Note: I know, trying to introduce a big-picture idea like a developmental anthropology in a blog format is ambitious. So, I’m using a serial-approach. Introduction (June 30). First in series (July 1).
Moses come ridin’ up on a quasar
His spurs were jingling, the door was ajar ~ Robert Hunter
The nature of history
Kurt Vonnegut has been my favorite novelist for over forty years. On my view, just to be funny enough to make others laugh in general is a real gift. To be able to pen words that another will likely laugh out loud when reading is a very rare blessing. That was Vonnegut’s gift. Along with Vonnegut, I share what I gathered to be his view that more than by the grandiose folk, real history is made by the unlikely bit players of everyday life. Ordinary people, like you and me, but often in wildly imaginative situations where, through unlikely contexts and contrasts, Vonnegut brilliantly mined comedy, and drew insight from humans/humanity.
My blog has come a full spiral-round in some respects. I began this blog series (here) with the contention that shame was a serious evolutionary mistake that has been variously ritualized and handed up through the human chain of history. In a moment I’ll describe how I think some of the dynamics of shame have impacted the United Methodist Church and our forty-seven year debate concerning majority and minority human identities. I also began the blog (here) by taking on the shadows of the leading edge Green [FS] vMEME because—and it pains me greatly to recognize/confess this—no small part of our long inability to move forward has been about Green‘s failure to effectively lead in the church (here).
In relation to the ‘Way Forward’ debate, my blog has effectively been about unpacking this pointed proverb from last week’s blog post:
United Methodist Church and demons
I’ve said, especially in relation to our way forward debate, both the Blue and Green values camps express demons. Both those who would change our understanding, and those who would preserve traditional conventions, have been demonizing each other for many years—casual observers might even say we have viciously demonized each other. For many, the dysfunctional way these issues have been addressed over the past forty-seven years is far worse than the various issues of our discord themselves.
I wrote in July, 2016 [Jesus wept: A Plea for Compassion] that the underlying issue dividing people in the UMC [and USA] is a difference in values paradigms, or frames—binary vs pluralist thought. Another author recently described it well as having a dysfunctional dependency on certainty. Until we are able to hold our beliefs somewhat loosely, we are unable to allow the possibility that we may be in error. Ironically, we do not genuinely enter the realm of faith until we are able to admit that it is impossible to know certain things. To claim certainty about those things is arrogant hubris and a complete lack of faith.
Funny, the moment we are able to allow the possibility of being in error about some things, we are only a step away from allowing the possibility others may be correct about some things. Then, we’re only another small step away from the possibility that more than one thing may be correct at the same time. Transformation from either/or to both/and framing both transcends and includes either/or thinking. In it’s zealousness for inclusive justice, sometimes Green has failed to make the inclusion-of-Blue part real to Blue. Now there’s some rich irony.
A Blue shadow
Chasing the illusion of certainty is a Blue shadow. As I’ve written in the “Do no harm” mini-series, for Green it is easy enough to see [through Orange science/research] the effects of Blue‘s expression of the homophobia demon possession of the UMC. Anxiety, depression, self-harm, and suicide in our teens bears tragic witness to Blue‘s demonic overreach.
A Green shadow
Ghosting others because of their values is a demon-possession hidden in Green‘s shadow. I’ve written that each vMEME, in its turn, tends to discern/operate naïvely as though it were THE answer. Green often escalates this naïve, elitist discounting to a nuclear level and uses its postmodern deconstruction tool to ghost others. Green has incorporated shame for border maintenance at record, socially toxic scale. This forms Green‘s chief failure to helpfully lead.
The power of inter-Blue
I’ve argued that the Blue vMEME is the first values system that codifies convention, Blue is formally conventional. Blue forms community aligned on agreed upon conventions. The power of Blue authority is a function of how many people join in assent to the convention—e.g., strength in numbers. Marriage is an ancient human convention that vastly predates religion but is now codified, ritualized, and prominently present in many religious communities (Blue), including Christianity. The convergence of many different kinds of Blue communities around the marriage convention creates a powerful human norm that even transcends Blue institutions and forms an unspoken, unwritten bond among the majority.
Thankfully, LGBT+ rights and marriage equality are gradually gaining parity, and majority stature in the U.S./Europe. However, worldwide those holding the traditional, one man one woman, sexual ethic and view of marriage are the vast majority.
Sadly, as with many human norms, marriage integrates and uses shame to defend its borders. UMC Green has failed to appreciate that if either of the progressive plans pass, then within the global majority, UMC Blue will be subject to the shame/ridicule of the global Blue majority community. For UMC Blue, it’s less about not being able to live with UMC Green and much more about Blue‘s fidelity to Blue—honor, duty, and obedience are Blue values. UMC Blue fears the shame of global Blue far more than the shame of UMC/any Green. Clearly, Green will roundly argue that justice for the minority is paramount. However, for Green, as a serious minority itself, ghosting Blue does not empower (Blue) majorities to include (Green empowered) minorities, which is (healthy) Green‘s goal.
Lonely point of agreement
I feel most UMC folks are now lining up in unison on the confession that some harm will be done going forward regardless of what we do in St. Louis. Of, course, I, and many others, would also note that Orange vMEME driven research makes it very difficult to deny the dreadful harm that we have already done for years by allowing a homophobic demon to express itself through complicity in our documents/declarations/actions.
Least harm option
Profound irony. It appears to be a bit of a Martin Buber question. Perhaps somewhat akin to a Deuteronomy 4.28 problem.
By the admission of progressive plan advocates, the least harm to the UMC institution will occur if the traditional plan passes.
Yep. I’ve recently seen prominent progressive-plan leaders write: “If the traditional plan passes many progressives we’ve talked to say they will stay and continue the fight.”
Conversely, many traditionalists have made it very plain they would be unable to abide if a progressive plan passes. As I said, the convention the traditionalists are defending is a shared human convention and far broader than the conventions of the parochial UMC. Traditionalists have vowed to take leave if a progressive plan passes.
If, less people leave on traditional plan passing, then, ipso facto, less harm to institution.
The tragic irony is that while passing the traditional plan may do the least harm to the institution, arguably, it will also do the most harm to actual human beings.
Then, too, even institutionally, harm is not wholly determined by loss of numbers. I’d argue over time far greater harm to the UMC institution is/has been caused by chasing the illusion of certainty. Arguably, it is rather likely that more human beings will be harmed if we follow the traditional plan.
Harming a Thou over harming an It seems a profound indecency. In a reckoning of Blue harm vs Green harm it doesn’t even appear close to a contest. Blue is doing lethal harm.
10,000 foot view in a nutshell…
I’m seeing this final UMC attempt to stay together as a microcosm for what’s happening in the U.S. right now. ‘Backward.’ ‘Forward.’ What do these terms mean in practical application for our society? Which trajectory are we [UMC and/or U.S.A.] going to take?
No less than this is being worked out in St. Louis [and in U.S. elections in Nov. 2020]. By definition minorities are not majorities and therefore, in a majority-rule system, any gains in recognition and rights for minorities only result when majorities find significant ways to identify and stand with minorities.
I try to remain hopeful. However, if completely candid I’m not optimistic—I sure would like to be surprised. This is written well before anything has been decided in St. Louis. Sadly, very little I’ve seen from Green expression (in either church or world) indicates self-awareness has increased sufficiently for leadership and change to move forward on moving pluralist influence to ascendancy. It’s simple, while this change and these rights may be legislated by government, they will not be legislated by the church. Why? Because Blue sees itself as in the majority on this no matter what the UMC legislates. Therefore, the sole thing church legislation can add to this change effort for justice is ratification of what has already occurred in human hearts moved through personal relationship. This kind of transformation is accomplished one heart at a time.
Regardless of the percentage of Blue or Green in the UMC, if motivated, well educated people working with a democratic polity are unable to work this backward/forward problem out in St. Louis, then I would be unable to see that as a good harbinger for the U.S.A. going forward in 2020.
Moses come ridin’ up on a quasar
When Moses brought the Blue vMEME down off the mountain with him as G-d’s gift to the people, he essentially unleashed a powerful new technology, the rule of law. Vonnegut introduced “ice nine,” technology as a foil, in his novel, Cat’s Cradle. ‘Ice nine’ humorously illustrated how a seemingly nifty technology can have catastrophic, unintended consequences. Misapplied, technology can slowly unwind the earth’s ecology, or rapidly bring an institution to a screeching halt. Blue, and the Spiral, needs Orange and Green to both transcend and include Blue. We simply cannot live decently without healthy Blue in our Spiral vMEME stack. A demon-free, healthy Blue we can live with.
I never know what I’ve said till I hear the response. What did you hear me say?