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Tackling faith, politics, relationships, writing, & other impolite topics. Teacher. Podcaster. Newsletter: @Eric_Sentell on Twitter

A simple psychological technique for arresting attention

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The best marketing in the world won’t even have a chance to influence potential customers unless it first stops their scrolling.

A simple psychological tool, schema theory, can help you stop the thumbs of your target audience in mid-air above their smartphones.

Perhaps more importantly, it can also make the audience more likely to remember what they stopped scrolling to read.

A Ghost Story Reveals How Human Memory Works

Schema theory dates to Sir Frederick Bartlett’s seminal work, Remembering.

In one of several studies he recounts, Bartlett had white, middle-class British subjects read and then recall a Native American ghost story. Invariably, they added, deleted, exaggerated, or downplayed…

Cultural causes have cultural solutions

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The recent Ravi Zacharias sex scandal rocked the Christian world. The world-renowned Christian apologist and evangelist, now deceased, engaged in affairs, sexual harassment, and sexual misconduct over many years. Supporters and staff at the ministry he founded helped cover it up.

The revelations about Ravi Zacharias hit especially hard because he was widely respected and, as a Christian, he was assumed to have morals. This wasn’t some “sleazy” Hollywood exec or politician. Worse, the people who enabled him were also Christians; they also should’ve known and acted better.

If we face this toxic culture, though, we can learn how to…

Can violence show love? Maybe if you’re beating a pedophile.

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As a Christian, I try to follow the teachings of Jesus. According to Jesus, the “greatest commandment” is to “love God and love others.”

Paradoxically, that’s why I think violence can be acceptable in certain circumstances even though Jesus clearly taught non-violence.

Sometimes, a limited act of violence demonstrates love.

The saga of the Duggar family (Jonathan Poletti) illustrates how and why violence might in some cases demonstrate love for and to other people.

Josh Duggar starred on TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting as the oldest son of the devout, conservative Evangelical Duggar family. TLC abruptly canceled the show when…

How to talk about racism in your church

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When you hear “peanut butter,” you instantly think “jelly.” You don’t think “honey.” You don’t think “crackers.” You certainly don’t think “racism.”

You have an implicit bias toward associating “peanut butter” and “jelly.” An implicit bias is a non-conscious, automatic association.

Implicit biases don’t become a real problem until they create or contribute to institutionalizing “in-group favoritism” to such an extent that systemic advantages accrue to one racial group at the expense of another.

To fully honor the imago dei concept and live up to Jesus’ teaching, we must address implicit biases in ourselves and our faith communities. …

And who told them to care? Is this a conspiracy?

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When I was a kid, Shaquille O’Neal signed a $100 million free agent deal with the Lakers. I recall my parents sitting around with friends and talking about the obscenity of an athlete making that kind of money.

My father stated flatly, “He isn’t worth that much.” One of my parent’s friends seethed, “No n***** is.”

If you teach college writing long enough, you begin to see the same essay topics over and over. I’ve actually banned some topics because I’m sick of them. I don’t need to read another paper about legalizing marijuana.

Recently, I’ve noticed a new “go-to”…

How Sally Rooney’s ‘Normal People’ shows us that sometimes we need to tell

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Normal People by Irish author Sally Rooney upends the ubiquitous writing advice, “show, don’t tell.”

The novel (adapted into a series on Hulu) is a tender psychological portrait of Connell and Marianne as they drift into and out of a deep relationship. Rooney alternates their perspectives and follows them from high school through college.

Differences in popularity and social class, classic miscommunication, and some mental health issues (anxiety for Connell, an inferiority complex for Marianne) wedge them apart at various times. Yet they always remain aware of their unique significance to each other.

More Telling than Showing?

Rooney presents Connell and Marianne’s internal worlds…

A crisis is an opportunity

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Church attendance in America has been slowly declining for decades, and now less than half of Americans belong to a religious denomination.

Recently, Pastor Brandon Cox offered the most succinct summary of American Evangelicalism’s challenges that I’ve ever seen.

But as the saying goes, each challenge also presents an opportunity.

Problem 1: Science denial

Brandon Cox writes:

  • “We’ve rejected science unnecessarily …. We are needlessly afraid of what scientists discover that might threaten our status quo.”

Amen. Christian rejection of science dates back to Galileo. In America, contemporary science denial can be traced to the Scopes Monkey Trial.

Many fundamentalist Christians felt belittled by…

The power of coopting terms

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I have the dubious distinction of hailing from Missouri, the state represented by seditionist Senator Josh Hawley.

For those unfamiliar, Josh Hawley was the first Senator to announce he would object to the certification of the 2020 Presidential election results. Hawley poured gas on the “stop the steal” conspiracy theory and directly contributed to the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.

Hawley lost his book deal with Simon and Schuster shortly thereafter. Though he found a new publisher, he hasn’t shut up about being “muzzled,” “silenced,” and “canceled.” …

But That’s Actually Good News

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On a recent episode of the excellent faith-deconstruction YouTube series/podcast, The Wonder and The Mystery of Being, Jon Steingard interviewed a YouTuber who creates videos engaging with Christian apologetics.

This YouTuber, Paulogia, used to be a youth pastor. He explains in the podcast how he began exploring Christian apologetics just for his own knowledge and edification, only to be dismayed by their obvious weaknesses.

Starting with Ken Hamm’s Answers series, he quickly realized, “These are terrible answers.” His belief in biblical inerrancy crumbled, and then so did his faith. He quipped to Steingard, “Dinosaurs destroyed my faith.”

This story illustrates…

A potentially good idea and a harmful hierarchy

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Beth Moore threw gasoline on the debate over “complementarianism” with a pair of recent tweets.

Moore tweeted:

Let me be blunt. When you functionally treat complementarianism — a doctrine of MAN — as if it belongs among the matters of 1st importance, yea, as a litmus test for where one stands on inerrancy & authority of Scripture, you are the ones who have misused Scripture. You went too far.

I beg your forgiveness where I was complicit. I could not see it for what it was until 2016. I plead your forgiveness for how I just submitted to it and…

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