What the VW scandal teaches us about our faith and values

wrong-way-sign-1518657I was reading the other morning an article about the VW scandal as I ponder a lot lately what could lead to the type of decision that they made.  One of the things that came through to me from the this article in the Atlantic:  http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/01/what-was-volkswagen-thinking/419127/ – was about corporate culture.  I realized there are parallels to that in our own lives and how our faith plays out.

The article contrasted the corporate culture of Johnson & Johnson vs. Volkswagen – in how they each handled a crisis based on their corporate culture.  In reality many big decisions are not made once – but are a series of small choices made over time the culminate in that direction we take.  This is similar to the old frog and pot story – where if you put a frog in a pot and slowly warm it up they won’t jump out – vs. they will jump out immediately from a boiling pot.

In some cases our “evil” isn’t a conscious choice to decide to be evil -but a descent into poor choices and compromised values.  In corporate culture people, due to stress and environment, have a tendency to acclimate to the climate (much like the frog) and behave differently than they expect themselves to.  This article referred to a theory known as “Normalization of Deviance” – where reality seems to warp where something that isn’t OK becomes OK.  There are many examples of this – the most famous being what happened at NASA before the Challenger disaster.

In fact they talk about humans developing “scripts” by which they process information. These scripts can often lead us down the wrong road – as we ignore and misinterpret information to fit the script.  They become part of the corporate culture – thus a whole group of intelligent people can go down the wrong road together without intending to.

So what does this have to do with my faith?: Everything.  What this article is talking about in corporate culture isn’t about business – but about people.  The reason these things occur is because we are involved in these corporations – we flawed human beings.  This behavior plays out exactly the same way in our lives – where we rationalize one thing and then the next, and the next…. and we end up in a place we’d never thought we’d be.  It’s also a function of the environment we breath in and saturate our hearts and minds with.

In the movie a “A Beautiful Mind” the main character has an interesting phrase he says – “Diet of the Mind”.  This character, John Nash, is a brilliant mathematician who is also a schizophrenic and has friends we later find out are imaginary.  Much later in the story after he receives the Nobel prize, someone asks him if he still sees the imaginary people.  He answers yes – be he chooses to ignore them – something of a diet of the mind.

I keep thinking about that phrase – a Diet of the Mind –  in terms of what I let into my heart and soul.  What am I reading, what am I watching, what am I listening to?  Am I consuming things that encourage me or drag me down?  Am I feeding my soul our just my appetites?  I’ve learned that what we do daily has an affect on the direction of our lives.

That’s why I’m finally getting what reading the bible on a constant basis.  Growing up I always though it was about memorizing for knowledge.  Now I understand that it’s much deeper – it’s a diet of the mind and heart.  Fundamental changes in our behavior aren’t all about just a decision – the so called willpower.  They are a deeper thing – caused by what we expose ourselves to.  So when people talk about the word of God penetrating your heart – it’s not something mystical – it’s something human.  We are influenced by who we spend time with – and when we dwell in the word of God we are spending time with God himself.

I’ve learned the reading isn’t about knowing stuff – but about knowing God.  I read not just to learn – but to enjoy and to change. Right now I’ve started reading a different organization of the bible – The Books of the Bible – that is a more natural read of the Bible (no chapters, verses, etc.).  I found myself getting excited about reading Luke through Acts as one concept.  That’s probably more like it – being excited about it.

Frankly the Bible isn’t an easy book to read- as it’s deep and meaningful.  I call it information dense – as there is a lot packed into a small space.   But it’s still good 🙂


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