Brilliant! Sometimes.

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The Orange [ER] vMEME

A brief review for any new readers joining today. Previously in this space, I’ve enumerated some values attending the Orange vMEME system:

Orange [ERvMEME: ‘merit‘ values.e.g., world-aware, nation-state, rational, individualistic, scientific, ‘formal operational reasoning,’ democratic, innovative, capitalistic, free market, competition, prosperity, modern, Enlightenment values.

The values attending the fifth values system emerged en masse in the West through The Enlightenment. Arguably, Orange values have done more than any other values system to raise the standard of living and bring the benefits of progress to more human beings around the globe. The entrepreneurial/capitalistic aspiration of ‘making a dollar’ is a very powerful motivation to action and expansion. ‘Prosperity’ is an intentionally desired aim/outcome of ER values. We find the ‘prosperity gospel’ is an unintended consequence (shadow appropriation) that sometimes occurs when Blue [DQ] churches/leaders meet Orange values.


bible 1

The Bible and other ancient texts indicate prosperity was enjoyed by some people even back in antiquity. Seemingly the question has always been, ‘who gets to benefit from prosperity, and at what price?’

As ever, a lack of self-awareness (shadow/blindness) may attend any given vMEMEtic expression and the Orange [ER] vMEME is no exception. The notion of ‘privilege’ is native to the question of prosperity anywhere it is found. As brilliant as Orange can be in what its values create (e.,g., man on moon!), in matters of simple human decency, ER often has absolutely no clue at all. This brief video journals the wake-up call offered by U.S. Representative Katie Porter to financial executive Jamie Dimon regarding his shadow-laden Orange values: 


Thanks to congresswoman Porter for her preparation and tenaciousness!

I’m not trying to argue that Orange [ER] values have not created many benefits, clearly they have. However, I am arguing that Orange can be clueless regarding decency. Last week I wondered if (ER) capitalistic values are best in every instance:


ER and healthcare meme


This week perhaps we need to extend this concern. What if we change the focus of the above question from human healthcare to environmental health?


ER and Environment meme

If archetypal to the Orange [ER] vMEME is the idea of merit, then any culture, e.g., social/political/economic system, that equates money with merit will tend to discount the above, and other important questions, and dismiss them as outside the Overton window of that system’s values. I recently asked a couple rather provocative questions in some of my conversation contexts: 

Is there money in Heaven?

Does the Church work to eliminate the institution of money?


If we pray “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven,” then we need to know: is money G-d’s will? (article)

Orange is driven to innovate. However, eternally ‘growing the pie’ isn’t sustainable and soon comes into conflict with the interests of the environment and eventually even the interests of the very human beings economies are meant to serve.


Kevin Kelly 12 Technologies shaping our world


In his 2016 eBook, The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our World, author and co-founder of Wired magazine, Kevin Kelly, writes:

Most of the important technologies that will dominate life 30 years from now have not yet been invented.

I’ve not read the book, I saw the quote on Dr. Leonard Sweet’s Facebook page. I’m planning to really begin tackling the chief shadow that operates upon the Orange vMEME next week, however, Kelly’s grand assertion is an opening to ER shadows.

My reaction to Kelly’s assertion was visceral. I wondered if the arrogance and hubris evident in Mr. Kelly’s prediction stopped for even one second to consider if individual humans and society can even stand the strain of the continued onslaught of that kind of change. Some early indicators say our impromptu human experiment with social media technology is producing some dour unintended consequences in our society/world, especially in young people (article).


smartphone critique for blog
Disclaimer: This reflects my privileged, first-world context. In the two-thirds, developing world smartphones are a different matter.

Further, we are well into what the techies call the fourth industrial revolution. This time Orange innovation is creating wholesale human displacement. I’ve shared this Pope Francis quote before in another context, it fits here, too: 

economy not for humans

Our economy is investing in the means to simply cut humans out of the employment loop. Not just factory jobs: the delivery truck driver, your Uber driver, retail clerk, banker, lawyer, accountant, even your doctor or minster may soon be a machine (article). Of course, the poor and most vulnerable are always hit first/hardest (article).


Robots Industrial

Your thoughts?

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

Note: This blog has outlined Spiral Dynamics, a complex developmental anthropology. I  used a serial-approach, introduction (June 30), first in series (July 1).

Bonus video

Lawrence O’Donnell and Rep. Porter talk on The Last Word about what Dimon missed:


Robots Industrial

Rx: greed and healing?

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Rx prices run amok

I’ll link to some reading on this problem as we go—obviously, only offering a very rudimentary picture of this very complex issue. 



pharmacy prices

I’m blessed in so very many ways, like, I’m free of any need to take prescription medications. Of course, I have casually overheard many discussions about high drug prices. However, until this week I had never previously met the occasion to personally experience the legal strong arm robbery that occurs thousands of times a day in pharmacies all across America. Well, ‘strong arm robbery’ may be a bit harsh, but it felt just as I imagine being exploited at the risk of life/health must feel.


pharmacy men

Cheaper elsewhere?

We hear many stories of how prices on the very same medicines are much cheaper in other countries. Because the U.S. system allows drug makers to set their own prices without regulation, being the world leader in pharmaceutical innovation bears a serious cost to the U.S. Rx consumer. A Vox article from last May (2018) fairly well outlines some basic factors leading to sky-rocketing drug prices; Sarah Kliff’s (article) concluding question:

“Are we, as a country, comfortable paying higher prices for drugs to get more innovation? Or would we trade some of that innovation to make our drugs more accessible to those of all income levels?”


pharmacy money

The pharmaceutical industry is largely a product of the values attending the Orange [ER] vMEMEe.g., world-aware, nation-state, rational, individualistic, scientific, ‘formal operational reasoning,’ democratic, innovative, capitalistic, modern values.


Pharmacy Healthcare meme


Even given purely market driven forces as in the U.S.A., with emerging superbugs, it’s noteworthy that, for reasons outlined by Pharmaceutical Journal, even market incentives have not been able to ward-off what may soon prove to be a catastrophic failure to produce new antibiotics (article). The United Kingdom’s superbug tsar, Lord Jim O’Neill, thinks nationalized drug manufacturers may be necessary to effectively deal with the antibiotic shortfall difficulty in a timely fashion (article).


pharmacy medic

Personal current events

Well, I’d been having an issue with my ears, mostly the left one. Finally, a week ago Saturday, I decided I needed to have it looked at so I went to a nearby immediate care clinic offered by one of the local hospital groups. Wonderful doctor and caregivers. Doctor said I had eczema (dry skin) that had developed a “light staphylococcus aureus” infection. She wrote me a prescription for some ear drops, a topical cream, and an oral antibiotic, and they called it in to Walgreens. 

Later, I went to pick-up my medications. The doctor wanted me to start with the drops and topical cream first, and, then, two or three days later, if necessary, add the oral antibiotics. The druggist asked me, “Do you have a supplement to your medicare parts A&B?” 

I said, “No.”—because, I didn’t opt for a Part D supplemental when I went on Medicare as I don’t take any regular medications.

Her reply, “Well, the drops are $270 and the cream is $80.”

I responded, “I’m sorry, I can’t do that.”



On Monday I called the clinic and explained that while their care was fabulous, I had no budget for the cure. Imagining they’re offering the latest, best option on medicines, I wondered if they could recommend an older, premium-free option. I ended up with eye drops (for my ears) and an oral antibiotic. Nine dollars each! Note: the medicines worked very well!




Greed feeds on the dynamics at play with healthcare in general, but especially with life-saving and life-sustaining pharmaceutical drugs. These drugs are not a discretionary matter to real human beings. Finding examples of greed in the system is not difficult. We remember Martin Shkreli, the former chief executive officer of Turing Pharmaceuticals. He recently went to prison for seven years for his very greedy activities—arbitrarily marking-up the price of a life-saving HIV drug, Daraprim, by five thousand percent (article). Marathon Pharmaceuticals, a more recent example, escorted a generic drug (already available elsewhere in the world for $1,000 to $2,000 a year) through the FDA process and now markets it in the U.S. under the fancy brand name, “Emflaza,” for a list price of $89,000, a six thousand percent increase (article). Perhaps on a less sensational level, the price increases on insulin is a very sore topic among many families as those costs have been climbing at alarming rates—doubling in cost from 2012 to 2016 (article).

I realize everyone can’t just demand a cheaper option for everything in every instance.

Still, could we somehow close the $350 –> $18 gap?



Your thoughts?

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

Note: This blog has outlined Spiral Dynamics, a complex developmental anthropology. I  used a serial-approach, introduction (June 30), first in series (July 1).


pharmacy pulse



You say what?

High definition…

In the realm of the audiophile, one is looking for high fidelity sound. In the visual realm, one is looking for high resolution imaging. Visual clarity, detail, and sharpness are best expressed through hi-rez imaging. The fidelity, clarity, detail, and sharpness of hi-def are also abundantly helpful as we approach the meanings we invest in words and language.

Definition of terms and shared understandings can be difficult to attain, and differing value systems only adds difficulty.  The political left and right see/value problems from dramatically different perspectives, e.g., social justice (community) vs. personal responsibility (individuality), respectively.


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“Here we go”

That time in a conversation/discussion/argument when calls for definition of terms begin to fly—usually a sign that what may have seemed like a friendly exchange is actually contentious and the entire dialog is now threatened with running aground on jagged rocks. And yet, without a shared sense of facts, some agreed-to-meaning, and a common structure to process the issues we face together, society is fated to devolve into something likely to be far more brutish. In an important way, meaningful discourse requires a strong and stable Blue [DQ] component. Why? Simply because it is through Blue values that we begin to create/understand meaning—e.g., it is prototypical Blue to create community through meaning.



For instance…

What does removing all nuclear threat from the Korean peninsula mean? How is ‘denuclearization’ defined? In the conversation between President Trump and North Korean leader, Kim Jung Un, apparently that really depends on who one asks. Trump thinks it means that Kim Jung Un must scrap North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and destroy any extant nuclear weapons. While all the tactical United States nuclear weapons were removed from South Korea in 1991, Kim thinks denuclearization means the U.S.A. must agree to remove its nuclear armament umbrella that protects South Korea and Japan. In this instance, different definitions of denuclearization may indeed mean that both parties may be using a unilateral frame and expecting the other to remove all of their potential threat without consideration of one’s own potential threat. President Trump hopes to use what he perceives as the latent capitalist potential/opportunity in the North Korean nation [he thinks it’s located well for doing business in the region] as the incentive in the negotiations. This, with what is seen by most as the most stridently communist nation on earth. Perhaps misguided?



Difficult enough

So, obviously, meaningful discussion requires shared definitions. And yet, this blog has been about reckoning with the seeming fact that decency gets variously defined in different contexts. Adding to the complexity of meaning is the Gravesian reality that our constellation of vMEMEs, and their attending values, shapes how we interpret facts and define how words apply in a given consideration.

Is the meaning in the form, and its conventional definition itself, or in the reaction of the hearer to the form—and its conventional definition—within a particular context? In art we’re talking, here, about the distinction between form and reader response criticism. While both would exclude the other, reality resides somewhere in a conversation among the two.


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Agency and Communion

In Graves research he found that movement along the spiral traces a pendulum between warm and cool color vMEMEs. Warm color vMEMEs reflect an express-self orientation, or agency. Cool color vMEMEs reflect a sacrifice-self orientation, or communion. Warm Beige [AN], Red [CP], and Orange [ER] are individualistic, express-self, agency oriented vMEMEs. Cool Purple [BO], Blue [DQ], and Green [FS] are communal, sacrifice-self, communion oriented vMEMEs.  

The Behaviorist takes an atomistic (warm color vMEMEs, agency) approach while the Gestalt psychologist sees in terms of holism (cool color vMEMEs, communion). Arthur Koestler has very helpfully visualized a way to think about and unlock this relationship. In his book, The Ghost in the Machine, he writes:

“A ‘part’, as we generally use the word, means something fragmentary and incomplete, which by itself would have no legitimate existence. On the other hand, a ‘whole’ is considered as something complete in itself which needs no further explanation. But ‘wholes’ and ‘parts’ in this absolute sense just do not exist anywhere, either in the domain of living organisms or of social organizations.”

Under the above, Koestler coins a new term to free the terms whole and part from their absolute, excluded-middle way of being in relation. 

“The term I would propose is ‘holon’, from the Greek holos = whole, with the suffix on which, as in proton or neutron, suggests a particle or part.” [pg. 48]

In a brilliant move—through the notion of: holon—Koestler synergistically brings the dualistic, e.g., the part and the whole, into dynamic union.


Holon meme 500


Your thoughts?

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

Note: This blog has outlined Spiral Dynamics, a complex developmental anthropology. I  used a serial-approach, introduction (June 30), first in series (July 1).




Holon meme 500

UMC fiddles while earth burns?


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Is The United Methodist Church [UMC] essentially fiddling while the earth burns? Are UMC systems of triage designed to help us appropriately focus our energy on the advancement of life? What about when the church discovers human efforts to advance progress in ways that are really harmful and diminish life?


Heads up

Climate science has issued a warning amounting to a five-alarm fire bell. We might think of climate science activists and educators as playing a Paul Revere-like role carrying warnings of an imminent ecological disaster that is still being exacerbated in many ways even as it unfolds. Enlightenment, capitalism, and the modern industrial era (fruit of Orange [ER] values) have clearly offered benefits to a good portion of the human population, albeit on a privileged first basis. Emergent benefits are a perennial problem for fairness. Perhaps even more problematic, devastating unintended consequences have followed from our decisions. Before we even consider biodiversity loss, now life, in a single lifespan, is under very serious stress and threat of catastrophic change resulting from economic-overreach/environmental-irresponsibility.


In this brief promo video from Annalise Davis, seven year old kids imagine future birthdays:


António Guterres, secretary general of the United Nations, has called a U.N. summit on the urgency of climate collapse scenarios. Guterres writes:

My generation has failed to respond properly to the dramatic challenge of climate change. This is deeply felt by young people. No wonder they are angry.

In an article in The Atlantic recently, Robinson Meyer wrote, “David Wallace-Wells, author of the new book The Uninhabitable Earth, describes why climate change might alter our sense of time.” Meyer continues:

“It’s certainly within the realm of conceivability that damages accumulate so significantly that we totally drop that idea about history as an arrow of progress and start thinking of it as something that is much less reliable, even something that takes us backward rather than forward.”



Denial makes (perverse) sense

I mean, who wants to confront impending doom? For many, the path of least resistance is to simply discount the warnings as gross overreach (e.g., cognitive dissonance). Conventional energy [CE] even has a financial interest in denying the approaching collapse. CE (fossil fuels, etc.) interests reinforce claims that the climate collapse narrative is simply a ploy of renewable energy [RE] promoters to takeover the market. Decades old scare stories of clean energy and ecologically sustainable commerce both being colossal job killers encourage individuals to default to denial, as well.

Then, too, warrants on God’s Sovereignty (hard form) are often used (mostly unconsciously) to render any idea of climate collapse unthinkable (see Blaming God). 

However, in an upcoming [4/4/19] article, A Future Without Fossil Fuels?”, Bill McKibben argues that an old metric, e.g., cost, is about to displace CE as RE becomes cheaper.




Recently the concern on this blog has been the possibility of society regressing as backlash to moving too fast on change in expanding human rights. Similarly, the dynamics of moving society backwards as result of the threat of climate collapse are a complex intersection of the values/interests of primarily: Blue (conventional communityorder, law), Orange (individual, rational, meritcapitalism), and Green (pluralist community, justice, ecology) vMEMEs (values constellations). 

When we say ‘climate collapse,’ we’re talking about the end of human life the way we have known it. So, many are hearing the call to action (“Peak Indifference”) because the time we have to mediate the severity of the harm we are doing is limited. It’s actually a gross understatement to say we need a moonshot response beginning yesterday. We need visionary leadership that focuses creativity and human problem solving on an urgent and sustainable response.


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“Green New Deal?”

Imminent disaster. Need a moon shot. Careful though. How dare a freshman congresswoman display righteous anger regarding our exploitation of the earth and offer a vision to respond? Angela Watercutter, in a Wired story, “Captain Marvel Is About Female Power—Not Empowerment,” writes “Like witches, and suffragettes, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez [AOC], Captain Marvel was told that her anger in a fight was too much, that it would get her in trouble.”




Meanwhile, in the spirit of kill the messenger, cable news propagandists have been busy making AOC the boogie-person and working hard to distill any and all new ideas down to straw-man-caricatures and deeming everything “socialism.” Using issues like immigration and the environment as wedges, the president, Fox News, Republican leaders, and Trump supporters would like to make 2020 about a binary choice between Republican, romanticized, American nostalgia, and Democrats as demonized cartoons operating under the ‘socialist’ banner.


climate change 2

Your thoughts?

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

Note: The blog has outlined Spiral Dynamics, a complex developmental anthropology. I  used a serial-approach, introduction (June 30), first in series (July 1).





spiral- sized

Graves’ spiral and Spirit

At the risk of drawing Ernest Everhard’s opprobrium for getting all “up in the air,” let’s take a brief look at how Spirit relates to vMEMEs. We said previously that religions (most flavors) are prototypical of the Blue [DQ] vMEME. Conflating spirit with ‘religions’ easily creates a false impression when thinking about the spiral—e.g., that the spiral subsumes religion/spirit. Some SD purists may somehow see spirituality as a Blue footnote to the grand design of the Spiral. However, I’d counter that conflated notion seriously confuses matters. Better to say, Spirit creates the grand design of the Spiral. But, we’ll not quibble here. Feuerbach literalists notwithstanding, my writings take anthropology as a subset of theology. 


double helix

Graves research and resulting theory defines a bio/psycho/social (double-helix spiral) model of human values development. The bio/psycho/social dimensions—in relationship with Life Conditions—are constituent/component aspects of the Spiral. Spirit is the ground of being for the Spiral. Though paradoxical, I will attempt to describe using words.

We may think of it even as Plato would have it, essentially two distinct spheres: finite (Matter) and infinite (Spirit). Here, though, unlike Plato, matter and Spirit are in union as, curiously, these quite distinct spheres are not-two. The spiritual sphere simultaneously coincides with the material sphere and yet transcends it. So, narratively, I take a panentheistic view with regard to the relationship between matter and spirit. If existence/the universe is God’s body, then Tillich’s ‘G-d beyond God’ is the very ‘ground of being.’ On this view, the Uncreated was a priori to the Big Bang; that is, for purposes of doing theology, Spirit preceded matter (Creation ex nihilo). Macrina’s very early mystical argument (see here) forms an image that can help point (metaphorically) toward panentheism.



A story

I am not sure if poetry and narrative are the only verbal ways to relate paradox. Perhaps. The old story of an exchange between Jesus and Nicodemus helpfully differentiates the spheres (read John 3.1-9). The key is a polysemous Greek term, “ánōthen.” The author is opportunistic with its double entendre. Strong’s reads:

ἄνωθεν ánōthen, an’-o-then; from above; by analogy, from the first; by implication, anew:—from above, again, from the beginning (very first), the top.

Nicodemus serves as a foil in this narration to delineate those of the Johannine community as children of God—those born of God are able to see/enter the kingdom of God. These two translations of John 3.3 reflect two possible meanings of the Greek term (my emphasis):

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew [or again], he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (RSV)

Jesus answered him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.’ (NRSV)

Nicodemus was flummoxed because he took the perspective of flesh (matter) and heard the born again meaning. Jesus differentiated/distinguished the perspective of the kingdom of God (Spirit), and the Johannine community heard the born from above meaning as they heard (and saw) as children of God. How does one become a child of God? Jesus spells it out in verse five and it, again, affirms what the community already knows: Baptism (“born of water and the Spirit”).



New site title

The legacy site title: #ReturnToDecency.

New sub-head: …writings from outside your Overton window?

Return to decency. Probably harmless enough. The notion struck me as crucially important in November, 2016, after Donald Trump was elected. This was surely a function of my grief. Now, it’s come to strike me as far too romantic, way too nostalgic.

It was always meant as a play on words as ‘return’ flies in the face of an axiom of contextual reality: we cannot stand in the same river twice. I’d forgotten my romantic longings for a lost bond of political naïvety with most of my fellow citizens, and a time before our social innocence was sacrificed on the altar of cable news and The Trump Presidency Show.

The initial point of the blog was that ‘decency’ shows up looking a bit different in form depending on what values system a person is using to process their sense of reality. I mean, decency is decency in essence, but the question very quickly becomes: Who gets to be included in decency, and how?

So, then, what’s the new site title? I don’t know yet. Assuming, for the purposes of this question, that you wouldn’t just as soon I simply put a sock in it, what (theme) umbrella would you put over my writings here? Accepting your suggestions on a new name for the page. 

Your thoughts? 

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

Note: The blog has outlined Spiral Dynamics, I  used a serial-approach, introduction (June 30), first in series (July 1).





Liminal space/time

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Epochal transition

A societal transformation from binary values to the ascendancy of pluralist values is no mean feat. Actually, it’s an epochal level change. So, ‘liminal space/time’ seems like an apt description of where I’ve been dwelling for the past couple years. I think it may also be where we (society) are in so many areas of human life in the West. Forwards or backwards, I don’t think our direction is in any way clear right now. || With tons of assumptions in the ‘forwards or backwards’ frame, I unpack those in my blog beginning last July 1st.



My intentions in writing this blog for the past eight months, and my hopes in doing so, are explicitly stated in the series “Introduction” post. In terms of applying the Spiral Dynamics [SD] developmental anthropology to the UMC, and the LGBT+/authority debate, my intention and hope has been to come from a different angle on it. The talking points of the decades-old debate are very well rehearsed on both sides. If the first forty-seven years of ‘conversation’ formed the Overton window on it, then my goal has been to write from outside of that.


OW with Treviño’s degrees ||Wiki-media

The Special General Conference* [SGC] needed to be a barrier breaking turning point for the UMC. We’ll see if it was. It’s unclear to me if writing about current events using a SD lens makes sense now. Writing outside the Overton window necessarily eliminates many readers who rarely stray from their orthodox understandings/thinking (on whatever it may be). In any event, my plan, at least for now, is to continue writing here weekly. I do intend to ease the word count back to ~750-825 words per week (brief, three minute read). 

*SGC ~ The Special General Conference of The United Methodist Church [UMC], February 23-26, 2019, in St. Louis, was called to finally settle the debate over the place of LGBT+ people in the UMC. The extent to which any particular United Methodist individual or group believed that SGC would actually be able to resolve this complex issue with a vote is the degree to which the conference was ill fated.


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UMC microcosm of U.S.A.?

The Church is intrinsically a keeper/protector of effective human norms (revealed wisdom). Perennial human norms change very slowly, even more so in the Church. Most church people agree that, in general, the culture moves along with social issues and societal change more readily, and sooner, than does the Church. In other words, many UMC people feel the SCOTUS has moved too quickly on marriage and LGBT+ rights issues. The 55/45 vote in St. Louis reflects that. For a ten point majority of the global UMC, the West has indeed moved ahead too rapidly on LGBT+ rights, even in the church.  UMC progressives cite statistics to indicate nearly seventy percent of U.S. United Methodists support a local church option (One Church Plan) on moving forward on LGBT+ rights and inclusion—but does that indicate where the wider U.S. society is on this? Robert Kegan’s research indicates U.S. society overall may be more closely aligned with the UMC global majority on the marriage issue. Whether he knows it or not, in 2020, President Trump’s fate is dependent upon Kegan’s research being correct. Is the SGC an early indicator on how the U.S.A. will answer the forwards or backwards question? 



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Giving something up for Lent?

That’s another way of saying that Lent invites us into spiritual disciplines, such as fasting. Spiritual disciplines are meant to enable us to step outside of ourselves and gain an expanded, more helpful perspective. ‘Helpful’ to whom or what? Helpful to growing in self-awareness, human empathy, and compassion.


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For instance, most everyone reading these words has no idea what really being hungry is like. I mean holistically. Oh, granted, at some point you may have missed lunch and were simply famished by suppertime. You likely know that kind of hunger. Or, perhaps you have fallen on real hard times at some point—for any number of reasons, in and out of one’s control—that drove you into a degree of temporary food insecurity. You may know that kind of hunger. But, what it’s like to be chronically hungry, day-in, day-out, not knowing if, or from where, the next meal might arrive, that hunger is unfelt, and unknown because it is largely unexperienced by most first-world people. Persistent, unrelenting poverty, or conflicted circumstances—the kind that produces chronic hunger and malnourished, starving children—is beyond our scope. Intentional fasting, with accompanying study and reflection, can help penetrate this experience barrier to some degree. 

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 a complex developmental anthropology like Spiral Dynamics in a blog format is ambitious. So, I’m using a serial-approach. Introduction (June 30). First in series (July 1).  


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“Love wins” can be misleading

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Feeling mass regret

Seeing something painful coming doesn’t make it much, if any, easier when it finally comes to pass. Make no mistake, mass harm was done in St. Louis. So, first, I must apologize to all LGBT+ persons, and their loved ones, for the indecent harm the church has done in the past, is doing in the present, and will do in the future. I also beg forgiveness for my complicity in that harm. Most directly, I offer apologies to you who are LGBT+ persons—or one of their loved ones—who I have directly harmed in any way through my words or actions.

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For those who have no idea what happened in St. Louis, the Special General Conference [SGC] of The United Methodist Church [UMC] was held there last week. Watching it on live stream, I couldn’t help but think: this is a raw display of the ‘powers and principalities’ at work, but in the church. Retired, Saint Paul School of Theology, seminary professor, Dr. Tex Sample, must have seen the same as last Wednesday, after SGC, he wrote:

We struggle against the principalities and powers in the church. RESIST!!!

My deepest heartfelt prayers offered for the delegates and rank and file supporters of both the opposing approaches to the way forward. Serious leadership failures, of both the exclusive and inclusive approaches, led followers to believe in robust promises that could not, and cannot be delivered. Even though the margin is very thin (53/47), a minority (Green) cannot magically produce the votes to overturn a majority. Conversely, a narrow (55/45) majority (Blue) cannot produce calm, ordered, compliance even with a coherent, constitutional plan—which is not the case as the Traditional Plan [TP] is incoherent and largely unconstitutional. LGBT+ rights are a work of the Spirit and so cannot be controlled by rules.

We recall, Church Blue is totally dependent on free will. National Blue is quite different, because sovereign governments have law enforcement, retributive justice, and various militias to maintain compliance. Churches are not designed to be able to force compliance (except for its extensive inventory of shame technology||the Wahhabi sect in Islam would be a violent exception here, and there are likely others, too). Any notion whatsoever of forced compliance is completely misguided and doomed to a very harmful, painful failure in both church and society.


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Shrinking space?

I’ve written both exclusive and inclusive leadership/plans failed to truly allow room for the other. Meanwhile, we have no resolution to the incredibly stubborn fact that it’s still an open question whether those who exclusively use a binary frame for reality have the ability to find a way to live and let live with those who are using a pluralist frame. Is co-existence simply impossible for naive Blue? Is it somehow essential for those using binary framing to make the pluralists walk the plank? Conversely, in theory, pluralists are indeed able to harmoniously co-exist with those using a binary frame. However, given the amount of toxic shame that pluralists have marshaled and directed at those using binary framing in the way forward debate, perhaps subtle, passive-aggressive exclusion is preferable to what is much more difficult: actual co-existence. If we are all siblings, then intolerance is unacceptable and co-existence is always and everywhere necessary. Attention, leaders: any plan that is oppositional, that overtly, or covertly, coerces the other to walk the plank will ultimately prove ineffective.



Since the passing of the TP at the SGC of the UMC last week in St. Louis, I’ve watched many people who were passionately opposed to that outcome, and will be seriously harmed by it, say they will still remain in the UMC and resist. I’ve also observed many people this week who supported the TP outcome respond to those tenacious activists, “It’s been decided, it’s over. Why don’t you just find another church?”

To a disinterestedly casual outsider, that question might seem completely reasonable. I mean, the majority has voted to define the UMC in a particular way. If one doesn’t agree with that definition, then doesn’t fairness indicate finding a church that has defined itself in a more compatible way and going there?

The majority feels it has settled the definition of the church, cut it in stone, and, along with the casual outside observer, also finds the question to be completely reasonable—it seems only fair.  However, it will not be quite so easy because there are several problems with that.

  • First, on a change the magnitude of going from “Open Hearts Open Minds Open Doors,” to “Open Doors Except for LGBT+ persons,” a margin of 55/45 is far too thin. Any adequate local church leader knows to never encourage taking a vote that close on anything important. Rather, near-even splits are an indication that much more work, more consensus building, is needed first.
  • Second, Fred Phelps beat Barbara to the Streisand effect with a specialty in unintentionally raising LGBT+ visibility and rights. Rev. Tom Berlin and Rev. Adam Hamilton both made the observation that SGC has backfired for the TP Plan leadership in that it has helped create many new allies and activists, and will generate increased activism.


Unintended Phelps effect 1


  • Third, there is the matter of justice. We’ll take this one up at a later date.
  • Finally, and perhaps of greatest significance, most of the people closely engaged in the way forward debate, on both sides, are people who were born in the Methodist/United Methodist Church. They don’t know anything else, it’s their church. This is just as true for those who are totally unaware of the SGC and its legislation at this moment. No one is inclined to leave their church.

Ironically, one also hears LGBT+ advocates say, “Just leave,” meaning that the traditionalists should be the ones who exit the UMC (walk the plank). What’s that about? The Wesleyan Covenant Association [WCA]—the group behind the Traditional Plan initiative—has, in their first organizational communication since St. Louis, made threats to exit. The WCA leaders have made it clear that if this clarification of the rules does not bring orderly compliance along the lines that have been drawn, then they are prepared to leave the denomination. Our second point makes ‘orderly compliance’ seem rather unlikely.


The U.S. news media is crowded with political news these days. However, national news media didn’t miss an opportunity and provided full reportage of the poisonous machinations of the UMC in St. Louis. The legislation of discrimination passed there justifiably merits the scrutiny of the press. The effects of that press are taking a bitter toll on many United Methodists and churches across the U.S. People are hurt, confused, sorrow-filled as a result of this news. Others are rejoicing in the idea that certainty has once again been buttressed. Never mind that certainty about religious matters is an oxymoron.

Brand completely shredded


Banksy self destructs meme


In the U.S.A.’s hyper brand-culture environment, the UMC as a brand has now been totally shredded from an inclusive welcome standpoint. Many feel this has been the case for some time. However, after the SGC, there is no longer any doubt about it, the ‘brand’ is now toxic waste. Many churches are now scrambling to cover up logo signage and everything with the UMC name, and/or the UMC‘s mark (cross and flames) on it. Simply stated, anything associated with the UMC brand is toast in many areas of the U.S. right now and forever. Churches are frantically attempting to communicate local welcome despite the divisive, discriminatory decrees of  the denomination at the SGC. Dayspring UMC in Tempe, AZ, quickly became simply, Dayspring after the SGC‘s move to exclusion. This will be a significant issue for the people heretofore called United Methodists going forward.


(Photo: Courtesy Rev. Jeff Procter-Murphy)

The Phelp’s effect says that new and increased activism has been inspired by SGC. What allies and activists need to be asking themselves right now is: How can we help our siblings who are using a binary frame learn how to co-exist with siblings using pluralist framing? So, UMC history has been Blue shames LGBT+ people in an effort to control them. Green shames Blue in an effort to control those who are using a binary frame to exclude LGBT+ people. Excluding others using one kind of shame technology or another is very bad form. None of it is healthy, none of it works, because it is toxic.


abandoned excluded

Some will now feel the need to leave the United Methodist Church without any further adieu. Godspeed to all those precious souls who must go. If one goes or stays, it is still important to remember that the oppositional approach that our democratic culture and legislative structures in the U.S. demand is not suited to the church, or to reconciling this, or any, complex ‘values’ issue. Regardless of the context, healing a tear in humanity as raw as LGBT+rights, and the harm the SGC has wrought, is a heart to heart process. Perhaps a healthy small group could also take up this kind of heart reconciliation.

No one may ever ask such a difficult thing of you as I will ask some of you right now. I ask of all those who resist the evil of injustice: Please, you must let go of any notion of winning, or of even opposing.

Wait. What?

While oft repeated in queer contexts, I don’t think the kingdom assurance, “Love wins,” is proprietary to the LGBT+ movement. In any case, “wins” is misleading in the way worldly humans ordinarily take the meaning of the word. A regular reader offered some very wise words in a comment on my Ice nine“ blog post from last week. So, I pray that all LGBT+ siblings, allies, and activists may always remember, and never forget, what he said:

“May love win. Which usually looks a lot like someone dying on a cross out of love for others.” ~ Dr. Chris Hawley

As I replied, Good Fridays don’t ever seem to get any easier—I’ll now add, or any less powerful.

Dots Obsession—Love Transformed into Dots 2
Dots Obsession—Love Transformed into Dots by Yayoi Kusama


Experiencing Yayoi Kusama’s “Infinity Mirrors” exhibition the first of this year was the final piece in the metaphor mashup that is my thinking and this blog. If the UMC’s recent activity in the way forward debate is simply a reflection of the society and its extreme polarization, then our inability to overcome our divide satisfactorily may be a negative indicator for the wider society right now. If releasing shame from our relational dynamics holds the key to transformation, then finding empathy for each other holds the key to a way forward, both in the church and in U.S. society. It would be a good thing if the church could find ways to lead on this.


yayoi-kusama sized 500
All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins by Yayoi Kusama

Both church conflict and national political conflict are marked by the same disturbing reality: extreme voices on both sides demonize their counterparts. The church has found itself in a struggle in which both sides would prefer the other side walk the plank. It may even come to full schism in the UMC. The society can absorb the harsh fracturing of the UMC. The larger concern is, if the church is unable to work out its differences and one side really does need to walk the plank to resolve the gridlock, wondering, how do the U.S.A. and society at large accomplish schism?

“When we are dancing with the angels the question will be asked, ‘In 2019, what did we do to make sure we kept our democracy intact? Did we stand on the sidelines and say nothing?’” ~ Elijah Cummings (here)

When someone with the stature and integrity of Elijah Cummings raises the possibility of democracy not being intact without everyone’s help, it’s time to pay serious attention to what is happening. Can the church find a way to wake up to what’s going on and discover ways to be relevantly helpful in reconciling broken people, broken relationships, a broken nation and world?

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 a complex developmental anthropology like Spiral Dynamics in a blog format is ambitious. So, I’m using a serial-approach. Introduction (June 30). First in series (July 1).


Unintended Phelps effect 1