• My parents returned back this weekend from Texas, where they tried to keep warm for the past month (somewhat successfully).  But when I looked out the window and saw snow this morning, I knew it was Sunday in Illinois.  We have only had one non-bad weather Sunday this year so far. 
  • We are eagerly awaiting the birth of our third grandchild, probably next week.  Scarlette is doing well, and Sean is getting excited to meet his new sister.
  • Reading a book by a conservative author that will benefit all my liberal friends...a thoughtful analysis of why so many people in the United States are so frustrated and angry.  My conservative friends would also benefit by sharpening their thinking on Timothy P. Carney's recently published research, Alienated America:  why Some Places Thrive While Others Collapse.
  • I've gotten lots of response from the past two letters I sent out about the things happening in the United Methodist Church.  If anyone is interested, write me or give me a call and I'll fill you in.

March  3, 2018
Who Is Your Favorite Psychopath?
The author Kevin Dutton claims that we all know a number of psychopaths...and that certain jobs attract them. And we'll get to the psychopaths  we  know shortly.  But first, a little Psychology 101.  Let's define our terms. What exactly is a psychopath... and what is the difference between that and a psychotic?  There are enough psychopaths involved in the fields of psychology that no one definition prevails, but we'll give it a try.  
A person with a psychosis is someone who lives in a "world" inaccessible to the rest of us:  hearing and seeing things that others don't. This is generally caused by a breakdown in the electro-chemical processes of the mind.  People with psychosis may also be convinced of things that make no rational sense to those around them.  Drugs and alcohol can certainly cause psychosis.  And sometimes it can be caused by extreme social conditioning...for example, pressure put on a person by a controlling cult. Psychosis might be accompanied by disorganized speech, behavior, and motor behavior. 
"Psychopath," on the other hand, is a non-scholarly, non-diagnostic term referring to several unpleasant personality traits.  We think of people who are mean and fearless, lacking sympathy, and with no moral inhibitions. Psychopaths are not merely conniving, they somehow become galvanized when causing others to suffer.  It is easy to think of criminals and sex offenders as being psychopaths.  The one place where the term "psychopathy" is still used is in the criminal justice system, where inmates are given a test to determine how much a violent risk they are to society.
But Dutton's book asserts that there may be a little "psychopath" in all of us.  One needn't be a serial killer in order to become cold, unsympathetic, or a little sadistic.  Even non-criminals have a behavior repertoire that includes the likes of lying, an inflated sense of self-importance, rationalization for breaking rules, ...an absence of guilt or regret.  So, since there is no  strict  definition to hold us back, who is  your  favorite psychopath?  
If you still can't come up with someone, let's check out Dutton's list of the 10 professions most likely to attract psychopaths. In fact, a little psychopathy often makes people 
more successful in some professions.  

Sad to say, pastors are #8 on his list.  I must confess that it is tempting at times to bang a few heads together in order to get people to act more loving... And what pastor hasn't realized that a few (unintended) strategic funerals resulted in  improving  the spirit of the congregation?  Sad to say, we are left with the realization that some pastors are successful precisely because they  are  a bit pathological.  
Number one on Dutton's list of psychopathic-friendly occupations is "CEO".  This would include presidents of the United States.  Some of the presidents with the greatest historical accomplishments were clearly psychopaths:  Jefferson, both Roosevelts, Wilson, Jackson, Lyndon Johnson, Nixon...  And some of our worst presidents were (are) psychopathic.  And to be strictly non-political, no one get to be president without having a significant dose of it.
Here are the other professions on Dutton's list most likely to attract psychopaths, in reverse order: 10) civil servant; 9) chef; 8) clergy; 7) police officer; 6) journalist; 5) surgeon; 4) salesperson;  3) media personality;  2) lawyer;  1) CEO. 
My next sermon will be on the book of Judges.  They're all psychopaths there.  But let's face it, we see the traits in Moses, Noah, King David, Paul, Abraham...  And the way God is written up throughout the Bible appears psychopathic to us at times:  the judgments and punishments and arbitrary nature of many of his laws.
The ways we write about God, even in the Bible... and the things it takes for our heroes (biblical and political) to be successful, demonstrate just how much we humans still have to discover. How can we bring together  love  and  power  in one integrated action?  Love without power helps no one.  Power without love eventually destroys everyone.  

So... back to our spiritual songs, and stories, and gatherings... to continue our quest for a more perfect solution.  --Mike

 The Sunday letter is something I have done now for over 20 years.  It is a disciplined musing:  mindfulness, memory, and imagination.  I write it when I first wake up on a Sunday morning and then share it with the congregation.  The letter you see published here is usually revised from what the congregation receives.  This discipline of thinking and writing puts me in the place of describing rather than advising.  It prepares me to proclaim the gospel rather than get preachy with the souls who will sit before me.  --JMS


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