can’t read the German much myself without heavy use of a dictionary. But I know some of the history and context from before, from the pertinent website, and conversation while in Bad Boll last week. Oh… Where is Bad Boll? About 25 miles from Ulm, less than an hour from Stuttgart and a little over an hour from Munich – the beautiful region of southern Germany.  “Bad” isn’t bad, by the way, but “bath” – originally a spa or retreat center, which it still is in one sense.)

The website is that of the Evangelische Akademie in Bad Boll. (Your browser will probably give an option to translate the pages, though you should realize programmed translation from German is often distorted because of word order and grammar differences.) There is nothing quite like it in the USA, to my knowledge. I believe it is a model Americans should look at, learn from and perhaps emulate.

Since 1945 it has been a place where Germans could gather for healing their nation and seeking positive ways to apply the best of business and scientific knowledge to societal problems, while also including spirituality and religious institutions.  While it’s common in the US to think of Germany as highly secular and its churches weak and often figuratively “dead”, we’re wrong to think positive religious and spiritual influence is gone or nearly so in Germany.

It’s very tough for us Americans to grasp how something like the Evangelische Akademie and its sister organizations can and do work productively because churches, structures of governance, and views of religion are so different in the two countries.


I’ll let this brief introduction suffice for now and post again, hopefully soon, some more interesting and important history that will explain some of the pictures at least a bit. If anyone wants to get a little insight on this right away, they can check the Wikipedia article on Christoph Blumhardt.


His father, a noted pastor of the time, bought it about 1852, and together with Christoph, expanded it and evolved its mission in a broader societal direction until Christoph died in 1919.  After WWII, it became the first of many similar institutes in Germany which were dedicated to lessons from the war and building a healthy German economy and society in a holistic way, involving church leaders with other professionals. (The first working event included Pastor Martin Niemoller, of note as a leader of the “Confessing Church” which opposed Hitler.) Enjoy the rest of the pictures and watch for more in a few days. 





Conservative One Way, Liberal Another?

September 22, 2016

Pew Research already confirmed what most of us suspected: There seems to be a strong connection between being religiously and politically conservative.

I wrote an article on it, referencing the study, a few weeks ago.  One important question about this fact is “WHY?” A book I recently released on Amazon, here,  brings out factors that I think go quite a ways toward the answer.  Here are a few paragraphs from the book that introduce a bit of that:

The Development of Thinking

 It is obvious to most people that stages of cognitive development have a strong influence on religious beliefs.  Is there perhaps a correlation between growing beyond a literalist view of the Bible and a natural developmental process? Almost anyone who has had a child has seen poignantly illustrated that earlier levels of cognitive development can be humorously concrete.  Yet sometimes a child’s early intuitive grasp is startling.

It didn’t take my daughter long, for example, to understand the hierarchies of authority we set up.  When she was only two, and big brother was five, one day he proposed some make-believe play: “Let’s play king and queen…. I’ll be king”.  Never wanting to be one-down to her brother, without hesitation she shot back, “I’ll be God!”

Developmental Stages and Religious Beliefs

The main lesson here is that kids cannot grasp abstract concepts well.  (In this example of my oh-so-brilliant daughter, I think her comment was astute but still concrete: God is defined as a higher authority than humans.)  Children keep abstract concepts concrete and often quite specific.  If they believe “Jesus is in my heart,” they seem to picture a tiny man literally residing inside their chest.  This changes gradually as neuron growth, education and experience allows them to understand symbols in greater complexity along with things that have no close physical parallel (like God or Spirit).   For most children the final gradual, slow transition to adult thinking begins around puberty when the brain’s hard-wiring is nearly complete.  This is the “formal operations” stage which Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget documented in his studies of cognitive development.

Just because a child matures physically does not mean he or she will automatically learn to think well in abstract terms (that is, about complex or deep things).  That depends on natural mental ability, which varies greatly, and on training in various types of thinking – being confronted with mental challenges, etc.  My experience, with many others, makes clear that we also use our reasoning powers selectively.  We often do this subconsciously.  One form is being “in denial” – not perceiving or believing something because it is too painful or undesirable.

To make what is actually complex relatively simple for a moment, I’ll say this:

The last paragraph I think explains a lot: Conservative people, religiously and politically, are probably of the same general intelligence as their more liberal fellows. But they have been trained to use their reasoning in slightly different ways, and sometimes consciously reinforced that for various social or emotional benefits.  In this way, they often have restricted the number of perspectives they can or are willing to take… a process which does make reasoning more complex and demanding, and not always with better results. But I would strongly argue that in most cases the results are better – more in line with reality, which itself often seems hopelessly complex for us humans.

What have you observed or experienced along these lines?

Finding Roadmaps for our Journey Through Life

September 17, 2016

Are you taking a particular spiritual direction in life? Whether or not you’re involved formally in any religion?

In the book I’ve just released on Amazon Kindle as an ebook, found here, I discuss the ways we all make use of certain “maps”, as it were.  These guide our beliefs and help form our priorities and our outlook on life and its many challenges.

Below is the concluding section, which could have served as an introduction as well.   I titled it “Drawing Our Own Maps” because I’ve observed many times over how we all modify… personalize… either the framing belief system we grew up within or one we may have taken up later in life (or usually some combination).  A key aspect of my message in Spiritual Growth: Live the Questions, Love the Journey, is that more advanced stages of our growth involve an increasingly conscious choosing of what is worthy of our mental belief as well as our emotional trust.  And yes, that implies some focused effort on our part.

Drawing Our Own Maps

We don’t have the option of waiting for a comparison of road maps (worldviews and theologies) before starting our spiritual journeys in life.  During childhood we all learn to view things (actual visual and other perceptions) primarily from and through the worldviews of our family, culture and sub-culture.  Once we gain the brain maturity, the independence and access to resources of adolescence and adulthood, most of us take a second (or third) and deeper look.  We begin to compare and more deliberately choose the maps which outline at least the main thoroughfares we will travel and the sights/sites we will explore.  Most adults, at least the growing ones, never stop examining maps – ones of different styles and varying levels of detail.

I find this all an exciting adventure and I hope you do too! Yes, there are points of challenge and sometimes deep frustration and hurt.  This may push you along faster or you may need to pull back for a time from active exploration at such points.  But staying withdrawn is not really an option, and once your head and your heart are back into the journey, you will again find fellow-travelers.  Some will need to learn from what you have been through.  Expect that and be willing to share and support however you can…. That itself is a vital part of the journey!

Dynamics of Life, Spirit, Growth – Book Free Two More Days

September 16, 2016


Ever curious about how and why we come to see and believe things differently over time? How sometimes we seem stuck and occasionally we have a massive shift?

My just-released ebook on the process of learning, living and growing is free on Amazon today and tomorrow.

Whether you like understanding yourself and your own growth processes better or have responsibility to help guide others who seek spiritual and whole-life direction, I believe you’ll find some insights here.  This short excerpt lays out some of the issues and often strong feelings involved at transitional points in our life journey, involving our inner and our social lives, intertwined as they are:

Susan’s example reminds us that children are vulnerable not only on a physical or emotional level but also on a spiritual one which interplays heavily with emotions at this age that often carry into adulthood as well.  Her situation presents us with several elements of spiritual development which we will deal with in this book:

  1. Transitions are often linked with age, especially as the brain matures in late adolescence, but they can be connected to or triggered by a variety of circumstances which are very often social in nature.

  2. Transitions can be both liberating and fraught with emotional and interpersonal turmoil and mental confusion.

  3. The support and guidance of more mature people who have successfully navigated some or all of the pitfalls can be invaluable and it also gives them a sense of purpose and value to be able to help.

  4. Intellectual doubts (questioning a belief system) are often triggered by social situations or by tragedy and grief; however in the other direction, more “pure” intellectual questions often trigger social struggles within a family or a church – and the battles within families are generally more intense than those with more distant people; plus they are more easily triggered.

The book can be found here. It is fairly short and posting of any reviews will be much appreciated.  Also feel free to come back and comment here.


“Spiritual Growth: Live the Questions, Love the Journey” Just Released

September 14, 2016


I’ve updated the earlier version of this ebook slightly and made it available on Amazon!

It is available there now, and starting tomorrow, Sept. 15, it will be available for free download until about Sept. 17 (Saturday).  Feel free to get it then and tell friends or otherwise promote it if you like it (or trust you will).  After the free period, it will be just $2.99, as it is fairly short at 87 Amazon pages.  And you don’t need a special reader of any kind.  It can be read on one of them or any computer, tablet or smartphone.

In this book I’ve tried to provide a general guide (or roadmap in the book’s analogy) to the journey of spiritual development and deepening understanding through life.  Most people do tend to have identifiable “stages” and sometimes clear transition points as they mature through life and its turning-point situations or “peak experiences”.  These general stages have been described in scholarly books and a few popular ones which I reference some in the book.  (But you won’t be troubled with footnotes there.) …

I worked to keep it readable and accessible for average young adult or older readers.  Yet there is information and ideas of real substance.  Things like how to better integrate the often-conflicting perspectives and conclusions of religion and science; how to make some sense of it if you find yourself no longer in sync with all the beliefs of a church or spiritual heritage you’ve long been in.   Such situations are trying ones for many people… often very emotional.  Having a framework for understanding the world, yourself and God that is both sturdy and flexible is one thing that helps.

Religious Commitment in USA – Down or Up?

August 23, 2016

A surface glance at news about religion in America could lead one either direction: more fervency and commitment or less.  An interesting article on this issue was posted today on the “Five Thirty Eight” blog of famed statistician, Nate Silver.  The title is “Religious Diversity May Be Making America Less Religious.”

The key word is “may”.  The author recognizes that cause and effect are difficult to discern. However, the pattern seems pretty clear that Americans are gradually becoming less religious.  This part isn’t news.

What’s more important than either celebrating or bemoaning this is exploring questions like, “How are religious changes affecting the personal psychology and spirituality of both religious and nonreligious people?” Or, “What may be expected for the future of your church or your denomination?”

These are among the questions I’ve spent most of my life exploring, in both formal and self-directed study, … seeking to find deeper truth for myself and learning how I might best support or guide seekers or people reeling from what is now often called “spiritual abuse”.  A few years ago I distilled some of this into a short book.  It was shown on this blog until recently but I didn’t otherwise promote it.  I’ve decided to put it out as a Kindle book around mid-September.  A link will be provided once it’s up and available.  In the next few posts, I’ll feature some excerpts or related material, such as the article link and brief comment above.

Today’s excerpt is from the introduction of my Spiritual Growth: Live the Questions, Love the Journey, and relates closely to the findings of the diversity article above:

So doubt is out in the open!

It was never fully hidden but now, for sure, the tendency of religious institutions to quash doubt and keep it under wraps has succumbed to an end-around play.  People can connect cross-country and around the world and do so anonymously if they want! This is a big, big help to many.  It is only one expression of a broad and accelerating shift in the way religion and spiritual life are viewed and practiced.

To a degree that is scary to some and exhilarating to others, “spirituality” is encroaching on the monopoly religion has held. People are moving around within religions or denominations as well.

In this book we will focus on the American aspect of this, but the changes are worldwide in varying forms.  Sometimes changes seem to be going in opposite directions in the Global South and in the more developed North and West as well.  I imagine these to be a reflection of stages of development with some reactionary stepping back.

Changes are taking place in contexts that are on different time scales – for groups as well as individuals.  Both must be seen together though our focus will be more on individual needs and processes.   The crucial part of my own questioning and revising my faith happened when the Internet was little known or used.  But, hey… I am now thrilled to have it as a means of interacting, researching, and finding out what others think.  It may prove to be the most significant tool, with its related technologies like smartphones, for the spread of spiritual information and interaction… far more versatile than the printing press!  (Don’t forget, the “new technology” of the printing press was a key part of getting the Bible to the masses five centuries ago.)

So what kinds of problems go with religious or spiritual doubt? What are yours?


Evangelicals for Trump! Huh? – Pew Survey

July 14, 2016

I just don’t get it!  Well, sort of, but not really.  See, I was an Evangelical for all my childhood and many adult years.  So I realize how strong the Republican ties and the suspicion or fear of “liberals”, and especially of both Clintons, can be.

I was surrounded and, though I never was anywhere near this attitude myself, I understood the reasoning for things like celebrating the “virgin birth” of Ronald Reagan.  Again, sort of.  But when it comes to Donald Trump, we’re in entirely new territory.  I mean, the man has virtually no redeeming social value, let alone spiritual.  And, through a lens of “Christian values” or “family values”, what can anyone see in him and his prospective presidency that would recommend him? (Not to even figure in all the down-side risks.)

None-the-less, a recent Pew Research study found that a strong majority of white Evangelicals support Trump.  Now, of course, a similar strong majority of black “Evangelicals” (those theologically aligned with broader Evangelicalism, though often not classified with white Evangelicals, as in this survey) are for Clinton.  This suggests that something other than religious beliefs is driving this split… and it may well have a lot to do with race.

However, I do think other factors are involved as well.  I’ll not speculate on them for now. But I’d be very interested in readers’ thoughts on some of the factors driving so many Evangelicals to a choice I’d say is clearly against principles they supposedly believe in.  Not that they have to therefore support Clinton… they have other options.

What do you think? I’d like to deepen my insights on this.