The Righteous Mind
Christianity is inherently persuasive. In our view of the world's origins, problems, and solution, followers of Jesus Christ think we know best for everyone else. We're not necessarily arrogant, though sometimes we sound that way. Rather, we want to love our neighbors in a way that's consistent with what we believe to be God's intent for this world. We're asking others to trust us and ultimately trust God. But what we believe brings liberation, many others perceive as intolerable restraints. So we can benefit by learning from others who offer insight into the human mind and motivations.
A new book by Jonathan Haidt called The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion helped me consider how I seek to persuade others and why I react so strongly to certain arguments. Haidt, a social psychologist at the NYU-Sterm School of Business, certainly doesn't research or write from a Christian perspective, and I don't expect evangelical readers to agree with everything he says (I certainly did not). Still, especially at this time when we can't even agree with our neighbors about the basics of morality, we need to grow in our understanding of forces shaping human behavior. As Haidt, previously a professor at the University of Virginia from 1995 until 2011, wrote this week for The New York Times, "Modern psychology has, to some extent, pulled the curtain back on human reasoning and shown it to be much less impressive than it sometimes pretends to be, and much more driven by the hidden force of intuition."
Haidt and I spoke for about 30 minutes in a wide-ranging conversation that touched on techniques of persuasion, morality and harm, shame and social control, good neighbors, and the source of happiness. Whether you want to win your friends and family for Christ or learn more about your own mysterious motivations, I believe you'll benefit from listening to this interview with Jonathan Haidt on the righteous mind.
You can stream or download the audio below or find it on The Gospel Coalition's new podcast in iTunes.