Ed Catmull is the President of Pixar and Disney Animation. About leadership Ed Catmull writes:
"I believe that managers must loosen the controls, not tighten them. They must accept risk; they must trust the people they work with and strive to clear the path for them; and always, they must pay attention to and engage with anything that creates fear."
"My job as a manager is to create a fertile environment, keep it healthy, and watch for the things that undermine it."
Via Chris Erdman (Excerpted from Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration (pub. 2014)
Forbes review of the book here.
Another On Being conversation for you to listen to. This time it’s one from 2014, and features Nathan Schneider (b. 1984) reflecting on “the wisdom of millennials”. What really struck me was Tippett’s wondering about whether it might be those who have, what my good friend Alan Jamieson calls, “a churchless faith” might prove to be a significant force that will renew religion. I’ve often wondered that. Will there come a time when the institution starts to take seriously the experiences, resources, and wisdom of those who have continued to grow and explore and learnt to resource themselves beyond the walls and forms of traditional (and oftentimes slowly dying) church belonging. Or, maybe the “force for renewal” will create and shape well beyond the institutional church.
Here’s the excerpts I found evocative:
Ms. Tippett: I’m Krista Tippett, and this is On Being. Today with writer and millennial generation public intellectual, Nathan Schneider. We spoke in a live event in the outdoor Hall of Philosophy at the Chautauqua Institution.
Ms. Tippett: So, sometimes I think about Bonhoeffer’s phrase, religionless Christianity, which he didn’t really live to develop. You know, he wrote in his letters and papers from prison where he died — the Nazi prison where he died. But, he, in his era, and a very different set of circumstances, but in his circumstances, where the church was completely co-opted by an — a corrupt state, he came to believe that the essential truths and the essential impulses of Christianity would survive even in the absence of religion.
And, sometimes, I feel like you know, what you’re describing is, uh, you know, whether you agree with the politics of Occupy or not, that passion for social justice, which has been carried across time in a lot of our religious institutions, alive and vibrant and actually, uh, making a practical difference in the lives of these young people who define themselves outside the walls of these institutions.
Ms. Tippett: It’s not an ending point. Right. And — so what this makes me wonder is if the “None’s” [a term for those who say they have “no religion” in polls and census’] , and again, I just find language so awful in so many ways, are actually, you know, like monastics in the early centuries of Christianity, these forces for spiritual renewal that actually collected outside the institutions. If the “None’s”, in fact, the new non-religious, um, may be the forces that will renew religion in this century, if it is to be renewed.
Mr. Schneider: You know, that’s a really — I think an important connection to draw. You know, the monastic movement formed in Christianity, at least, right about the moment when Christianity became the religion of empire. You know, it formed in response to the institutionalization of the faith of this recognition that there has to be something else, there’s another part here that we’re missing when we’re just doing the institution. Institutions will always fail us. And the institution they felt was failing them. And I think that’s something that every generation has to confront in new ways…”
I’ve long had a very high regard for the thinking and writing of Sarah Coakley, in particular her more accessible essays and reflections, for example (Prayer as Divine Propulsion, parts 1 and 2.) I have the majority of her books too, but at the stage of life I’m in its always a challenge making the needful time, when not tired, to read them in a focused, thoughtful, and indeed prayerful way.
“Each chapter of The New Asceticism concentrates on a contentious issue in contemporary theology - the role of women in the churches, homosexuality and the priesthood, celibacy and the future of Christian asceticism - in an original thesis about the nature of desire which may start to heal many contemporary wounds. Professor Coakley is as familiar with the Bible and the Early Fathers as she is with the writings of Freud and Jung, and she draws heavily on Gregory of Nyssa's theology of desire in what she proposes. She points the way through the false modern alternatives of repression and libertinism, agape and eros, recovering a way in which desire can be freed from associations with promiscuity and disorder, and forging a new ascetical vision founded in the disciplines of prayer and attention.”
Table Of Contents
Pleasure Principles: A theology of desire
The Woman at the Altar
Other Voices Other Worlds: Homosexuality
Trinity Prayer and Sexuality
Deepening Practices: Ascetical and Mystical Theology
Mark Vernon has a useful review of the book here, excerpts from which follow:
“…It's a journey through the narrow gate, for sure. The shadow of love's dream is a nightmare, because it continually runs the risk of not getting what it wants, and so forcefully taking what it wants. That's why, in Christian terms, the possessiveness of love must be transformed into the pattern of Christ's love…
…Coakley's work is important because it goes to the heart of what we need to address in Christianity today - not just the problems faced by the church, but what might make Christianity attractive in a culture that yearns for the spiritual dimension and yet doesn't consider that the church has anything substantial to offer it. That's because, in many of the church's current manifestations, it doesn't. But the deep wisdom about desire that's in the tradition, and is always longing to be reawakened, can stir us all anew.”
Easter has come and gone for another year, but yesterday I had a listen to the Nomad conversation with Alan Mann. I first read Alan in 2004 when his book (co-written with Steve Chalke) The Lost Message of Jesuswas published. At the time it caused a lot of controversy, but I found it a thoughtful read. At the time I’d been reflecting a lot on how to talk about “sin” in a meaningful way, as the term had lost it’s currency in what was and remains a post-Christian New Zealand (if indeed we could ever have been called a “Christian country”. I was looking for a new language; a new way of talking about what it meant to talk about a wide range of human experiences; feelings such as shame, brokenness, pain, failure etc.
I subsequently read Mann’s first edition (Authentic Media, 2005) of Atonement for a Sinless Society. Mann was trying to reframe the conversation around “atonement”; rather than primarily offering a new theological take on the atonement.
Anyway, back to the focus of today’s post. Nomad hosts Tim Nash and Dave Ward popped “over to Bristol to chat with Alan Mann. Alan asks the question, what could the atonement mean for a society that doesn’t consider itself sinful in any traditional sense. Rather than ‘sin’ Alan believes the issue we now face is shame and it is this that Jesus’ death needs to set us free from…”
You’ll find the (downloadable) podcast here. The conversation starts around the 5 min mark.
Finally, I also highly recommend one of the most thought-provoking books I’ve read on the subject. James Alison’s very accessible and exciting Knowing Jesus(first published in 1993), which has a foreword by Rowan Williams. See also his more academic The Joy of Being Wrong: Original Sin Through Easter Eyes, written from the perspective of the resurrection.
With Australian Catholic Cardinal George Pell making the news in the last few weeks, and having recently watched the heartbreaking, harrowing, but totally absorbing Oscar winning film Spotlight, I wanted to revisit a conversation about George Pell with journalist David Marr, author of the Quarterly Essay (Issue 51, 2013) – The Prince, Faith, Abuse and George Pell. The conversation was published as an audio file on 6th October 2013. You'll find it here.
“The leading Catholic in the nation and spiritual adviser to Tony Abbott, Cardinal George Pell has played a key role in the greatest challenge to face his church for centuries: the scandal of child sex abuse by priests.
In The Prince, David Marr investigates the man and his career: how did he rise through the ranks? What does he stand for? How does he wield his authority? How much has he shaped his church and Australia? How has he handled the scandal?
Marr reveals a cleric at ease with power and aggressive in asserting the prerogatives of the Vatican. His account of Pell’s career focuses on his response as a man, a priest, an archbishop and prince of the church to the scandal that has engulfed the Catholic world in the last thirty years. This is the story of a cleric slow to see what was happening around him; torn by the contest between his church and its victims; and slow to realise that the Catholic Church cannot, in the end, escape secular scrutiny.
The Prince is an arresting portrait of faith, loyalty and ambition, set against a backdrop of terrible suffering and an ancient institution in turmoil.”
If you get a chance to see SpotlightI highly recommend it.
“In this book, award-winning author James K. A. Smith shows that who and what we worship fundamentally shape our hearts. And while we desire to shape culture, we are not often aware of how culture shapes us. We might not realize the ways our hearts are being taught to love rival gods instead of the One for whom we were made. Smith helps readers recognize the formative power of culture and the transformative possibilities of Christian practices. He explains that worship is the "imagination station" that incubates our loves and longings so that our cultural endeavors are indexed toward God and his kingdom. This is why the church and worshiping in a local community of believers should be the hub and heart of Christian formation and discipleship.
Following the publication of his influential work Desiring the Kingdom, Smith received numerous requests from pastors and leaders for a more accessible version of that book's content. No mere abridgment, this new book draws on years of Smith's popular presentations on the ideas in Desiring the Kingdom to offer a fresh, bottom-up rearticulation. The author creatively uses film, literature, and music illustrations to engage readers and includes new material on marriage, family, youth ministry, and faith and work. He also suggests individual and communal practices for shaping the Christian life…”
“In a 2013 interview, Pope Francis famously likened the church to a field hospital, saying that his vision of the ideal church is one that attends to the overwhelming suffering of the world before concerning itself with smaller matters. In this book William Cavanaugh adopts Pope Francis's metaphor to show how the church can help heal both the spiritual and the material wounds of the world. As he examines the intersection of theology with themes of religious freedom, economic injustice, religious violence, and other pressing topics, Cavanaugh emphasizes that the church cannot condemn the evils of the world from a position of superiority. Rather, he says, its practices of solidarity with humanity must be based on a profound recognition that the church shares in the guilt of human sin. Cavanaugh's Field Hospital provides guideposts for a church that is willing to go outside of itself onto the battlefields of today - both metaphorical and literal - not to inflict wounds but to bind them up and heal them.”
“Our seduction into beliefs in competition, scarcity, and acquisition are producing too many casualties. We need to depart a kingdom that creates isolation, polarized debate, an exhausted planet, and violence that comes with the will to empire. The abbreviation of this empire is called a consumer culture.
We think the free market ideology that surrounds us is true and inevitable and represents progress. We are called to better adapt, be more agile, more lean, more schooled, more, more, more. Give it up. There is no such thing as customer satisfaction.
We need a new narrative, a shift in our thinking and speaking. An Other Kingdom takes us out of a culture of addictive consumption into a place where life is ours to create together. This satisfying way depends upon a neighborly covenant—an agreement that we together, will better raise our children, be healthy, be connected, be safe, and provide a livelihood. The neighborly covenant has a different language than market-hype. It speaks instead in a sacred tongue.
Authors Peter Block, Walter Brueggemann, and John McKnight invite you on a journey of departure from our consumer market culture, with its constellations of empire and control. Discover an alternative set of beliefs that have the capacity to evoke a culture where poverty, violence, and shrinking well-being are not inevitable—a culture in which the social order produces enough for all. They ask you to consider this other kingdom. To participate in this modern exodus towards a modern community. To awaken its beginnings are all around us. An Other Kingdom outlines this journey to construct a future outside the systems world of solutions…”
I’ve really enjoyed the following conversation with Jonny Baker. There’s always a richness of thought and practice in conversations with Jonny. I’m often convicted by his deep commitment to doing, while at the same time recognizing that I’m just not that entrepreneurial.. I value too Jonny’s commitment to the Church of England, although I can’t make that same commitment (but perhaps I should) to the Anglican equivalent here in NZ, which for me is moribund and lifeless, working hard to bolster a version of what it means to be Anglican, and completely neglecting the edge, creativity, and imagination. But, perhaps, that’s the point I get most clearly from Jonny. We shouldn’t wait for the institution and we’re right to expect little. The better way is just to begin and to see where the wind of the Spirit blows.
Anyway, I’m rambling. Lots to reflect on as a result of listening to a highly stimulating conversation, which you’ll find via the link below this “blurb”:
“…Ever felt awkward and uncomfortable in Church, like you just don’t fit in? Well, according to Jonny Bakerthat feeling could be the gift of pioneering.
Jonny was pioneering before pioneering was a thing. Most notably he founded the alternative worship community Grace, and more recently he’s pioneered a training course for pioneers. So if you’re dreaming that things could be different, then check out the interview, Jonny might just be the person you’ve been hoping to stumble across…”
Listen to the podcast here. Note - the actual interview starts approx. 7 mins in.