SD and discerning moral order

a mystical möbius — curating facts, ideas, text, and media to create a contemplative space.


Blue door Photo by frank mckenna on Unsplash


Let’s begin with a story

First, a little background for the story.

It’s funny, when one is clergy and in the course of conversation another person suddenly realizes that you are clergy, depending on the context, of course, the person often changes their behavior in one or more of a few predictable ways.

Most folks caught in this situation usually react with a quick silent mental inventory considering what inappropriate things they may have said or done before they realized that you had been ordained. It’s easy to see evidence on their faces that the gears are turning in this process. If that accounting comes up clear for them, then often their behavior turns into whatever their conception of being on-their-best-Sunday-school-behavior is, e.g., they generally regress to behavior based on a third grade Sunday school memory. They may have never been in Sunday school in their life, it doesn’t matter, they have an idea of what that’s like and they embody that.

If they realize they have erred, sometimes they attempt to explain it away as something else. Some try to make atonement for their indiscretions. Sometimes they try to ignore whatever it was as if no one would have noticed.

Another possibility is they take the opportunity to play contrarian, of course, employing differing degrees of grace. Sadly, sometimes this lacks any grace at all as the church has really wounded lots of people. 

A true story: sent by the bishop…

My second appointment to local church ministry was in a small deeply-rural town of about 300 souls. This was a while back but in this rural community cell phone service was sparse, at best. A mile west of the southwest edge of “town” (read, small village) was a hill where the community cemetery was located. It so happened that the best cell phone service anywhere in the area was right there in the cemetery. A bit more to it, but, basically for this cell-reception reason, I spent a good bit of time out there during the day when I had work (like study or writing) I could do there. —Not sure what the folks who weren’t in the in-the-know-loop on why I did that thought about it.

Spending the day at the cemetery afforded occasions to talk to others who had come there, each for their own set of reasons. They wanted to mourn, or celebrate, or just be present with the grave of a person they still felt themselves to be in relation with in some way.


cemetery - Photo by Kevin Maillefer on Unsplash


Anyway, one day I had occasion to meet a gentleman there in the cemetery, and that meeting produced a conversation that mashed-up the generic patterns a bit. We chatted a while before he realized that I was a local parson. He basically told me that his wife participated in the church—there are two churches “in town” but about five local churches in the area—but that he really didn’t, and he didn’t care to for reasons he opaquely shared.

Once he realized I was clergy (after he took the silent quick-inventory) his response was, “Oh, hey, you know, what I said about not participating with my wife?”

I replied, “You know, I can really respect what you said about that. Instead of being a mealy-mouthed hypocrite about it, you plainly state that you don’t have anything to do with the church and you don’t really want or need to either. That’s genuine and straight forward. I respect that.”

When he heard me read-back to him how his casual remarks about his relationship with the church had come across, I’d never seen anyone scramble so fast to edit and revise their bio in my entire life.

“Well, I didn’t mean to say I don’t want to have anything to do with…” 


SD clean


Axiological assumptions

Last week my post here, Spiral Dynamics is amoral, basically read back to the Graves/SD community the boilerplate, bedrock Graves/SD fact that, while technically axiological,  the theory and model are godless. Yes, after all, it is an evolutionary theory.

Obviously, any real-world application of Graves/SD requires a moral metric of some kind as a conversation partner. In order to keep Graves/SD clean, practitioners must be totally transparent regarding their conventions concerning ethics. 

“We have now sunk to a depth at which restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men [sic]. If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear. In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act.” —George Orwell 

Muted déjà vu?

I’m in connection with a portion of of the Graves/SD community through a couple of discussion groups. I’m still trying to figure out what it means that the Graves/SD community has made a rather muted response to this restatement of the obvious. [illustration below, ‘planes’ because orthogonal spheres are really hard to visualize—e.g., evolution is a subset of Spirit]


Orthogonal Planes meme 1


A context of political technologies

We live in a context in which the POTUS routinely uses a very dangerous propaganda technique called: fire-hosing falsehoods [see here].

Whatever we would like to do in response to the political technology that is threatening democratic society, we need sturdy moral metrics. And, no matter how sophisticated our thought and systems grow. No matter how complex our theories and models become. No matter how well our tools are able to describe what, how, and why things are happening or will happen, we still need an accessible way to inquire about whether a thing should happen, or not. This good and evil, right and wrong axis of inquiry needs to be easily engaged and understood in our analysis. We need morality metrics on an exoteric level. Again, ‘Graves/SD clean‘ practitioners need to be totally transparent regarding all their axiological presumptions. 




For me, the answer to the question of the basis for my moral reasoning while in the process of applying the amoral Graves/SD model is simple and direct:

I turn to Jesus for that!

Wait. I‘m talking about a simple means to define a deontological ethic. Next time I’ll unpack “I turn to Jesus for that!”

Next week:my title:An a-religious case for Jesus.”

Come and see. 

[this post approx. 1,100 words (5 min. read)]

Your thoughts?

I never know what I’ve said till I hear the response. What did you hear me say?

Note: I know, trying to introduce a big-picture idea like Spiral Dynamics (a complex developmental anthropology) in this format is ambitious. So, I’m using a serial-approach. Blog introduction (June 30, 2018). First in series (July 1, 2018).


Blue door Photo by frank mckenna on Unsplash

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