Unexpected Grace

Stories of Faith, Science, and Altruism

Bill Kramer

In Unexpected Grace Bill Kramer offers a rare look into the human side of the world of scientific research. He goes behind the scenes of four scientific investigations on diverse aspects of the study of unlimited love and offers uplifting portraits of human beings struggling to understand and improve the complex issues facing them. He explores the dynamics between the researchers, the subjects they study, and the participants in the studies, and eloquently tells their personal stories. The stories touch on vastly different social and human issues, but all are connected by love.

The first is the story of Courtney Cowart, who was part of a group of theologians who met at Trinity Place in lower Manhattan on September 11, 2001, not knowing her experience would become the subject of a study. The story of how the group struggled to survive and the formation of a practical, effective altruistic community is heartrending and inspiring. This is followed by a description of a University of California Santa Cruz psychology department study on the dynamics of friendship and prejudice that completely changed the perceptions of those involved.

The third study, from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, focused on the benefits of religion on mental and physical health, which led its researcher to a greater understanding of forgiveness, humility, and grace. The final powerful story is about a physiology of love study conducted in Iowa City. Here, a functional MRI is the vehicle for measuring empathy and brings the researcher to wonder, "Is there a point at which empathy shuts down and we turn away?" Ultimately she comes to recognize that past experiences influences our ability to respond emphatically.

Each story candidly unveils the transformations the researchers and their subjects experienced in the course of their work. This illuminating book, with its unique insights, will appeal to educators, researchers, students, study participants, and everyone who wonders what goes on behind the scenes of investigative studies.

Introduction / ix

Part I: Love Stronger Than Death

1. Tuesday Morning / 3

2. The Street / 10

3. Pradakshina—Church Street / 16

4. Return to Ground Zero / 22

5. St. Paul’s Chapel / 26

6. The Road North / 32

7. Pradakshina—Liberty Street / 37

8. A Team Assembles / 41

9. The Miracle Chapel / 48

10. Joe Bradley’s Story / 61

11. Pradakshina—West Street / 64

12. Creating an Apostolate / 66

13. Pradakshina—Vesey Street / 70

Part II: Friendship In, Prejudice Out

14. First Session: Fast Friends / 77

15. The Challenge / 90

16. California Dreaming / 93

17. The Man from Canada / 97

18. Second Session: Jenga and a Hole in the Midwest / 100

19. When Do You Talk about Race? / 106

20. Third Session: The Nitty-gritty / 111

21. City in the Woods / 120

22. Running the Study / 123

23. Fourth Session: Watch Your Head / 128

24. Overlapping Selves / 133

25. Deception Dollars / 136

26. The Big Picture / 140

27. A Future They Can Live In / 142

Part III: Guided by the Holy Spirit

28. Talking to God / 149

29. Responding to Grace / 156

30. Tales of Unexpected Grace / 159

31. Transforming Shame / 163

32. Approaching Forgiveness / 169

33. Refining the Study / 178

34. A World of Grace / 184

Part IV: Scanning for Empathy

35. The 3T / 191

36. Video Verity / 196

37. The Teacher and the Nurse / 201

38. The Turnoff Point / 207

39. From the Heartland / 214

40. Out of the Ivory Tower / 223

41. Just Like a Woman / 229

42. An Image of Empathy / 233

Afterword / 237

Acknowledgments / 239

Notes / 240