Wednesday, July 27, 2005

A Theology of Openness

A theology of Openness
begins with several revealed truths, but radically interpreted.
Essentially it is a radical view of the theology of the Holy Spirit.
I have not called it this but written about it several times under
other headings (listed later).
In psychological terms it is a matter of heart, not of mind.
It is also based on a depth psychological understanding that
we are each blessed, gifted and good in ourselves (see writings on
Celtic Spirituality
but we are also sincere and innocent self-deceivers,
who without openness and feedback
are likely to undermine both ourselves,
our families and our places of work and worship.

A Theology of Openness also places the ultimate criterion of faith and love
in a hospitality that welcomes and embraces the otherness
of the Other, the stranger amongst us.

What we discover is that when we risk being authentic and sharing our brokenness and giftedness, we actually create community, by that very process. It is also the power of the personal story. IT is also the power of an incarnational Presence fully recognized and reverenced.

1. We are all incarnations of the Spirit. That is we are not humans trying to become spiritual, but spiritual beings trying to realize our humanness. This means that there is a deep yearning in the human heart that no creature can fill. Only the love of God and neighbor. We already ARE God's poetry, his music, his songs, trying not to sing off -key, but in harmony with all of creation.

2. We are not moved or motivated to any transforming of our basic self-centeredness, except via something, person, crisis or story that challenges us to think outside our usual comfort zones. We are too much creatures of habit, not doing the good that we could do, and instead doing the evil we pretend not to. (Paul)

3. We cannot grow beyond the identities formed by our families and our society or by our churches except by risk and vulnerability in sharing of our inner life with others. This suggests that most of what is done in churches is not transformative. Ritual or preaching seldom evokes personal risk. Faith concepts do not motivate or change anyone. Religion for many remains “notional.” For example, one can attend a hundred or a thousand Masses over a life time and never listen to another's pain, even the loneliness of the person next to one in church, while still feeling affirmed with one’s religiosity.

4. All incarnations tend to become idols. All conceptualizations will become dogma which freezes us to the past, and gives us a platform to judge others. We will tend to make objects, rather than valuing the subjectivity, the divine "Thou" of every person and every created thing.

5. Therefore, Process Theology and the monograph of Martin Buber, "I-Thou" are primary sources. It is the process itself, not the product, the journey not the end that is to be cherished. This means, in part, that human experience in personal search is the ultimate criterion. We are encouraged to discover our own paths wherever that leads.

Too many religious people say to someone hurting: "Here is the solution, take my belief about that, and you will be okay. This is the answer I have found. Just believe these things and you will be alright, (and a good Christian, Catholic, or whatever...) That is, believing people ask us to accept their beliefs as the answer to our search for our own wisdom, for our place in the universe, whether we can make sense of the mystery that surrounds us.

It is our aim to examine the priority of our experience because 1) this is the common experience of us all; 2) this is the very first step towards faith in a transcendent Being, and 3) we believe that those religious organizations that present God-concepts to potential members without helping them examine their personal spiritual journey are violating the natural process and integrity of the searching soul, at a time when the seeker may be particularly vulnerable.

6. Jesus instead of being a model of sacrificial love, with his Death and Resurrection primary, becomes rather the model of full humanness, in his acceptance of all, especially the outsider and the stranger. The humanity of Jesus comes to the fore as well as his teaching method of parables. The power in the way of the parables is that the response was left to the person. "When the student is ready the teacher will appear." –zen saying.

7. This theology accepts the richness of all Wisdom traditions. It is also non-conceptual, non-doctrinal, non-ritualistic, and without any code other than that of the Golden Rule. It is very similar to Quaker spirituality, and believes that everything else besides the Golden Rule are human trappings and add-ons. Learning to truly love others as ourselves is the epitome of the Shema, the Wisdom of Jesus and finds correlative basics in all other wisdom traditions.

Actual Practice in the SGN of Kentucky meetings.
Sundays at 5.
After some brief drumming, there is shared silence of 15-20 minutes. Then each can speak without interruption or comment re one's spiritual journey that week. This usually takes 45-60 minutes. If time is left before 6:30, we can share themes that emerged.
All other workshops and retreats.
Days of Recollection 7 per year.
Retreats 4 per year.
Other activities.
These activities begin with a period of shared silence. Any lesson, or presentation is kept short, to 15 minutes (usually using story or personal anecdote and ending with several questions for the inner life), then we return to journaling, for about 20 minutes, sharing only then in small groups of three, before returning to the large group sharing for discussion. At the end, we return to shared silence. This method encourages the inner search, values authenticity and at the same time builds community.

All sharing is held with respect and honor, with seldom advice offered unless asked. We are honoring the Presence in each by listening from the heart and loving the person in their own particularity. This means that the deep sense of reverence is often experienced by the individual as a "gentle sweetness" and loving kindness of the entire meeting. An awesome Presence is tangible. This is the only religious or worship service we have--usually, although occasionally we will on retreats have a more traditional prayer service, some singing or a Eucharist.

What is "held up and honored in each meeting" is the shared humanity of each, in all our brokenness and giftedness. Thus, we could call this a theology of story, or a radical theology of the Holy Spirit already among us, a reverential Emanuel meeting, or a revering by active listening of the Incarnation in each person. Spirit is already Present: we are simply becoming quiet and still enough to recognize its diverse voices already among us. We come from and welcome all Wisdom traditions and do not judge any of them as "better than."

I will relate this approach to the thematic practices of all Wisdom traditions later. We will soon be completing 14 years of this work together in central Kentucky.


Friday, July 15, 2005

Righeousness is a Horse Named Trojan

(How differences and dissent is necessary for growth in wisdom)

An Appreciation of diversity of human gifts and the sacred necessity of dissent
is necessary for community and for growth. Note: I define two types of temperaments that are opposed in many ways and propose that understanding these and the necessity of dissent
is necessary today for community.

Copyright, Paschal Bernard Baute, 1992, 1999

Catholics today (indeed Christians of varying stripes) are separating themselves or allowing themselves to be separated into two ideological camps. Each camp is convinced of the righteousness of its position. I want to propose that the opposing views are governed by different mind-sets, each a distinct way of viewing reality, and that they find their genesis in specific temperament styles. What I hope to define is that dissent is not only inevitable to the process of growth, but also necessary for wholeness, holiness and authentic community. My experience as a psychologist is that the current impasse and polemic is directly related to the lack of understanding of the value of these differences between people, between what we can call Guardian and Pilgrim personality types. They are not always dichotomous but in fact can exist as a continuum in many persons.

This understanding is based upon much clinical experience, but also validated in research. In repeated research it has been found that the temperament style that prefers sensing and thinking is more likely to hold traditional beliefs than Christians who prefer intuition and feeling. (1) I call these two different approaches to reality, to life, to relationships, to ethical values, the Guardian and the Pilgrim type of temperament. On the popular DISC instrument used by many of the Fortune 500 companies, the Pilgrim is high D or high I, and the Guardian is the high S or high C. Those with both high D and high I will be more visionary concerning results and people, and those with both high S and high C will be more stubborn about change, more righteous, even rigid.

I suggest that the Guardian type of temperament seeks certainty, finality, decisiveness, order and organization. Reality must be clearly defined, particularly divine reality. No question is to be left unsettled. The Guardian temperament has to belong, but only to that which is structured and final. It wishes to preserve all that is good and holy, no matter the cost. Dissent is regarded as destructive of unity, disloyal, messy and deserving of nothing more than suspicion. The Guardian looks to the past and to its preservation.

The Guardian has a parental perspective; a sense of responsibility for others, a natural respect for authority, and a desire for hierarchy and titles. There is a strong sense of the history of the organization with a dedication to its traditions, norms and procedures. The need for security, stability, rules, regulations and standard operating procedures prevails. That portion of reality which can be controlled must be rendered predictable. Generally serious and concerned, the Guardian wants to protect, stand watch and to warn of potential dangers.

The Guardian looks to precedent and to a notion of tradition marked by a virtually immutable continuity. Innovation is viewed with suspicion. "If it is working, why change it?" is a motto. Terms such as "pillar of strength", "salt of the earth" and "backbone of society," describe their temperament orientation. Dissent is viewed as undermining authority and fracturing unity; it is wrong, abhorrent, willfully factious, and to be withstood at all costs.

Yet there is much to be valued in this sense of reality. This type of temperament has built and still sustains most of our societal institutions. The Guardian gravitates to and prospers in positions of authority in all our organizations. When they are not administrators, they make loyal and dedicated followers. Guardian types are estimated to constitute about from one-third to one half of the population, as measured by Jungian typology.


The temperament type which I shall term the Pilgrim has a different perspective of reality. The Pilgrim believes that the church only through the catalyst of constructive criticism can be truthful and honest, and ultimately holy. This is because its leaders are human with all of the foibles and imperfections endemic to the human condition. Pilgrims view the failure of the Christian Churches to confront the anti-Semitism of Nazi Germany from 1932 to 1945 as a sin-filled and evil participation, even acquiescence, in the Holocaust. To them, the Church of history has been oppressive of human freedom and an obstacle to the development of modern science. They also know that beliefs one age has held vigorously have been seen by a later age as historically biased and even corrupt, such as the practice of slavery and racial discrimination within the American experience. They remember the pervasive sense of sin and guilt within the Catholic communal dynamic before Vatican II. There is shame, and indeed pain for the harm and guilt that their church has imposed upon all kinds of people in previous centuries--even torture and death--all in the name of God, because "error had no rights."

The Pilgrim temperament believes that the Church cannot be faithful to its vocation without facing up to and honestly confronting its failures, its blindness, and its historical infidelities. Without doing this, there is great pretense and illusion. Sincere believers have inflicted enormous harm because of their inability or unwillingness to critique themselves or be critiqued. History graphically demonstrates the lack of courage, compassion, and fidelity to the Gospel on the part of Church leadership, even at the highest levels. But to the Guardian mentality, these views are heretical and should not be given a hearing in any official forum or orthodox media.

An insistence on dialogue and dissent, the Hegelian dialectic if you will, can be regarded as more American, English or French rather than Germanic, Eastern European or even Oriental. It is the conviction of the Pilgrim that freedom of inquiry is integral to authentic religious community. Conversation and argument are a sine qua non. All of authority and tradition itself must be subject to scrutiny and validation by the test of experience and reason. If nothing else, the lesson of Viet Nam was that our leaders can lie unabashedly and spill innocent blood unconscionably. Therefore, sincerity of belief is never sufficient criterion, no matter how intense the persuasion. Motives of power and privilege can just as easy influence religious authority. Dissent always deserves a hearing even when it is wrong-headed. Dialogue and confrontation are critically needed in the quest for a deeper understanding of truth and the integrity of the community. Pilgrim types are estimated to comprise from one-fourth to one-third of the population, most likely "intuitives" according to Jungian typology. A spectrum of loyalties lies between the two extremes.

The point of intervention for the Guardian types is Scripture, Creed, and Code. These constitute immutable doctrine which must convert the world--a world intrinsically evil that has nothing of value to teach the Church. Revelation is final and complete; they are its guardians sustaining all others with the answers they already possess. God is transcendent Otherness-- the same yesterday, today and forever. Grace is found through approved channels.

The Pilgrim, on the other hand, believes that the church must be constantly and insistently challenged by the world. The American experience and all contemporary thought, whether religious in origin or not, have something instructive to offer the church. "Every heresy is the revenge of a forgotten truth." The Pilgrim discovers truth outside traditional sacred texts, finding an emerging immanence of God everywhere: through reason, through people, through nature and science. Nothing human is alien. Reality itself is heuristic of God-- Who is ever new and different because a more profound understanding of truth is constantly emerging. Grace and serendipity are almost synonymous.

Guardians are more static--feet firm planted and grounded. Pilgrims are on the move, always arriving, never arrived. For the Pilgrim questions are basic to the life process. The Pilgrim sometimes strays off the identified path, curious to search and explore. Guardians tend to be home-bodies. They stress unity; Pilgrims, freedom. Guardians highlight authority and control; pilgrims emphasize autonomy and the right to explore and dissent. Guardians are preservers; Pilgrims innovators. Guardians are either-or; Pilgrims are both-and–more inclusive. but each orientation is vital and necessary for wholeness, holiness and community. Please be reminded that these are mainly tendencies and may sometimes co-exist in the same person.


Each of these temperament types is in fact engaged in the same quest. Each sees reality not as it is but as it wishes it to be, and thus, distorted. Each naively demands the other accept reality as they see it. Enneagram theory explains nine basic illusions one of which each of us occupies. Each view is partial, needing correction, needing the differing gifts of others to form community, even to be whole. The evitable selectivity of human perception is one of the psychological bases forming our need for Church as the complete revelation of Christ in His Mystical Body. We cannot know God in His Totality without the dynamic of others. We can know ourselves and our projection of ourselves upon others, not the Stranger in our midst.

In dialogue with others, we become corrected and enriched by their point of view. Without this correction, our bias prevails both for ourselves and for anyone over whom we exercise influence. So long as we experience only our own kind, we are never confronted by those who differ with us or from us. This limits us to a subjective perception of reality, partial at best. For the sake of wholeness and community, encounter with others, even those proposing egregious dissent, is necessary and constructive. These are the psychological reasons why community relationships are essential for growth. Liberation theologies propose that the poor and disenfranchised offer a necessary corrective perspective to the Western privileged church.

Because our world-view is limited by our subjectivity, neither personal growth nor authentic community can occur without acknowledging genuine differences. To say, "I dissent" is to say "we exist in relationship–but I must express my differences in order to be an authentic member here." Authority imposed from the outside both limits and deters the formation of community, and, in fact, inhibits the Spirit working through the People of God. Yet neither the Catholic layperson nor simple priest has any voting rights today vis-a-vis pastor or bishop, an exclusion not found in other confessions. I know of religious communities that have been decimated because dissent was not allowed by the authorities. In the third week of November of 1999, two Southern Baptists churches were excluded from their conference for their inclusive ministry to gays and lesbians, after asking for dialogue from their conference, which was refused. The inclusiveness of Spiritus Sanctus, Catholic parish in Rochester, New York, was reason for diocesan disciplinary actions against pastor and staff.

The right and ability to dissent was the foundation of the American experiment. Without giving voice to and legitimizing dissent through ballot and the democratic process, we would still be wallowing in monarchy, dictatorship, oppression, and the denial of human rights. Europeans do not have the tradition of dissent as a way to truth as do Americans. In 1991, we witnessed most of the Communist world shifting to governments in which dissent became legitimate. The current Pope facilitated this movement by encouraging The Solidarity opposition in Poland. Yet he refuses to allow the same legitimacy of dissent within his own Church. Without the Period of The Enlightenment, The Church would still be what it too often had been historically, an arm of the government to guarantee and insure conformity. Unfortunately, as the pages of history too graphically reveal, the Church as institution has been the stalwart protector of the status quo, silenced the prophets of every age, and resisted all change. It resisted every movement to give rights to people. Inequality, we were told, would be corrected in heaven.

Jesus was a dissenter, alienating even his own family. He resisted The status quo of the Pharisees and Scribes. He identified with the alienated and the disenfranchised. He confronted, challenged, corrected, and broke with tradition for The sake of tradition. His face-off with the religious authorities of the time led directly to His death, yet He surrendered so masterfully to His state-sanctioned execution that he offered hope and transcendence to all the oppressed of history. He came to free us from oppression of every kind. Until we experience His radically liberating Spirit with its right to search and inquire as integral to the modern Church, we will continue to miss the radical discipleship He wants to empower.

The right to dissent is imbued, then, with holiness poured forth by God who introduced difference and diversify so that we might learn from and grow through one another. When differences are respected and honored, dissent can challenge, invigorate, enhance and heal. It can lead us out of ourselves to a new awareness of others, a recognition of the incompleteness of our own truth, and a renewed wonder of The mystery of grace. Dissent can be both creative, constructive and instructive in the dynamic movement of the human towards the Divine, the wholly Other. Yet without respect for personhood and dignity of others, dissent becomes destructive. The encounter with human diversity while listening and valuing that diversity, coupled with the realization of how the idealized ego will inevitably fail in objectivity, is a necessary step towards the integration of The individual with consequent wholeness and enhancement of true community. What is fascinating to a psychologist is how consistently blind people are to the coloring of their own perspectives. We have no way of grasping the fallibility of our views, except by listening to others.


As a pastoral counselor and psychotherapist for thirty years, I have had personal experience with the great harm done by well-meaning Catholic authority. Because of its profound effect on me, but also because of temperament, I can most probably be classified with the Pilgrim group. I firmly believe that until the Church can in all candor critique itself and repent of its obsession with power and privilege, it can be neither honest nor holy. It will continue to be irrelevant to most of society. It will maintain its pretensions, and worship its hidden idols, while failing to respect the call of each of us to be intimate and equal co-creators with God, enjoying and fulfilling the genuine freedom of the children of God.

A key problem in all of this is that the Guardians are the ones usually in charge, who set the agendas, who are more willing to silence and ostracize those who take exception. Guardians are often imbued with a metaphysical certitude that their view is the only one which must prevail. Their subjective view of reality is not viewed as partial, as needing any correction or balance. Their view is the only allowable one. I suggest that this dynamic absolutizes the pathway to God, rather than worships this mystery we call God. Guardian types tend to absolutize their own authority, and are threatened by any challenge to the status quo. They alone are on the-side-of-the-angels; those who differ must, per se, be further from God and grace. Someone has remarked that it is the visionaries who start new organizations and then the guardians and stabilizers take over and make them so rigid that the younger next generation of visionaries leave to start over.

What each view forgets is that we hold our perceptions of mystery only through grace, through the giftedness of faith. The only fitting response to this is a radical humility and awe in the presence of The unfathomable mystery we call God, and great respect for human differences.

Awe and wonder in The presence of this mystery brings great respect for The diverse expressions of this mystery in and through others and a willingness to be instructed by the views and journeys of others. John XXIII said: Unity in essential matters; freedom in doubtful matters; love in all matters.

(1) Personality and Christian Belief among Adult churchgoers. Journal of Psychological Type. 47, 5-11, 1998. Francis, L. J. and Jones, S. H. Abstract found in Journal of Psychological Type, 50, 39, 1999.

Discussion, Please?