Sunday, March 14, 2004

I attended a conference last week that was, for the most part, pretty unremarkable. The conference was put on by the Oregon Municipal Finance Officers Association. The session I attended was titled "Selecting Top Talent." The speaker was discussing methods for ensuring that organizations recruit quality workers for their organizations.

He argued that there were basically two components to finding the right person: selecting someone with the right competencies (do they actually have the skills to do the job) and someone who is "learning agile." The concept is that people who are learning agile simply learn more quickly than others and are more adaptable to their environment. People who are learning agile tend to be broadly curious, learn from their successes and failures, and like complexity (among other traits).

The idea of learning agility really resonated with me. First, while it's not exactly a revolutionary idea, it is important that there are people out there who are actually measuring this, and secondly that people are recognizing that it is an important trait of management employees. I also like to think of myself as learning agile, so maybe I just the like the idea because it validates how I see myself...

Anyway, it seems to me that a lot of Christianity, particularly the conservative/fundamentalist flavor, is distinctly non-learning agile. There's a belief that the world isn't complex and we know everything about the world that we need to know. There is also a definite anti-intellectual tendency in the fundamentalist movement. I think the fear is that opening our minds will lead us to "bad" thoughts, and ultimately the devil. Thus curiosity is to be feared, not welcomed.

Though I think that if God meant for us to be mindless automatons, God would have given us "The Idiot's Guide to Not Pissing Off God." Instead we get a collection of stories, letters, psalms, geneaologies, and ancient laws (and people pissing off God - see Lot's wife). God wants us to think and use our intellect (as well as our other gifts) to understand the world and our place in it. I think it's terrible to walk around afraid of learning new things. Curiosity and the thirst for knowledge is the main reason we still don't live in caves. Knowledge exploited for the wrong reasons has it's own problems (weapons of mass destruction, profit for profit's sake, etc.), but to walk around believing that curiosity is the work of Satan will lead us to another dark age.

This probably isn't particularly coherent, but my lovely daughter hasn't felt like sleeping much at night. I feel like a zombie...probably the devil exploiting my natural curiosity to turn me into an agent for the dark forces.

An interesting idea to explore another time comes from Karen Armstrong's "The Battle for God." I haven't finished the book, but in the introduction she argues that Christianity has changed to accomodate the needs of our times. That is, our life as Christians today is radically different than Christians in prior centuries. The implication being that we shape our beliefs and traditions to fit our needs, rather than the other way around. Fundamentalist Christians would probably argue this idea is ridiculous. I'd say more, but I haven't finished the book yet.



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