Monday, January 01, 2007

Mice, pianos, sociology, and Christianity


Here is one of my favorite modern-day parables--it illustrates how we might think of bringing together sociological analysis and Christian faith.

A family of mice lived in a grand piano. They enjoyed listening to the music that came from the great player who they never saw, but who they believed in, because they enjoyed the music that came from the piano.

One day one of the little mice got especially brave. He climbed deep into the bowels of the piano. He made an astonishing discovery. The music did not come from a great player; rather, the music came from wires that reverberated back and forth. The little mouse returned to his family tremendously excited. He informed his family that there was no great player who made the piano music; rather, there were these little wires that reverberated back and forth. The family of mice abandoned their belief in a great piano player. Instead they had a totally mechanistic view.

One day another one of the little mice got especially brave. He climbed even further up into the bowels of the piano. To his amazement he found that indeed the music did not come from reverberating wires, but rather from little hammers that struck the wires. It was those hammers that really made the music. He returned to his family with a new description of the source of the music. The family of mice rejoiced that they were so educated that they understood that there was no great piano player but that the music came from little hammers that struck the wires. The family of mice did not believe that there was a player playing the piano. Instead they believed that their mechanistic understanding of the universe explained all of reality.

But the fact is that the player continued to play his music.

*****
The Kingdom of God may operate, in part, through social mechanisms. For example, the New Testament specifies certain types of religious communities, and this type of community life may produce change in individuals that is consistent with the fruit of the Spirit.

As such, sociology may be helpful in identifying some social aspects of how Christianity does and should work. Identifying these social mechanisms, however, does not rule out the existence of divine creator.

Thoughts?

(I first read this parable in 1984, and I have seen it credited to The London Observer)

2 comments:

tobiK said...

Nice parabel - thank you! I would say the main function for sociology here is to identify the often hidden and subtle mechanisms of power, cause a main part of our part in the kingdom of god is to flip these mechanisms like Jesus did.

brewright said...

Interesting idea... what types of power mechanisms were you thinking of? Certainly sociology puts a lot of emphasis on power relations, but I haven't seen much (or thought much) about how this would apply to Christianity other than faith/church is a mechanism for controlling others.