Ouch! That hurts! Please stop!

I Have a Dream
I Have a Dream by Gaia Orion || gaiaorion.com

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.


Creative Commons || CC0

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. 


shame 1

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 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
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).



Ice nine

Note: I know, trying to introduce a big-picture idea like a developmental anthropology in a blog format is ambitious. So, I’m using a serial-approach. Introduction (June 30). First in series (July 1).


dots obsession—love transformed into dots
Dots Obsession: Love Transformed into Dots || Yayoi Kusama

Moses come ridin’ up on a quasar
His spurs were jingling, the door was ajar ~ Robert Hunter

The nature of history

Kurt Vonnegut has been my favorite novelist for over forty years. On my view, just to be funny enough to make others laugh in general is a real gift. To be able to pen words that another will likely laugh out loud when reading is a very rare blessing. That was Vonnegut’s gift. Along with Vonnegut, I share what I gathered to be his view that more than by the grandiose folk, real history is made by the unlikely bit players of everyday life. Ordinary people, like you and me, but often in wildly imaginative situations where, through unlikely contexts and contrasts, Vonnegut brilliantly mined comedy, and drew insight from humans/humanity. 

Her Journey by Gaia Orion || gaiaorion.com


My blog has come a full spiral-round in some respects. I began this blog series (here) with the contention that shame was a serious evolutionary mistake that has been variously ritualized and handed up through the human chain of history. In a moment I’ll describe how I think some of the dynamics of shame have impacted the United Methodist Church and our forty-seven year debate concerning majority and minority human identities. I also began the blog (here) by taking on the shadows of the leading edge Green [FS] vMEME because—and it pains me greatly to recognize/confess this—no small part of our long inability to move forward has been about Green‘s failure to effectively lead in the church (here).

In relation to the ‘Way Forward’ debate, my blog has effectively been about unpacking this pointed proverb from last week’s blog post:


demon detector sized
See Luke 18.9-14

United Methodist Church and demons

I’ve said, especially in relation to our way forward debate, both the Blue and Green values camps express demons. Both those who would change our understanding, and those who would preserve traditional conventions, have been demonizing each other for many years—casual observers might even say we have viciously demonized each other. For many, the dysfunctional way these issues have been addressed over the past forty-seven years is far worse than the various issues of our discord themselves.

The ‘rub’

I wrote in July, 2016 [Jesus wept: A Plea for Compassion] that the underlying issue dividing people in the UMC [and USA] is a difference in values paradigms, or frames—binary vs pluralist thought. Another author recently described it well as having a dysfunctional dependency on certainty. Until we are able to hold our beliefs somewhat loosely, we are unable to allow the possibility that we may be in error. Ironically, we do not genuinely enter the realm of faith until we are able to admit that it is impossible to know certain things. To claim certainty about those things is arrogant hubris and a complete lack of faith. 

Funny, the moment we are able to allow the possibility of being in error about some things, we are only a step away from allowing the possibility others may be correct about some things. Then, we’re only another small step away from the possibility that more than one thing may be correct at the same time. Transformation from either/or to both/and framing both transcends and includes either/or thinking. In it’s zealousness for inclusive justice, sometimes Green has failed to make the inclusion-of-Blue part real to Blue. Now there’s some rich irony. 


shadows of Blue

A Blue shadow

Chasing the illusion of certainty is a Blue shadow. As I’ve written in the “Do no harm” mini-series, for Green it is easy enough to see [through Orange science/research] the effects of Blue‘s expression of the homophobia demon possession of the UMC. Anxiety, depression, self-harm, and suicide in our teens bears tragic witness to Blue‘s demonic overreach.  


shadows of Green

A Green shadow

Ghosting others because of their values is a demon-possession hidden in Green‘s shadow. I’ve written that each vMEME, in its turn, tends to discern/operate naïvely as though it were THE answer. Green often escalates this naïve, elitist discounting to a nuclear level and uses its postmodern deconstruction tool to ghost others. Green has incorporated shame for border maintenance at record, socially toxic scale. This forms Green‘s chief failure to helpfully lead.




The power of inter-Blue

I’ve argued that the Blue vMEME is the first values system that codifies convention, Blue is formally conventional. Blue forms community aligned on agreed upon conventions. The power of Blue authority is a function of how many people join in assent to the convention—e.g., strength in numbers. Marriage is an ancient human convention that vastly predates religion but is now codified, ritualized, and prominently present in many religious communities (Blue), including Christianity. The convergence of many different kinds of Blue communities around the marriage convention creates a powerful human norm that even transcends Blue institutions and forms an unspoken, unwritten bond among the majority. 

Thankfully, LGBT+ rights and marriage equality are gradually gaining parity, and majority stature in the U.S./Europe. However, worldwide those holding the traditionalone man one woman, sexual ethic and view of marriage are the vast majority.

Sadly, as with many human norms, marriage integrates and uses shame to defend its borders. UMC Green has failed to appreciate that if either of the progressive plans pass, then within the global majority, UMC Blue will be subject to the shame/ridicule of the global Blue majority community. For UMC Blue, it’s less about not being able to live with UMC Green and much more about Blue‘s fidelity to Bluehonor, duty, and obedience are Blue values. UMC Blue fears the shame of global Blue far more than the shame of UMC/any Green. Clearly, Green will roundly argue that justice for the minority is paramount. However, for Green, as a serious minority itself, ghosting Blue does not empower (Blue) majorities to include (Green empowered) minorities, which is (healthy) Green‘s goal.


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Lonely point of agreement 

I feel most UMC folks are now lining up in unison on the confession that some harm will be done going forward regardless of what we do in St. Louis. Of, course, I, and many others, would also note that Orange vMEME driven research makes it very difficult to deny the dreadful harm that we have already done for years by allowing a homophobic demon to express itself through complicity in our documents/declarations/actions.

Least harm option

Profound irony. It appears to be a bit of a Martin Buber question. Perhaps somewhat akin to a Deuteronomy 4.28 problem.

By the admission of progressive plan advocates, the least harm to the UMC institution will occur if the traditional plan passes. 

Wait. What? 

Yep. I’ve recently seen prominent progressive-plan leaders write: “If the traditional plan passes many progressives we’ve talked to say they will stay and continue the fight.” 

Conversely, many traditionalists have made it very plain they would be unable to abide if a progressive plan passes. As I said, the convention the traditionalists are defending is a shared human convention and far broader than the conventions of the parochial UMC. Traditionalists have vowed to take leave if a progressive plan passes.

If, less people leave on traditional plan passing, then, ipso facto, less harm to institution.

The tragic irony is that while passing the traditional plan may do the least harm to the institution, arguably, it will also do the most harm to actual human beings. 

Then, too, even institutionally, harm is not wholly determined by loss of numbers. I’d argue over time far greater harm to the UMC institution is/has been caused by chasing the illusion of certainty. Arguably, it is rather likely that more human beings will be harmed if we follow the traditional plan. 

Harming a Thou over harming an It seems a profound indecency. In a reckoning of Blue harm vs Green harm it doesn’t even appear close to a contest. Blue is doing lethal harm.


10,000 foot view

10,000 foot view in a nutshell…

I’m seeing this final UMC attempt to stay together as a microcosm for what’s happening in the U.S. right now. ‘Backward.’ ‘Forward.’ What do these terms mean in practical application for our society? Which trajectory are we [UMC and/or U.S.A.] going to take?

No less than this is being worked out in St. Louis [and in U.S. elections in Nov. 2020]. By definition minorities are not majorities and therefore, in a majority-rule system, any gains in recognition and rights for minorities only result when majorities find significant ways to identify and stand with minorities.

I try to remain hopeful. However, if completely candid I’m not optimistic—I sure would like to be surprised. This is written well before anything has been decided in St. Louis. Sadly, very little I’ve seen from Green expression (in either church or world) indicates self-awareness has increased sufficiently for leadership and change to move forward on moving pluralist influence to ascendancy. It’s simple, while this change and these rights may be legislated by government, they will not be legislated by the church. Why? Because Blue sees itself as in the majority on this no matter what the UMC legislates. Therefore, the sole thing church legislation can add to this change effort for justice is ratification of what has already occurred in human hearts moved through personal relationship. This kind of transformation is accomplished one heart at a time.


Dots Obsession—Love Transformed into Dots pluralist meme sized 600


Regardless of the percentage of Blue or Green in the UMC, if motivated, well educated people working with a democratic polity are unable to work this backward/forward problem out in St. Louis, then I would be unable to see that as a good harbinger for the U.S.A. going forward in 2020.

Moses come ridin’ up on a quasar

When Moses brought the Blue vMEME down off the mountain with him as G-d’s gift to the people, he essentially unleashed a powerful new technology, the rule of law. Vonnegut introduced “ice nine,” technology as a foil, in his novel, Cat’s Cradle. ‘Ice nine’ humorously illustrated how a seemingly nifty technology can have catastrophic, unintended consequences. Misapplied, technology can slowly unwind the earth’s ecology, or rapidly bring an institution to a screeching halt. Blue, and the Spiral, needs Orange and Green to both transcend and include Blue. We simply cannot live decently without healthy Blue in our Spiral vMEME stack. A demon-free, healthy Blue we can live with.

Your thoughts? 

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


Dots Obsession—Love Transformed into Dots pluralist meme sized 600




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. Introduction (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 youth.gov 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.


10,000 foot view

Conventions: the 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.” 



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



demon sized 500


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. 


Creative Commons || CC0

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.


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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?”


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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?






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. 


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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 (here). 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.


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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 1 sized 500


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!


snoopy theology

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]


roundabout meme 1


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?