Do no harm [conclusion]

Note: I know it’s ambitious trying to introduce a big-picture idea in a blog format, so I’m using a serial-approach. Introductory post (June 30). First in series (July 1).


snoopy theology

Previous: Do no harm || Do no harm [continued] || Do no harm [part three]

Blue creates harm (cont.)

Last week we began looking at demon-possessed expressions of Blue [DQ] values. We saw that homophobia is a fierce demon (a control spirit), and we discovered its expression creates harm, sometimes lethal harm. We referred to some rational Orange [ER] science/research to see if homophobic (demon possessed) church and religion adversely effects LGBT+ teens. The Center for Disease Control study that we looked at said yes, serious effects.


homeless youth
Creative Commons || CC0

LGBT+ teens and family life

Continuing from there, implied in suicidal teens is the obvious difficulty teens find in homophobic families. When teens come out, they too often find their parent’s homophobia demon is expressed in their judgement, rejection, and even disowning of LGBT+ children—all too often turning them out onto the streets. A demon-possessed local church’s effects on LGBT+ youth in that church are both direct, through leaders, teachers, and friends in the church, and indirect, through their parents at home. This demon, homophobia, hides in Blue shadows and places a toll of pain and intentional shame on LGBT+ persons and those who love them. 


shadows of Blue

This is common sense, but, again, we look to the rationality of Orange [ER] science for the objective facts provided by an authoritative methodology.  Another research study looked at homelessness in LGBT+ youth. It found that the top reason for LGBT+ youth homelessness is “family rejection resulting from sexual orientation or gender identity.” The study was conducted by Durso & Gates, 2012, and was cited on the website page that talks about youth homelessness in the U.S.:

LGBT youth experience homelessness at higher rates than non-LGBT youth for a range of reasons. A recent study of more than 350 runaway and homeless providers throughout the United States identified four top causes for homelessness among LGBT youth: (1) family rejection resulting from sexual orientation or gender identity; (2) physical, emotional, or sexual abuse; (3) aging out of the foster care system; and (4) financial and emotional neglect.

In addition to the stress of church and home, according to F.B.I. research: LGBT+ people are more likely to be targets of hate crimes than any other minority group. This struggle over rights and authentic living extends beyond the personal dimensions of church, home, and streets to influence politics, legislation, and governmental policy.



Demon possessed Blue legislation

I guess no one in my state had said or done anything to adequately embarrass Kansas in the eyes of the nation in a few months. So, a group of legislators took care of that this week when they introduced two house bills (background). The bills introduce “the marriage and constitution restoration actHB2320 and HB2321 [Warning, some very toxic stuff, like: “WHEREAS, There are no ex-blacks but there are thousands of ex-gays.” Yep, it says that. Please read these documents with extreme caution.].

Make no mistake, these bills concerning marriage law grossly overreach, are reactionary, and as regressive as possible. The question/discussion of the definition of marriage is one thing, but this is something entirely else and goes far beyond. The arguments are insensitive and sophomoric, at best.  The first bill (HB2320) is essentially a rant that aims to dismiss from society all but the ‘one man one woman’ sexual ethics of traditional marriage.

The proposed legislation reaches far beyond the confines of marriage and attempts to control the entire society by defining “community standards of decency” in terms of traditional sexual ethics. These legislators speak for those who willingly express the homophobia demon. The control spirit is clearly spelled out in the language of the legislationnote it projects onto its clearly defined enemy, e.g., “secular humanism.” From the bill:

  WHEREAS, In the wake of the government’s endorsement of LGBTQ ideology, the government’s endorsement of LGBTQ secular humanism has not been about “tolerance,” but “dominance”; and

Of course, “government endorsement” and protection of LGBT+ rights does not, has not, and will never require straight people to become gay. The “dominance” the authors of the legislation are talking about is a projection of the homophobia demon coming from the shadows of the group of legislators and their supporters. In other words: If we cannot control everything and everyone, then we are being dominated.

Demonizing each other

So, in this Do no harm series I’ve written that The United Methodist Church’s [UMC’s] difficulty right now is demon possession, and on both sides.

As soon as one demonizes the other, then the obvious action-step becomes nearly automatic, maybe even unconscious, because we’ve all read that Jesus cast demons out.


47 years ... Jesus Wept sized 500


A helpful way to determine if you (or your religious group) have a demon is to check to see if you’re demonizing others over a shared concern. If so, it’s likely projection, that is, when we ‘remote locate’ our own demons, or ‘project’ them, onto the person/group with whom we disagree—illustration to follow in a story regarding proposed legislation. So, we project and then blindly perceive our own demon as the other—or in the other’s position/argument. When Jesus ‘cast out’ demons he brought them out of the person’s (or religious community’s) shadows into the light so that they could be dealt with directly and not projected.

Conventions: the 10,000 foot view…


10,000 foot view

The UMC is stymied and gridlocked on one main disconnect. We have a church organization (Blue [DQ]) with two ‘values’ groups [DQ and FS] who cannot agree on the content of the organization’s Blue—that is, two groups who cannot agree on the conventions this conventional organization agrees upon. Oops. My friend and colleague, Rev. David Livingston, often opines about our UMC covenant, “We cannot live without a covenant, but we need a covenant we can live with.” True dat.



kettle and pot

The pot calling the kettle black?

It’s curious to watch the dynamics of UMC discord play out. Whether one is sporting Blue or Green values, seeing our opponent’s demon is rarely difficult. Those using Green values to process have no trouble seeing the control overreach of those using Blue values in the LGBT+ conversation. For instance, in the above legislation, Blue accuses Green of LGBT+ “dominance,” yet Blue demands conformity to its definition of “community standards of decency”that being traditional marriage sexual ethics for all. The same image we used above to look at the Blue expression of a control demon can help us to see the Green expression of a control demon hidden in FS‘s shadow. 


shadows of Green

The Kansas City Star did a story about the Kansas legislation taking up the marriage issue and LGBT+ rights. Of course, the article has no difficulty pointing out the many problems with the two pieces of legislation. For instance:

“State Rep. Randy Garber of Sabetha and a handful of colleagues have introduced two measures involving marriage. The bills are so offensive and wrongheaded that to acknowledge as much is simply stating the obvious.”

Most folks who have read the proposed legislation would hardly disagree with the Star editorial board’s assessment. However, the article’s final sentence provides a glimpse into the dynamics of the full-spectrum of demon possession in the ‘way forward’ debate. 

Some Kansas lawmakers want to create parody marriages. Instead, Kansans should reject parody legislation like this, which addresses a non-problem with bigotry and hate.

Do you see the demons on both sides? Granted, these lawmakers use very troubling language to make their case. However, that does not mean what they argue for is a total “non-problem.” That kind of (Green) elitist dismissal helped give us President Trump.

Your thoughts?

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


Bonus video…



UMC GC2019


homeless youth


Do no harm [part three]

Note: Serial approach. Introductory post (June 30). First in series (July 1).

snoopy theology

To ponder: Can ‘The Law of Unintended Consequences’ be a profound grace?

Strange days!

Last week we looked at some illustrations of Green [FS] values meaning well, but doing harm. This mini-series [Do no harm || Do no harm (continued)] makes a startling claim:

Both sides of the ‘way forward’ debate are demon possessed.

Mind you, when I was in seminary no one would have suspected, or even imagined, I would be using spiritual warfare language in my writings. Ever. However, Life Conditions [LCs] stymied my abilities to adequately explain the gaps between people, between groups, and society’s ascendant disunity, polarization, and indecency. So, demons? Yes, set in the context of a developmental anthropology.

Last week we talked about how Green [FS] is creating harm through the outworking of shadows through a control spirit (overreaching Red [CP] power values). Shadows and overreach are a boon for unwanted, unintended consequences. With the UMC‘s GAMMA-Trapped LCs [see “Being stuck“], there are two sides to the toxic harm coin. 


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Blue [DQ] creates harm

So, before we begin any consideration of specific harms, I recommend a quick refresh of the Blue [DQ] vMEME in general—please review “Unpacking Blue a bit” (in “Will Blue hold?”). It’s also important to recognize the baseline of Blue harm. When we talked previously about DQ (see Solutions || Dissonance) we had to admit (in general terms) its lack of agility [e.g., inflexibility of rules, regulations, laws, etc.] can cause many problems with respect to appropriate fairness in practical application. Pick any instance in which common sense plainly reveals the call for an exception to apply—for reasons of fairness, mercy, humanity, compassion, expediency, scale, or so forth. We looked at a cause for outrage to the tune of President Trump’s Travel Ban (see Change Condition 4: INSIGHT). Sadly, rarely does DQ have the flexibility to accommodate much notion of timely forbearance. By virtue of Blue‘s blunt-instrument nature, the potential for local instances of injustice must be acknowledged as an ever-present concern, and vigilantly guarded against.


unintended results


The Law of Unintended Consequences?

Traditionalists in the United Methodist Church [UMC] overtly intend to stand by the biblical definition of marriage, e.g., being a covenant between a man and a woman. This is a norm shared by religions of every description and the vast majority of human beings on planet earth. The intended consequences of taking that stand could easily be quite narrow and limited to simply marriage. In the UMC, however, whether the result is of overt intention, or not, the traditional stand extends well beyond the definition of marriage to include demonization of minority sexual-identities. This move conflates two distinct issues and is, I think, a rather difficult stretch on Biblical grounds. I will leave it to the good work of many scholars over the past fifty years to provide those arguments. They’ve laid solid Biblical grounding for full, unconditional LGBT+ inclusion. Suffice it to say, attempting to export traditional proscriptions against particular sexual identities into many of our contemporary contexts is fraught with problems. Of course, as in Saint Paul’s pederasty concerns, power differentials ought always be the central issue with regard to discerning problematic human relations, sexual or otherwise.


demon sized 500

Blue‘s fierce demons

One Blue demon (a control spirit) also has a category designation: homophobia—a particular form of fear/control. First, let’s back up a bit so we can see clearly where lines get crossed. We’ve said that one value of DQ is its ethnocentric orientation—Blue creates cultural communities of insiders and outsiders. Let’s say, for instance, that you are a cisgendered, straight, white male. That is totally fine, many people are. Let’s go another step and claim that it is fine for you to gather these characteristics into a proud, personal identify—to believe it, and to behave it. Further, it’s even fine to gather together into a voluntarily exclusive group with other cisgendered, straight, white males for the purpose of recognizing and celebrating your shared cisgenderedness, maleness, straightness, and whiteness. Narrow perhaps, but still no problem. However, a caution here as a group made of these demographics is particularly vulnerable to a couple of especially wicked kinds of demons—e.g., racism and homophobia. 


i am a man



We’ve looked a good bit at racism and white supremacy (see “Like a rainbow“), so, here we’ll focus on the homophobia demon. The presence and possession of the homophobia demon is evidenced when an individual, or group like the one described above, crosses the control line. Expecting all others to conform to behavioral boundaries native to one’s own narrow identity is an extreme, sinful overreach of control. If a particular set of behaviors helps one to conform to their personal and/or group identity, that’s not a problem: believe it, and behave it! However, expecting others to conform their behaviors to one’s own identity is a sinful overreach of control—in this instance, the tyrannical expression of a homophobia demon. Discounting the native reality of LGBT+ persons, homophobic persons/groups reflect the power of privilege and their’s is the sin of those possessed by a control spirit. Blue‘s neighbor vMEME, Orange [ER], expresses rational, scientific values and loves to empirically study how one thing effects another. Ironically, it was this science that convinced me of demons. Let’s turn to that. 

Lethal harm

From a 2018 study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention entitled: “Association of Religiosity With Sexual Minority Suicide Ideation and Attempt”


Overall, increased importance of religion was associated with higher odds of recent suicide ideation for both gay/lesbian and questioning students. The association between sexual orientation and self-directed violence were mixed and varied by strata. Lesbian/gay students who viewed religion as very important had greater odds for recent suicidal ideation and lifetime suicide attempt compared with heterosexual individuals. Bisexual and questioning sexual orientations were significantly associated with recent suicide ideation, recent attempt, and lifetime attempt across all strata of religious importance, but the strongest effects were among those who reported that religion was very important.

“Religion has typically been seen as something that would protect somebody from thoughts of suicide or trying to kill themselves, and in our study our evidence suggests that may not be the case for everyone, particularly for those we refer to as sexual minority people,” said, John Blosnich, one of the CDC study authors. As I said, this is the point through which I realized that spiritual warfare is perhaps the only way to explain Blue blindness in this instance. We’ve talked about the increased frequency of psychotic response by those in a serious GAMMA Trap. In “Being stuck” I quoted Beck and Cowan:

The GAMMA Trap spawns psychopathic rather than neurotic behaviors, ranging from forms of self-destructiveness (wild-and-crazy acting out and even suicide) to morbid anti-social acts (crime, vicious personal attacks, homicide, and terrorism.)

I wonder, is there any more extreme form of deadly GAMMA Trap that we could possibly lead our children into than, “You will spend Eternity in Hell if you try to be genuine in who you are and in who you love?”


Kodak sized 500

Kodak had a shadow…

Kodak must have had a demon keeping them blind, too. Then photographic industry leader, Kodak, invented digital photography in 1975—Kodak engineer, Steven Sasson, created the first digital camera. One would think that would have insured a very bright future for the film giant. But that’s really the whole point as Kodak is all but out of business today because of its lack of ability to see the future back in 1975. They were very sure of their legacy. They were very sure they were in control and knew how reality was supposed to work. So, they didn’t do anything with digital imaging. Later, Sasson, told the NY Times: “They [Kodak] were convinced that no one would ever want to look at their pictures on a television set.”

Your thoughts?

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


Casting out Blue and Green 3 sized 500


Kodak sized 500




Do no harm [continued]

Note: Serial approach. Introductory post (June 30). First in series (July 1).

snoopy theology

To ponder: Can ‘The Law of Unintended Consequences’ be a profound grace?

Green creates harm (cont.)

Last week in “Do no harm” I asserted that both sides of the ‘way forward’ debate are demon possessed. Taking on the growing edge first, we began unpacking some examples of toxic, harmful expressions of ‘leading edge’ Green [FS]—in this case, applied in the context of the United Methodist Church [UMC], and especially the ‘way forward’ debate.

As we have seen previously (“Who’s Blue? Whose Blue?”), ‘religion,’ especially institutional religion, is prototypical Blue [DQ] and, therefore, intrinsically conventional. The consent that members freely and willingly give to Blue-authority is the existential ground of any conventional organization. In the case of the UMC, our conventions are enumerated in our ‘covenant.’ Faithfulness to Blue values is seen in obedience to the agreed upon DQ convention[s]. || Important to note that FS discounting/dismissing DQ authority is in no way limited to the church context as nearly all institutions have lost society’s confidence. The church likely mirrors society on this. || So,—likely in concert with cultural disregard for Blue, e.g., rules, laws, institutions—on the issues of human sexuality, UMC Green basically un-tethered itself from DQ. This FS power overreach reflects a demon—a control spirit (e.g.Red [CP] overreach).


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Binary and plural…

Green is intrinsically pluralistic, valuing many stories—both/and. Like it or not, Blue is intrinsically binary, valuing its conventional story—either/or; us/them; insider/outsider; sacred/profane.  The FS || DQ problem this creates is alive in many arenas of life. For example the disciplines of law and postmodern philosophy have never engaged in genuine conversation.  Please recall that previously we’ve talked about Blue‘s lack of agility, a profound downside of DQ—like it or not, Blue is intrinsically binary. 



Unintended consequences…

One group discerns “One Church” and another group discerns “Simple” church. Doing the “least harm” is an appeal of one groupand credit them for candor there. The two Green [FS] initiatives being presented to the special general conference in St. Louis later this month—’The One Church Plan,’ [OCP] and ‘The Simple Plan’ [SP]both claim that their plans refrain from coercion and don’t really require anything of anyone: the easy, no-change change for Blue [DQ]. I suggest that in that intentional choice of branding, Green conspicuously condescended to Blue, completely discounted DQ‘s concerns, and, ‘least harm’ admission notwithstanding, essentially dismissed previous/present/future harm of FS approaches.

“The One Church Plan honors the perspective of United Methodists who believe that our current impasse over marriage and ordination of homosexual persons does not rise to the level of a church-dividing issue,” according to the Commission on a Way Forward’s Report to the General Conference. 

Again, while perhaps unconscious, the language totally fails to recognize the importance of this issue to Blue. The OCP honors some United Methodist’s perspective on the impasse but not others—a control spirit.

As we’ve seen previously (Will Blue hold?), Blue is conventional—it’s the story we (any group) agree to agree on. Further, our DQ is affirmed and reinforced whenever others assent to the authority of our convention. When many different kinds of Blue communities all line up in agreement on the same convention, the convergence forms a remarkably powerful human norm in and through that story. Far beyond the parochial UMC, the conventional understanding of the vast majority of human beings and virtually all legacy DQ communities/organizations worldwide is that marriage is constituted by one woman and one man. The two progressive ‘way forward’ plans change the time honored definition of marriage while advocacy largely fails to even recognize or acknowledge the magnitude of the impact on those faithfully holding to the legacy.  —Granted, much of Western society has already legally codified the redefining of marriage, however, (from the standpoint of what I’m trying to get at) that’s really another issue, I think, and I don’t have space to rehearse Niebuhr’s Christ and Culture here. 


marriage sized 500 1


No big deal

In his book, The Road to Unfreedom, Timothy Snyder details how Putin, to a very significant extent, used the LGBT+ rights issue as leverage to help annex Ukraine and create the far-right populist movements in Europe and the U.S.A. 

Snyder writes, 

Marie Le Pen “advanced the Russian argument that gay rights were the sharp end of a global neoliberal conspiracy against innocent nations. In her own words, ‘homophilia [sic] is one of the elements of globalization.'” (pg. 101)

Exploiting Russian philosopher Ivan Ilyan’s “Christian totalitarianism” [pg. 91], part of what Putin realized was that the West’s efforts to change the definition of marriage created an extreme vulnerability and political opportunity that he aggressively exploited. Green shadows (in general and in the UMC), and FS‘s (Red) self-interest, have largely prevented FS from seeing/acknowledging both the depth and significance of this issue for Blue worldwide. Green has also failed to account for all the global, political forces harnessing and exploiting the issue of LGBT+ rights. For UMC FS to speak a word of this change as ‘no big deal’ is to completely disrespect those who support legacy DQ. We may only be removing a few words from our official documents but let’s not be totally disingenuous by gaslighting people in saying we’re not really changing anything.


Creative Commons || CC0

Grace seems a bit scarce

We’ll get to Blue‘s demon possession and toxic harm next time. Then perhaps we’ll better see that Green‘s motivation is to transform DQ such that it would cease and desist the harm Blue has been/and is doing. Before we move on, however, the question I put forward at the top of this week’s post may be a good partner for the reflection/conversation FS might like to have about the good and ill of what has been wrought in the battle for justice and change.


Way Sign with Clipping Path 

We’ve talked at length now about the fact that Blue [DQ] values reflect human conventions. Now, admittedly, religious communities reflect what the persons in those communities believe and trust to be divinely inspired conventions. Through sacred texts and prophetic witness Blue communities receive and institutionalize divine inspiration, or revelation. But is there any Divine DQ that is experientially true for all with or without human assent? It seems to me that the physical laws are an expression of Divine Blue[see Romans 1.20G-d’s Presence, Divine laws of nature, existence made to adapt and evolve.

Where I stand…

First, I want to emphasize my respect/regard for the crucial importance of the Blue [DQ] vMEME—without it civil society of any scale would not be possible. Second, I’ve not tried to conceal that while I recognize and highly esteem Blue values, I am with those who would transform the UMC institution to be inclusive of LGBT+ people without condition—just as it is for cisgendered, heterosexual people. Over the past 30 years or so in the church, I hope that I have not expressed Green demon possession in relation to this issue. In an honest moment of reflection, however, I must confess I remember times when I was quite dismissive in conversation with traditional colleagues.

I do recognize/confess that a demon control spirit drives Green‘s express disregard of Blue order, and FS‘s discounting of DQ‘s deep and abiding commitment to the traditional definition of marriage. 

I’m sorry! I pray that demon be revealed/cast out.

For myself—and likely many others—I can say honestly and without reservation, it was never an intended consequence of mine to disquiet the souls of those who faithfully stand in the traditional ranks of the church by my words/attempts to offer justice to those who stand in the excluded ranks of the church. This week, acknowledging The Law of Unintended Consequences offers your/my Green [FS] a taste of G-d’s Grace.

Next week, more demons to be revealed/cast out.

Your thoughts?

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





Do no harm

Note: Serial approach. Introductory post (June 30). First in series (July 1).

snoopy theology


More on vMEMEs …

I discovered it in Brené Brown’s latest book, so I’m beginning this week with a quote from neuroscientist, Antonio Damasio:

We are not necessarily thinking machines. We are feeling machines that think.

Along with Clare Graves, and Spiral Dynamics, this blog site asserts that a developmental anthropology allows for an elegant bio/psycho/social integration of human feeling, thinking, and animation.

Again, we must set aside all notions of typology, and human type categories, when considering Graves’ work and Spiral Dynamics. If we think of Gravesian values systems as analogous to computer operating systems [OS], perhaps then we can gain a clearer picture of the nature of vMEMEs.




Operating system

Humans come equipped with a system hard drivee.g.brain/neurological systemcapable of producing an amazing diversity of human expression. Perhaps we need a fanciful tale to help us wrap our minds around the plain weirdness of this idea. In 1991 Terry Bisson wrote a science fiction dialog that is fun, and it fits. Find the entire story (here)where, you will find this part of the dialog between two intergalactic travelers on a mission to record all sentient beings  (just after first consideration of earth and humans):

   “No brain?”

“Oh, there is a brain all right. It’s just that the brain is made out of meat!”

    “So… what does the thinking?”

“You’re not understanding, are you? The brain does the thinking. The meat.”

    “Thinking meat! You’re asking me to believe in thinking meat!”




Operating on the system hard drive, each vMEME represents an OS at work sorting reality. Extending the analogy, think of the values in the amalgam of values for a particular vMEME as ‘apps.’ This is a helpful image because with it we can easily see that a particular vMEME provides a specific animating energy. Further, how the energy is channeled, or expressed, is only limited by the range of the particular OShence diverse (apps and) expressions.

Think of Windows XP as an OS enabling many different kinds of applications to operate. At the same time, one step up on the Spiral, Windows 7 is also operating and running the appropriate apps for that OS. And, again, next stage up on the Spiral, Windows 10 is also operating and running the appropriate apps for that OS. So, we have a Spiral that analogously consists of a stack of increasingly complex operating systems that come online in response to various Life Conditions [LCs]to operate a nearly infinite number of possible apps combinations on the single hard drive. Humans function through constellations of vMEMEs which exponentially increases the possible diversity of expression. 


spiral image


Further, Graves sees human brain/mind development as a series of bio/psycho/social transformations graduating from instinctual, to purely emotional, to increasingly complex amalgams of emotion and cognition. For instance, the Beige [AN] vMEME function is expressed through the instinctual, autonomic output of the brain stem, e.g., breathe, blink, digest, ‘fight or flight’ survival valuesa super-powerful bias toward life. Up Spiral four steps, the Orange [ER] vMEME function is expressed as an amalgam of emotional responses, pre-formal operational reasoning, and formal operational reasoning. We’ve talked previously [“Facts are facts, right?“] about brain science and the primacy of emotion in human processing of realityreinforcing Damasio,  ‘… feeling machines that think.’

This developmental reality regarding the primacy of emotion in perception exposes the cynicism present in the strategic [mis]use of emotion in political influence/manipulation. That secular politicians do this is troubling. Partisan church leaders doing this dilutes the potency of Christ’s message and risks fatally damaging our spiritual credibility and influence as Jesus followers. Wesleyan Christians are not called to abandon rationality. Rather, the Wesleyan epistemological lens is Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience. As we turn to current events a brief refresh on two particular vMEMEs.




Blue [DQ] and Green [FS] vMEMEs, briefly:

  • Blue ~ mythic membership (conventional), sacred text [e.g., scripture, covenants (religious) and/or constitution, statutes (national)], faith, sacrifice, honor, duty, ethnocentric, nativist, authoritarian, hierarchical, rule of law, pre-modern, ‘pre-formal operational reasoning’ values // Blue [DQ] – Order 

  • Green ~ global (post-conventional), world centered, pluralistic, eco-friendly, multi-cultural, gender equality, LGBT+ and minority rights, social justice, many stories, post-modern values  // Green [FS] – Pluralist/Justice


United Methodist Church [UMC] = Mess 


snoopy theology

Thanks, Snoopy! 

I don’t anticipate having a headstone. If I did, this would be appropriate:


epitaph for blog sized 400


I participate on two clergy group pages on Facebook, e.g., “United Methodist Clergy” and “The New Methodists.” Sadly, many posts/threads there often express some extremely toxic ideas issuing forth from both progressive and traditional sides of the special general conference [GC], ‘way forward’ conversation. [background here]
What we have are abundant instances of pluralistic, justice values [(naïve) Green] demonizing and dismissing binary, order values [(naïve) Blue].
What we also have are abundant instances of binary, order values [(naïve) Blue] demonizing and dismissing pluralistic, justice values [(naïve) Green].
I hope it’s no surprise to anyone that much of the UMC (as a Blue system) is demon possessed with a fierce [Red] control spirit. No surprise, then, that both traditional (Blue) and progressive (Green) groups are also demon possessed. A control spirit possesses much of both of these group’s thinking. The sure sign/evidence of demon possession is whenever factions in a dispute demonize the otherwe’ve talked previously about shadows/projection.




Denials are frequently proffered on this charge, however, in a naked moment, I think many/most in both groups would really prefer the other group simply walk the plank. Obviously, that’s unlikely to bear any good fruit. So, beginning with leading edge Green [FS], let’s briefly unpack what I mean by ‘toxic ideas’ [and ‘naïve’] with a couple of examples. 

First, we need to keep in mind that whether it’s being expressed through a Blue or a Green dominant person/organization, ‘absolutism’ is a naïve Blue value. I have observed that United Methodist naïve Green often channels/expresses naïve Blue absolutismWe talked about being stuck in GAMMA Traps last weekthe UMC is in a big time GAMMA Trap! How FS handles GAMMA dynamics is epitomized in the UMC when naïve Green is unable to even allow the possibility of Blue (traditionalists) operating in good faith.  ‘Naïve’ indicates a value has an immature/unhealthy relationship with its vMEME. Last week I quoted Beck and Cowan:

When GREEN confronts the barriers, it will descend into a rigid, holier-than-thou, politically correct stance, arrogantly questioning everybody else’s motives.

Green [FS] demonizes and discounts Blue [DQ]

One of the latest pre-GC conflagrations concerns the Green camp‘s charge that the Blue camp [e.g., Wesleyan Covenant Association] is in violation of the U.M. Discipline.  Of course, DQ naturally saw this as laughable/colossal chutzpah—FS is blind to its shadow on this.  Green would probably rather forget it pioneered the practice of disregarding the rule of lawFS literally ‘schooled’ Blue in how to overreach power. While ‘rule of law nullification’ may have been the fruit of extreme postmodern overreach, naïve Green‘s discounting and dismissal of DQ (rules‘) has been a toxic disaster doing great harm to society. 

Note the LCs generating this ‘executive action’ strategy was/is a broken, gridlocked Blue legislature. 

Do no harm. Now that’s some good Blue—it’s a rule.

Short on space and nothing but harm done by Green [FS] thus far—again, beginning with Green because it is the growing edge. Therefore, we’ll continue from right here next week with: “Do no harm [continued].” We’ll see that the harm Blue [DQ] has done through its perspective on special general conference issues has been extremely toxic as well. Next week: more harm by Green, as well as Blue [DQ] harm—e.g., discounting and demonizing Green [FS].

Your thoughts?

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


Hambone, thanks for the reminder of this!



Being stuck

Note: Serial approach. Introductory post (June 30). First in series (July 1).


problem sized 500
Creative Commons CC0


Important Reminder: Gravesian vMEMEs represent clusters of values [forms of thinking] animated and operating within people, not types of people. Life Conditions [LCs] are seamlessly linked to vMEMEs.


Existence is such that change is a constant, and yet most individuals/organizations would prefer to avoid it if possible. In his book, Leading Change, John P. Kotter writes:

By far the biggest mistake people make when trying to change organizations is to plunge ahead without establishing a high enough sense of urgency in fellow managers and employees. 

Failure to coalesce a strong sense of urgency is a recipe for a stalled change initiative and and a great deal of frustration. However, we seem to be in a time when sufficient urgency is having difficulty translating into many entrenched situations. This past week the House of Commons of the United Kingdom rejected (by historic proportions, 432 to 202) a plan to pragmatically accomplish the Brexit initiative to leave the European Union. Great Britain voted for Brexit by a slim margin (52% to 48%) almost two years ago. Hard to imagine greater urgency as the separation is scheduled by statute for March 29, and yet to date the majority of Parliament is against any plan for a strategic separation whatsoever. U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May rightly observed that the vote indicates what the legislature does not want, but it says nothing about what is wanted.

Phases of change

Two weeks ago (here) we introduced the five stages/phases of any change process: ALPHA Fit; BETA Condition; GAMMA Trap; DELTA Surge; and New ALPHA. Let’s look a bit more closely at what Beck and Cowan have to say regarding the BETA, and GAMMA phases. 


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Healthy adaptation

Phase 2: The BETA Condition

I just dropped in to see what condition my condition was in. ~ Kenny Rogers

You know that feeling you get when your GPS is not working and the last couple turns you’ve made are leading to some sketchy looking road? It’s a bit intuitive, there may be some indications, but nothing terribly definitive at first. You know, that liminal space when we begin to strongly suspect that the road we’re traveling is no longer working to get us to our destination? That’s the dissonance of a BETA Condition. If we don’t make adjustment [revision option], and we insist on driving all the way to where the bridge is out, well, then we’re in a GAMMA Trap [GT].  We’ll come back to the GT in a moment.


BETA Condition

BETA is the sense that our old solutions are not up to meeting our new challenges. Still, the discomfort of the devil we know [BETA] usually seems less daunting than risking the devil we don’t knowe.g., making the change to a yet unknown New ALPHA. Doubling-down on confidence in the old ALPHA translates into superficial makeovers and trying to tweak the same old routineswe work harder and try to make our execution better.

Slipping on into GAMMA can happen subtly without much notice through, what initially might seem an innocent enough course, e.g., avoidance“Be nice.” “Don’t discuss politics or religion, it is impolite.” “Just be nice.” Brené Brown writes in her new book, Dare to Lead,

People are opting out of vital conversations about diversity and inclusivity because they fear looking wrong, saying something wrong, or being wrong. Choosing our own account over hard conversation is the epitome of privilege, and it corrodes trust and moves us away from meaningful and lasting change.

Issues like racism, national boundaries, and LGBTQ+ rights  may produce a BETA dissonance in many of us and yet privilege often defeats change by diverting us into a GAMMA of avoidance, as Brown describes above. Those in power are rarely under the heel of these justice issues and so the privilege of that freedom translates into a total lack of urgency for them. Avoidance is much preferable to engaging in what is much needed: meaningful, but difficult discussion. Pick any addictionas they can all represent a form of avoidanceand see it as merely one of the many convenient GAMMA Traps available in society today.



Phase 3: The GAMMA Trap

The deep difficulty with ‘being stuck’ in a GAMMA Trap [GT] is that the system’s leading vMEME is often the “BARRIER” preventing transformation to a New APLHA. In other words, growth to a new vMEME [deep change] is often required to right a system bringing it into a more harmonious fit with its present LCs. Failure to receive/achieve the necessary growth can lead to a critical mass in organizational decline and this can sometimes mean a rapid unraveling. 


Beck and Cowan on ‘being stuck’ in GAMMA:

The emotions of frustration and confusion at BETA give way to deep anger and hostility in GAMMA. Even the past does not fit anymore. Imagine the feelings of being locked in the trunk of an automobile, unable to get free. No one can hear your desperate pleas for help. No more breathing space. Can you sense the panic and fear? You are living on an emotional roller coaster. There are frantic attempts to break out, to find a single moment of peace in a chaotic and tumbling world. The patience in BETA to ‘wait and see’ or ‘hope things will work out OK’ is supplanted by impatient demands for action, and action now. There is nothing left to lose.

Once systems move into the GAMMA phase, without realizing it they have turned away from the old ALPHA ways for good. There is no turning back to how it used to be, yet there is no place to go. Such is the GAMMA Trap. One can detect it in individuals who are down-Spiraling, anxiously searching for the trail to Nirvana. Organizations and entire societies can, likewise, find themselves in a free fall, not knowing whether they will survive beyond tomorrow or not. At every turn they feel blocked. The BETA options no longer exist. The trunk has been slammed shut.


car trunk

The GAMMA Trap can often be totally disheartening because it faces barriers and obstacles that are powerful and seemingly ubiquitous. This phase of change does not call forth the best expressions of human behavior from those who are caught within a personal, or organizational GT.

When BEIGE confronts the barriers, it will curl up in a fetal position and die. San Bushmen who are imprisoned by the police are often dead in the morning.

When PURPLE confronts the barriers, it will descend into a fearful, superstitious existence, totally surrounding the self with altars, rituals, and omens. The shaman and chieftain are empowered against the gods.

When RED confronts the barriers, it will go (a) ‘damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead’ or (b) fight tooth and nail and take no prisoners. Get down and dirty.

When BLUE confronts the barriers, it will sink into a righteous crusade, sponsor inquisitions and witch hunts, and demonize the enemy while deifying the true patriots.

When ORANGE confronts the barriers, it will engage in sleazy and shady deals, blackmail and bribery, and other under-the-table tactics. Whatever it takes to win.

When GREEN confronts the barriers, it will descend into a rigid, holier-than-thou, politically correct stance, arrogantly questioning everybody else’s motives.

[Spiral Dynamics, pages 90-91]


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If the situation is sufficiently frustrated by impossible obstacles in conjunction with relentless pressure and demands for adaptation from changing contexts, then a very painful regression is likelycreating, at best, difficult circumstances. “The GAMMA Trap spawns psychopathic rather than neurotic behaviors, ranging from forms of self-destructiveness (wild-and-crazy acting out and even suicide) to morbid anti-social acts (crime, vicious personal attacks, homicide, and terrorism.) Riots break out, post offices are shot up, and airplanes are bombed from within GAMMA Trap.” [SD pg. 91]

Your thoughts?

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



Mystical = Experiential

“Grace is the consummate threat to all self-hatred” ~ Friar Richard Rohr

mystic moon
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Note: Calling an audible as we take a one-off break from our serial string.


Last month in this space I offered a riddle. Several folks asked what I meant and I promised I would spell out my thinking after others had ample opportunity to express their answers to my little puzzle. There were a couple of observations on it, and thanks for those! I’m circling around now to offer my answer to this:


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Mark 10.46, a Christmas story. Wait. What?

They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside.10.46

That is the (nrsv) text we find at Mark 10.46. There’s no sign of Mary, the baby Jesus, a stable, barn animals, a manger, shepherds, magi, or any of the familiar images we are accustomed to finding in the “Christmas” stories of the Bible.

I’ll explain further in a moment, however, what I’m suggesting is that with only seven words, “Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar,” the evangelist known as Mark tells a brief Christmas story in the context of this one verse. Additionally, in so doing, they launch a fierce polemic against the ascendant, dominant cosmology of Jesus’ (and our) time. So, what makes 10.46or any narrativea Christmas story?


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Christ Comforted by the Angel by Rembrandt 


What makes a ‘Christmas story?’

The essence, meaning, or point of any Christmas story is that G-d is ‘Emmanuel.’ G-d is not some infinitely distant abstraction, e.g., deism. G-d is not of some entirely different and separate order. G-d is with us. Matthew and Luke narrate this doctrine in mythic terms through the very human motif of child birth. What had sometimes been portrayed as distant, or separate, was now being seen in a new way.  Christmas transforms our way of seeing the Divine in relation to existence. The Christmas storyin any form, iterationis a mythic narration of G-d’s Presence in existence/reality (G-d’s Immanence). “Acts” declares it in even more stark, emphatic terms: “in G-d we live and move and have our being” [see Acts 17.28]. Sounds pretty intimate. No wonder that Saint Augustine said you are closer to G-d than you are to yourself.


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The task of any Christmas story is to proclaim G-d’s Immanence. In Paul’s theological terms:

“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.”Ephesians 4.4-6

Through all and in all,” writes Saint Paul. To be clear, the apostle is saying that G-d [the Divine] is through all and in all. Any bifurcation of spirit and matter is categorically denied here. Christmas integrates ‘the profane’ and ‘the sacred,’ ‘the material’ and ‘non-material.’ Like Jesus’ cloak, matter and spirit are seamless, Reality is One. The Christmas story (in any form) narrates the transcendence of any dualistic cosmological structure.

Here’s a Christmas revelation from an extracanonical source. Jesus fully identifies himself with the Christ Mystery:


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Hebrew background…

The history of the Jewish people had been one of seeking to be in relation to G-d seeking to understand, even locate G-d in relation to the people of Israel. Early on they made provision for G-d to travel along with the people and be present in the Tabernacle, secure within the curtains delineating the ‘holy of holies.’ Later, after Solomon’s Temple was constructed, the people believed G-d’s Presence moved to reside with the people in the ‘holy of holies’ within the Temple. The legacy of the people of Israel had always been to nurture the intuition that G-d was in some way proximate to creation/humanity and not distant or disconnected from it.


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Mysticism…another word for experience

As mystics, Jesus, and later Paul, related what they had experienced [re Jesus see John 3.11, Matthew 7.29Mark 1.22]. They made what seemed to tradition like a wildly creative move. They located G-d’s Presence where they themselves had experienced it, within the human heart. G-d’s Incarnation. G-d is not just present in Jesus, G-d is present in you, and in everything.

I’m suggesting the author (“Mark”) knew exactly what they were doing when they offered the name of the blind beggar (“Bartimaeus”) that Jesus encountered stranded ‘on the way’ [Truth, Life].


So, Plato’s philosophy sought Truthor, Reality. He found viewing/describing express existence could not be reduced beneath three frames: the good, the true, and the beautiful. However, Plato’s paradigm bifurcated Reality. He laid out his dualistic cosmology in what was, even then, a very famous dialog: Timaeus. Plato’s conception of Reality needs no Christmas because spirit and matter are intrinsically separate from each other. For Plato, Reality is forever divided into two realmsmatter [express existence] versus spirit [ideal forms].

In Plato’s Timaeus, Reality is dualistic, that is, two spheres: matter and spirit. To me, the 10.46 image is stark/plain. The evangelist is severely ranking Plato’s notion of the structure of reality as, “blind.” In 10.46 ‘Mark’ asserts that the ‘son’offspring, result, product, fruitof Plato’s manner of seeing (as proclaimed in Timaeus) is found blind there beside the way. Timaeus is found (and outed) as seriously wanting by the evangelist. Critique through biting humor, perhaps?

Enlightenment Westerners still tend to bifurcate Reality into matter vs spirit, splitting existence into sacred and profane. Christmas still makes a fine correction to that.

Finally, a couple of disclosures.

Consulting orthodoxy…


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The books on the bottom shelf above are all commentaries on The Gospel According to Mark. I have twenty-seven of themincluding the two forward-facing editions on the top shelf. Only two suggest even the hint of a possibility of traveling the hermenuetic path I’m on here. The other twenty-five make no attempt to recognize this connection whatsoever, so, the following quotes are exhaustive regarding my take on 10.46.

In the notes concerning verse 46, John R. Donahue and Daniel J. Harrington discount and all but out-rightly dismiss the germ of my mystical take when in Sacra Pagina: The Gospel of Mark they write:

“The Aramaic word for ‘son’ is bar, and so, ‘the son of Timaeus’ is the explanation of the name. The name ‘Timaeus’ is harder to explain; a connection with the figure in the Platonic dialogue seems unlikely, yet it is difficult to find a Semitic name that might have generated the name Timaeus.” (page 317)

In, The Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Gospel According to Mark, James R. Edwards writes:

“On the way out of Jericho a blind beggar calls to Jesus. His Aramaic name, Bartimaeus, means ‘son of Timaeus,’ a translation that Mark may have added for the benefit of his Gentile readers.” [cf. note 70]

(n. 70) “B.M.F. van Iersel and J. Nuchelmans, … advance the intriguing though speculative thesis that the ‘son of Timaeus’ recalls the name of the principle speaker in the then best known dialogue of PlatoTimaeus; and that Mark’s use of the term symbolizes the conversion and discipleship of the Greco-Roman world to Jesus.” (page 329)


dots obsession—love transformed into dots
Dots ObsessionLove Transformed into Dots by Yayoi Kusama

That’s my story…

So, van Iersal and Nuchelmans notwithstanding, that’s my take on Mark 10.46 as fierce polemic in the guise of a Christmas story. While my mystical explanation for the puzzle the evangelist presents in their naming of a blind beggar seems to be largely overlooked by orthodox tradition and the commentaries, I’m sticking to it, for now.


Next week we’ll return to our regular approach and continue our look at the five stages/phases of change through a Spiral Dynamics lens [developmental anthropology]. Note: Serial approach. Introductory post (June 30). First in series (July 1).

Your thoughts?

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


mystical experiential meme


Turn the page

dots obsession—love transformed into dots
Dots ObsessionLove Transformed into Dots by Yayoi Kusama

The open road…

Note: Serial approach. Introductory post (June 30). First in series (July 1).


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Well, as I write these words it’s two days after Christmas. My post for this coming Sunday, “Year end” [12/30] is all but done, and so I’m writing ahead on my January 6 piece because I’m out next week on a trip to visit my daughter in Georgia. So, while it’s easy enough, and even reasonable, to imagine that next week’s current events will be driven by some kind of corruption or chaos (our new Gilded Age <–click), from here I don’t know specifically what might lead the decency/lack-of-decency news. Therefore, current events tie-ins and attending applications of our anthropology topics, will hopefully return next time.

With just a dollop of imagination we can see ‘barriers’ as a current events topic right now, and likely extending into next week, perhaps beyond, what with the (partial) federal government shut-down. We have a work stoppage over a disagreement concerning the WALL that (first candidate, and then) President Trump has promised to build on our Southern border. One key feature of candidate Trump’s nearly daily claim was that the WALL would be built with Mexico’s money. While the claim has persisted at rallies well into the presidency, the money from Mexico has not been forthcoming, so now the president is asking taxpayers to pay for his WALL. ‘Barriers’ of all kinds in those ‘current events.’ David Frum on the present shutdown, “There’s only one way this ends, Trump backs down, no wall.” [CNN on 12/28] 


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Change Condition 5: BARRIERS

So, ‘Change Condition 2: SOLUTIONS’ really needs to include the means to transcend the  obstacles and barriers it faces as part of meeting its obligations. Change Condition 5: BARRIERS is a check on the reality that our obstacles must be known, and acknowledged as such, if we are to have any hope of change/growththe ‘INSIGHT’ of Condition 4 needs to include ‘BARRIERS.’ For instance, the formal discipline of Blue [DQ] ‘order‘ (law/social conformity) values reigns-in the impulsive nature of Red [CP] ‘power‘ (ego) values. While that is a good and necessary thing, the law of unintended consequences weighs in as it is wont to do. Turns out, stifling our impulses has the unintended consequence of disconnecting each of us from our own emotions. We’ve talked about ‘shadows’ (and projection) in earlier posts in this series. This ‘stifling’ is a prime way that our shadows are created. So, the same Blue energy that allows us to transcend Red dominance, also fuels the unintended creation of barriers (e.g., shadows/blind spots) to DQ movement to Orange [ER], thus inhibiting clean transcendence of Blue




In their book Spiral Dynamics, Beck and Cowan write:

Condition 5 – BARRIERS … to Change Identified and Overcome. Barriers can make change difficult, if not impossible. They must be recognized (no more denial) and identified concretely (name names), and then (a) eliminated, (b) bypassed, (c) neutralized, or (d) reframed into something else. These barriers are first identified as part of the external field and the Life Conditions, then later purged from the mindset of the person or group.

In step one, the recognition phase, barriers are usually seen to be external. ‘It’s their fault!’ ‘We are oppressed and they will pay!’ ‘If it were not for you (management, spouse, children), I could be a real person!’ ‘The bloody establishment holds us down.’ As the barriers are identified concretely in step two, the reasons they are effective obstacles shows up in one’s self as well as the external environment. The greatest barriers are often those of our own making… (page 84)


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Change Condition 6: CONSOLIDATION 

Bringing all the constituencies of the change into sufficient alignment regarding the new paradigm is the final condition that must be met for clean transcendence to the next level of values [vMEME]. 

Beck and Cowan write:

As in the Parable of the Sower, the seeds of change often fall on thin or hostile soil, infested with weeds and difficulties. Lacking a supporting culture, the new vMEMEs barely germinate much less bloom. Even when they do, new awakenings are usually characterized by high-energy but also high-klutziness.  Exciting discoveries have not yet become mature expressions and so appear half-baked and clumsy. It takes a while for the new systems to blend into the profile. This period of adjustment is volatile and takes some shaking-out. After all, the individual brain is reconnecting itself and the corporate brain is making new acquaintances. 

When significant change occurs, you can expect a period of confusion, false starts, long learning curves, and awkward assimilation. Those who changeeither as individuals or organisationsmay be punished by those who do not understand what is happening and now find themselves left out, misaligned and threatened. Old barriers may be rebuilt in the form of punitive rules, turf battles, and power tests. New obstacles might be set up. Sometimes, you will have to go around, let the bridge burn and not look back.

Six Conditions for Change… a review

“When all Six Conditions are met, new vMEMEs may awaken and movement along the Spiral may occur. … Consider the Six as you observe everything from national politics to discussion of global ecology to schisms within religious movements. The Spiral principles are the same.” ~ Beck and Cowan (page 85)


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Illustration of Spiral Growth, vMEME transcendence

Stages/phases of vertical change – brief intro

  • Phase 1: The ALPHA Fit ~ A honeymoon period as Life Conditions and awakened vMEMEs are in relative harmony and life appears to be good, at least on the surface. As life is dynamic, we do well to recall Einstein’s admonition, paraphrased: solutions to our present problems are the seeds of our future problems.
  • Phase 2: The BETA Condition ~ The harmony of the ALPHA Fit begins to give way to dissonancea time of uncertainty, questioning, and frustration. Old ways are not matching present needs as before. 
  • Phase 3: The GAMMA Trap ~ When the situation deteriorates enough the person or organization moves down the path toward the GAMMA Trap. The intuitive sense of the BETA Condition gives way to the concrete apprehension of obstacles and barriers that seem insurmountable. Deep GAMMA is a hope killer as it seems as if there’s no power in hand to do anything about it. Fortunately full-on GAMMA Trap is not a requisite for growth as the ‘revision’ by-pass is available to the astute strategist-leader. Entering GAMMA is really the point of no return as the old-ALPHA ways have now lost their appeal.
  • Phase 4: The DELTA Surge ~ When the GAMMA is unbunged at last and the crippling BETA barriers are finally breached, a DELTA Surge is triggered. Excitement and energy abound as the future opens in the new-found flexibility of the present, a new present in which the past has finally lost its iron grip. This can often be a perilous time as well.
  • Phase 5: The New ALPHA Fit ~ Consolidation has now pulled all the ideas, discoveries, and insights gained in phases 2, 3, & 4 into cohesive alignment. The energies of the person or organization have now coalesced around the new paradigm and formed a new state of equilibrium between values systems and Life Conditions. The New ALPHA Fit assumes the role of official worldview, that  is, until we top the hill, or round the bend to greet a new BETA Condition.


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Next time we’ll dig a bit further into these stages/phases of changeespecially the BETA Condition and the GAMMA Trapand take a closer look at the Red [CP] vMEME. 

May 2019 be the year we come to better understand our values and in so doing learn to be a little more kind. 

Your thoughts?

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