Sunday, December 02, 2007

Friendly Fire does not win battles ...

Andrew Goddard over at Fulcrum has published an essay entitled "The Anglican Communion - Mapping the Terrain." The thing about a map is that it needs to be accurate.

Here in the United States the great rage right now are GPS systems. Normally, you install them in your car and they're either saved maps or satellite-generated real-time maps. The coolest thing about about them is that they can find you, where ever you are and guide you to the place where you want to go. I actually have one in my cell phone.

Sometimes, for fun, while riding the train home I'll power-up my cell phone's GPS system and a little dot shows up on a map and shows me right where I am, on the Norfolk-Southern track heading west. One time I was sitting in the back seat of car driving through Pittsburgh and the driver was sort-of lost and while he and his wife discussed stopping at a gas station to get directions, I just powered-up my GPS program in my cell phone and zap - there was the little dot that was me in this car and the program gave me street directions on how to get where we were going. But the driver still opted for stopping for directions. He wasn't quite sure he could trust some dot in a cell phone.

Maps are important - they need to be accurate, trustworthy, and clear. An outdated or unclear map is a disaster. When I was a kid growing up in the Navy, it was a big deal to head over to AAA before we did one of our major moves (like driving across country from Charleston, South Carolina to San Diego, California when I was 12) and get TripTiks that showed us exactly where to go, where to stay, and what roads were under construction. It even gave us little blurbs about the terrain we were traveling in, the history of the area, or how and when the road was built. We relied on those TripTiks so we would end up in San Diego and not Winnipeg.

Andrew Goddard has created a map, a way of illustrating where we are and who we are. The problem is, the map is out of date, at least here in the United States. Looking at his essay and how he maps out his illustrations, I'd estimate his map is about ten years out of date, at least on this side of The Pond.

This map - despite the Windsor references, which frankly just outline what has been known for quite some time - could illustrate where we thought we were after the 1997 General Convention. The problem is - and was - the map was inaccurate even then and having a bad map means we can end up somewhere we never intended to go.

One of the major "roads" missing from Goddard's map is what I might call the "X Factor." The X factor is that unknown number, that unknown detail that causes people to make irrational decisions. His map is based on a very rational view of decision-making, but as we learn in politics - and especially church politics - people don't always make rational, well-considered decisions. And there are those who are activists who are banking on the hope that people will not do things rationally but thoughtlessly.

Why do people do the things they do? My Brother The Methodist has a friend who is a brilliant scientist. For fun - or perhaps not - he invented The Hammersten Hierarchy of Human Behavior. It was created in whimsy but the deal is, it stands up to testing. It has proven helpful, sometimes at the worst of all moments. Thanks, Dr. Hammersten.

The Hammersten Hierarchy of Human Behavior (or the HHHB) has four reasons or tiers for why do the things we do. It works every time. All the reports in China (or in Windsor) can not accomplish as much as The Hammersten Hierarchy of Human Behavior. Here it is:

We do the things we do because we are:

#1. Lazy
#2. Stupid
#3. Evil
#4. Altruistic

Good to know that the #1 reason why people do what they do is because they are lazy and not because they are stupid. But of course the first two reasons we usually assume people do the things they are do is because we think they are either evil or altruistic. We associate malevolent intentions by those we oppose and benevolent intentions by those we support. Ah, but according to The HHHB, the #1 reason we do the things we do - we and our opponents - is because we are lazy. We didn't read the report. We missed the meeting. We watched football. We went to the Mall. We overslept. We weren't paying attention. We didn't feel like it.

The #2 reason why people do the things they did is because they are stupid.

Yes, stupidity reigns. Surprised? Of course, we don't want to be the ones to say we are stupid - just them. But as Christians who are fallen it's apparent there is enough stupidity to go around. "I don't know," is a good example. Of course, it's hard to admit that, "I don't know," which makes us even stupider.

The third reason, according to The Hammersten Hierarchy of Human Behavior is because of malevolence - evil. It's often the first reason we jump to - especially in politics. Death Eaters. Evil does exist and how much of a percentage we want to attach to this third tier may either come from our experience or our mood - but often quite frankly, it's the #1 place we go to when we are either lazy or stupid. "The devil made me do it." Well, yes, but let's check #1 and #2 first.

On the other hand, according to the HHHB - evil does really exist. It's not cartoon "evil" - it's the real deal and it makes it into the hierarchy. Closing our eyes and wishing it away is not going to do it. How much of a percentage we assign it's place in the hierarchy may have to do with our theology - or our mood - but it's #3.

Then there's altruism. It's a place we all want to live, but very few actually do. It's the Land of Oz before the Wicked Witch of the West shows up. This is where we'd like to think we make all our decisions by being and by doing, and what I frankly think Goddard's piece is based on: altruism.

Windsor is an altruistic place. Its a lovely world and Christians and nice people like to live there. And there are those who really do live there, whose motivations are pure and actions are delightful. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." They do exist. However, #4 is rare - and it depends upon your world view how rare it is. And no one lives there for very long. At some point, someone doesn't answer the phone and takes a bath instead. Altruism and the Fall do not always partner well together.

If we live proscribing #4 to others (as often the leadership of organizations want us to do - "all is well," you know) then we forget about #3. And when actions are taken that do not confirm with our altruistic view, we immediately jump to #3, disillusioned, when the probable cause for some ill-advised action was actually the #1 or #2.

We can make all the altruistic maps we want, but are they accurate? The HHHB, though perhaps made up somewhat whimsically, works because it has an accurate view of human nature. It helps us be far more forgiving when people screw up because it turns out Jesus was right. He understood The Hammersten Hirarchy when He was hanging on the cross. "Father, forgive them," he said. "They don't know know what they are doing."

Nice way of saying the people who put Him there were lazy and stupid.

In this highly-charged, somewhat toxic environment we are living in, it might be good to remember The Hammersten Hierarchy of Human Behavior. It's up to you how much of a percentage you want to give to each level. Maybe it's 25% all the way through the hierarchy. I wrote my assumptions, but I could update the chart tomorrow. The order, however, remains the same.

The hardest part is discerning when evil is really marching, as well as when some are making altruistic pure decisions. We tend to ignore #1 and #2. But that is how we end up making charts like Goddard's. It's not the whole story.

To find real solutions means having a realistic view of why people do the things we do, show some compassion on our failures because of our laziness (or what used to be called sloth - not exactly a virtue) and our stupidity. We are still accountable for both. I supposed that if we are more charitable to understanding the human failures of our leaders - and ourselves - we may be able to recognize what is truly evil and combat the right enemy.

Friendly fire does not win battles.

It seems to me that evil perpetuates because we are so lazy and stupid. Ignorance and naivete - which are forms of stupidity - probably do more harm because we are busy pointing at the wrong thing.

The problem with Goddard's piece is that it's based on a false premise, a level #4 premise that is naive. It does us no good to know that people are divided. We know that and we know that much of the division is not because we differ over Windsor, but because we are lazy and stupid. We engage in Friendly Fire to cover our own laziness and stupidity. Even if Windsor was delivered to us by Moses himself down from the Mountain Top, we must remember what he actually came home to. Debauchery and despair. Do we think we're any different? Here he has a big-time Memo from God and what happens? He finds his pals dancing about and carrying on with the New & Improved New Thing. Or Old Thing. The Golden Thing. The Stupid Thing.

The problem of the Golden Calf continues to this day. If Anglican leaders think that the ability to define the true problem will then solve it, they might as well start melting down their gold pieces now. Aaron was doing a lot of listening that day and out came his Golden Idea.

We all ready know what the true problem is - and that's the problem.

The problem isn't Windsor and who loves Windsor and who hates Windsor.

No, it's not.

The problem is Jesus.

He's the problem. When we strip away everything else, when we undo all the packages and unpack all the suitcases, we still end up with the the one who wore the Crown of Thorns. Yes, Him. He is the problem. He is the rock that makes men stumble and the stone that makes them fall.

This is why we are living in an extraordinary time of revival and renewal, but one surrounded by strife and division. Churches that were once in conflict with one another are finding common ground, and people who would never have imagined worshiping alongside one another are finding one another together in the pews. Even the great schisms in the Episcopal Church are finding healing, but not where you'd expect it.

At the heart of the revival is Jesus. Not the Idea of Christ, or our Inner christ, or our Little christs, or the Cosmic Christ, or our christness or any of that - but Jesus.

"Father, forgive them," he said. He understood who His real enemy was and could recognize that enemy. He prays for us in our sloth and stupidity and shows us great compassion and mercy. He confronts us in our naive altruism - that the world is fallen and in need a Savior. He is the way, the truth, and the life. And through the cross is the only way we are reconciled with God. It is His kindness that lead us to repentance.

My guess is the only way we will be reconciled with one another is not through Windsor, but through the Word made Flesh. The map must be accurate. It must be true. At the center of the map is Jesus. He's not an institution, He's a relationship. Either we follow Him or we don't. Our decisions are based on the health of that relationship.

At any time we may find ourselves foolish in our laziness and wanton in our stupidity and turning away from the map to follow our own path, our own preferred map. No one is immune. Most of the time those maps aren't new, but very old maps and they are untrustworthy. The do not define who we truly are or where we are going. They show us what we want to see and they take us where we want to go. But that ultimate destination - if we put our trust in those maps - is despair.

I look at Goddard's map and I see despair. It does little to guide us on a way forward and it does not accurately explain either where we've been or where we are going. The issue is not homosexuality, it's not even primarily the scriptures, or even revelation (though both greatly inform the issue) - the issue is Jesus. "Who is Jesus?" the Alpha Course asks first thing. And it is a question we still ask. Who is Jesus? Do I follow Him? How do I follow Him?

Odd that the solution to our divisions is the very person we say we follow, who's name we hold dear as Christians. But is He an idea which can be reimagined? Is He a mirror of ourselves? Is He an esoteric light beam? Is he not a He? Is He "truly God" or is he just a pretty darn good guy? Is He The Way- or does He just show us a way? Is He the rock that makes us stumble and the stone that makes us fall?

Jesus wasn't lazy, or stupid, or evil, or altruistic. He was none of those things. And that's the difference. And that's why He's the problem.

What do we do about that?

Isn't that the whole point? What do we do?

Well, you wake up early in the mornin' 
Turnin' from a-side to side
Somethin' givin' you a warning
You can run but you can't hide
Demands are laid upon you
And burdens a-you can't bear
Sins you can't even remember
I waited to meet you there

You've got to cover down, breakthrough
Cover down, breakthrough

You've got an image of yourself
You've built by yourself alone
But it will come a-tumblin' down
Just like the walls are made of stone
You will be separated
From everything you seem to be
You think you'll be liberated
Yeah, but the grave won't set you free

You've got to cover down, breakthrough
Cover down, breakthrough

B. Dylan 1980


writekathy said...

Not related but I thought of you today. I met some seminarians from Trinity, and one of them was from Truro.

Matthew said...

Good stuff, BB. Thank you for posting it. I think I'm going to mull what you wrote for a while.

Robert S. Munday said...

Baby Blue,
You're right, Goddard's map is either out of date or an attempt at a clever construct that fails only in the respect that it doesn't reflect reality.

For one thing, acccording to Goddard, it is impossible to be "Federal" and, at the same time, "Pro Windsor." When, in fact, the only way to implement Windsor may be to define the Communion in terms of a federation that has loyalty to a Covenant, rather than to an institution or a person (such as the ABC).

Secondly, Goddard draws a false dichotomy in separating 1.10 from Windsor, when 1:10 is a PART OF WINDSOR.

Finally, when have you ever met a "Federal Liberal?" The nattering of some nabobs on the HoB/D list about the American Church being willing to "go it alone" if the Communion isn't willing to follow their prophetic line is all posturing to intimidate the Communion recipients of TEC welfare to get in line, which they have been doing ever since.

Now all the authorities
They just stand around and boast
How they blackmailed the sergeant-at-arms
Into leaving his post
And picking up Angel who
Just arrived here from the coast
Who looked so fine at first
But left looking just like a ghost

Dylan - Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues

Kevin said...

Get used to the friendly fire ...

Douglas LeBlanc said...

I'm all for the HHHB as a means of self-examination, and I'll confess freely to landing in the laziness category all too often.

Nevertheless, I have found it crucial to my spiritual health to avoid speculating, especially in my writing, about people's interior lives -- or to err on the side of assuming the best. I have not always met this goal, and I'm ashamed of those times when I failed to meet it.

I've sometimes heard a friend paraphrasing the thoughts of Alexander Harriot Mackonochie on this point, and I asked her to send me a fuller quotation. Here it is:

I think that one of the greatest dangers ... is that people may lose charity by thinking evil of those who take a different side from themselves. ... We know that our object has been the honor of God, and our motive the love of God.

Now when we find people reviling that which we do from such a motive and for such an object, it is often hard for us to believe that they are animated by the same motive as ourselves, and striving for the same object. Yet such is undoubtedly the case. With regard to many of our most strenuous opponents we know it to be so by all the tokens which we could desire; in few do we know anything to the contrary; and therefore with regard to the majority, we are bound to believe in their sincerity.

We shall thus be kept from the most unchristian tendency to look out eagerly for faults in others and to rejoice in such faults when they appear; and moreover we shall know that on both sides the strife is for the same thing, the one object of our lives -- the honor and the glory of God. Hence without abating in the very least our own efforts to advance that object in the way we conceive to be according to His will, we shall the more rest assured that as both sides are seeking to forward the same objects, it must eventually, by God's help, be attained. It will keep us certain of the ultimate result and therefore comparatively indifferent to the intermediate steps.

-- Alexander Harriot Mackonochie, writing to his parish in 1867.

Here's a background paragraph on the author:

Alexander Harriot Mackonochie (1825-1887) was a leader in the Anglo Catholic ritualist movement who served the parish of St. Alban's in Holborn (London), a slum parish, through years of anti-Catholic feeling. Yet at the height of persecution (he was eventually suspended for such things as elevating the chalice during the prayer of consecration), he insisted that his parish treat opponents with compassion and love.

Of course people say or write things that challenge my sense that we're both striving for the honor and glory of God. In a fallen world, odds are that many of us will not be so striving on many days of the year. Still, I think Mackonochie's plea is just as important today as when he wrote it in the 19th century. Given the regular doses of invective I see across the Anglican blogosphere, I think we would all benefit from a regular meditation on Mackonochie.

What good am I if I know and don't do,
If I see and don't say, if I look right through you,
If I turn a deaf ear to the thunderin' sky,
What good am I?

-- Bob Dylan, Oh Mercy (1989)

Zanshin said...

On a somewhat related note, I have just started a new blog whose purpose is to serve as an open forum for friendly discussion on the proposed ADV Constitution. I think all churches in the ADV will be voting on the Constitution within the next year. Please feel free to check it out and refer anyone who may be interested!