What profound words from Dr. Clare Graves who proposed over 50 years ago a groundbreaking “Value Systems” theory of human development that describes how humans are able, when things get bad enough, to adapt to their situation by creating greater complexities of thinking to handle new problems.
Spiral Dynamics, as it is known today, is an intriguing way to view the results of our most recent national election and the ramifications for the mainline church. In particular, the similarities of the Republican Party and the increasing irrelevancy of the church.
The Republican Party has now *lost* the “popular vote” in the past five out of six presidential elections. During this same time period the mainline church has experienced rapid decline; yet the number of people who say that they are “spiritual but not religious” continues to increase particularly among the under 30 crowd.
The political pundits have done a marvelous job at directing our attention to the changing demographics of our country. No longer could the evangelicals or conservative white voters garner enough votes for the Republicans to make a difference in the outcome of this election. Whereas the Obama campaign built a grass roots coalition of Latinos, women, liberals and young adults. As Tom Brokaw said, the outcome of this election came down to the difference between a traditional and post modern campaign approach.
Karl Rove recently said that the reason that Mitt Romney lost this election had nothing to do with the changing demographics of the electorate but rather the negative campaign tactics of the Democrats. This argument is not unlike many mainline church leaders who blame the demise of the church on the insistence of atonement theology and strident judgmental attitudes propagated by evangelicals.
Just as I have listened these past several days to comments indicating the Republicans’ inability to understand that they need to change in order to be relevant, so too, I hear mainline church leaders assuaging their grief and anxiety over their growing irrelevancy by reacting to matters of ultimate inconsequence rather than helping people to awaken to the realm of God in our midst.
In the 10th chapter of the Gospel of Luke, Jesus instructs his disciples to seek welcome in communities in which they were the stranger. And he says,”Take nothing with you.” In other words, “Leave your baggage behind.” Interesting that this was a deal breaker for Jesus.
So if we took Jesus’ words to heart and left our baggage behind, what could we learn about this “start of a new ‘movement’ in the symphony of human history”?
According to Spiral Dynamics, more of us in the U.S. are moving into a new value system, a Vmeme, that is currently reflected in our voting patterns. Don Beck writes in his book “Spiral Dynamics: Mastering Values, Leadership and Change,” “A meme code is a bio-psycho-social-spiritual DNA- type script, a blueprint that spreads throughout a culture, and plays out in all areas of cultural expression, forming survival codes, myths of origin, artistic forms, lifestyles, and senses of community.”
We find this new post-modern meme code armed with the pluralistic ideals of multiculturalism, egalitarianism, and inclusiveness. Sounds almost Biblical doesn’t it? But at the same time, it is this combination of zealous eclecticism, flattened hierarchy, and broken metaphysics that make us feel like we are swimming in an inconsequential ecclesiastical soup. And that is scary to anyone who is counting on pension and benefits!
However, Spiral Dynamics postulates that our spirituality is capable of growing and maturing right alongside every other facet of human development, including our cognition, our values, and our aesthetics. It is entirely possible, therefore, to be a rational Christian, following the universal teachings of Christ but without having to insist Christianity is the only exclusive path to God, and without having to literally believe in the pre-rational myths of virgin births, parting seas, and satanic fruit. At the same time, it is entirely possible to be a post-modern Christian calling into question the pit-falls of the ego-boosting ‘path of least resistance’ spiritual grazing of new-age consumers.
— Which leads me back to scripture…Luke 10 to be exact.
Once we trust enough to leave our baggage behind, Jesus tells us to seek people and places that will welcome us. He says in a nutshell, “Listen to their stories, eat with them, laugh with them, weep with them. Be a healing balm in the midst of their brokenness. And then before you go, tell them that together you witnessed the unfolding of God’s realm right before your very eyes.”
Now that is what I call the start of a new movement in the symphony of human history! Shall we begin?