Since reading about the fast track brain processes in Rare Leadership, I gained some new insight into the way Christians can vary in how they live out their spiritual devotion.
First some basics, then one example.
When we think of our brains, we can generalize and speak of two parts, the right brain and left brain. The right brain is mainly involved in the fast track process. It is called this because the right brain fires off 6 signals per second, which is faster than conscious thought, which is in the left brain domain, and comes in at 5 signals per second. This slow track is slow enough for us to be conscious of the thinking we are doing. So, for a human brain there is some processing going on that is just too fast to “know” what it is, and to consciously think about it.
This fast track impacts our identity, motivation, emotions and relationships. And because of the speed, the interaction is non-verbal.
Words don’t always describe what is happening to us. When considering the fast track, we use words like “feelings,” “intuition,” and “instincts.” Because these are connected to identity, who we are, and who we are in relationship with others, including our relationship with God, the fast track is the gateway to so much of who we are in the spiritual realm. Here is where things get rather interesting. Let me recall a recent adventure.
I remember walking into the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem for the first time, traveling with a large group of joyful, caring and compassionate modern Evangelicals. It was amazing to see the striking contrast between the way various people of Christian faith responded to the most sacred church building in the world. Could it simply be a fast track/ slow track kind of thing?
Well, if you are a modern Evangelical who is used to living out your faith primarily through left brain thinking- studying words, detailed outlines and analysis, and careful apologetic thinking- and then you see all the icons and murals and tapestries, with shining lights, candles, jewels, and sparking metal all around…Whoa! Your right brain is going to have a field day and kick into instant judgment mode, complete with visions of Vegas and idolatry.
That isn’t helpful.
Then to make matters worse, your left brain is kicking in to give you five different reasons why those “smells and bells” Christians are wrong because they worship statues and icons and stuff….Now, all of this is going on in a matter of micro-seconds. Without realizing it, a beautiful and devoted Christian finds herself in the awkward position of actually trying to judge how someone else is supposed to love God. It’s like cutting up on the wedding ring your friend got from her husband.
Yes, it couldn’t get much worse, but it does. You see, there is a troubling disconnect, because you are in the midst of people from all over the world who are weeping and filled with awe at being there, experiencing the Word of God “in line and color,” as our ancient ancestors described icons. Rarely have you ever encountered such intense devotion and adoration of our God. I guess since emotion is on the fast track, the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Christians present didn’t have time to use their left brains to tell them they were being too sentimental and emotional.
Here’s the thing. However you wish to talk about it, people’s tastes, their heart language, what stirs their souls, all of this is fast track. It is how our identities are built up, who “our” people are and how people like “us” respond. Good luck trying to convince me that your tastes, heart language, and soul stirrers are better than mine. That you love God more than I do.
The biggest challenge is this, however. We are all “our” people.
For those who love Jesus and want to grow to be like him, it is about joining him in an intimate relationship with a heavenly Dad who adores us.
All of us.
What does “neurotheology” mean? Dr. Andrew Newberg wrote Principles of Neurotheology and was interviewed by NPR in 2010. He called neurotheology “the relationship between the