The Hidden Cultures within Communities: The Disqualification Game of Tier 1- Bruce Sanguin

Clare Graves saw the levels we talked about last post (Beige to Green) as belonging to a Tier One set of values. They are each, in their own way, focused on their own survival and their own value system as the only legitimate one. The writer of Colossians encourages his followers not to let themselves be “disqualified” by other Christians (Colossians 2:18). These other Christians have accused the Colossians of not eating the right food, observing the correct rituals, or believing the right philosophy (2:8, 16). The writer’s response, ironically, is to disqualify the disqualifiers, claiming that it is their beliefs that are not Christian (2:8). This is classic Tier 1 thinking.

At the first three levels (survivalist to warrior, or Beige to Red), this disdain for the other levels leads to physical wars and violence. From levels four through to six, (traditionalist to postmodern, or Blue to Green) the result is often culture wars.

People who have a strong Blue orientation, (the traditionalist stage) criticize those in who are more centered at Orange and Green (modernist and pluralist). It tends to be true for human beings who are functioning predominantly within Tier 1 values that any worldview that incorporates more perspectives is regarded with suspicion.  Those, for example, who are oriented primarily from a traditionalist perspective may regard people the modernist worldview as godless hedonism.  The Green (postmodernists) may be perceived as lacking in absolute moral values to guide them.

Modern rationalist achievers may find the traditionalist worldview to be backward and superstitious, and they might judge those at Green, egalitarian multiculturalists to be tree-hugging liberal flakes who are good at criticizing but who don’t have any pragmatic alternatives to economic progress.

Those who orient primarily from a Green worldview may be very critical of the modernist (Orange) worldview – after all, look at the harm that corporations and capitalists are doing in the world! They are similarly impatient with the allegiance shown by a Blue (traditionalist) orientation to traditions that serve only to maintain the status quo. Subscribers to each worldview tends to believe that the evolutionary process concluded with it.

Terrorists are lit up by a Red (warrior) value system mixed with a good does of religious Blue . They feel justified in blowing everybody else up, because the modern/postmodern world has no room for them.

Most “liberal” denominations have a Green center of gravity. Congregations that are predominantly Green are faced with a dilemma. The tendency of Green to trash all levels below it leaves most liberal congregations criticizing a large number of their own people. Many members operate from an Orange orientation in their business lives, and at a Blue center in their personal, moral lives (which gets them to church in the first place). These people are typically our highest financial contributors. Out of their Orange ambition and initiative, they often support not only the church, but also the local opera and playhouse, and indeed the very lifestyles we’ve come to appreciate in the Western world.

I learned from a liberal seminary, which taught from a Green value system, that it was my role to be “prophetic.” This meant I essentially took it upon myself to point out all the errors of the warrior, traditionalist, and modernist values systems. (The seminary, of course, didn’t use Spiral Dynamics.) This was called “speaking truth to power,” following in a long line of Jewish prophets who were called to agitate the ruling elite to remember the poor, the widow, and the orphan. To be sure, this is a noble and sacred calling. But I’ve seen too many of my colleagues get run out of congregations, and too many supporters of the church just quietly leave, because of what was essentially a clash of worldviews.

The importance of Clare Grave’s work is that it gives us a language and a set of concepts that allow us, perhaps for the first time, to consciously engage our members in a dialogue about value systems instead of unconsciously reacting to our differences. It’s one thing for a person such as Ray Anderson, CEO of Interface Incorporated, the largest commercial carpet manufacturing company in the world, to address his corporate colleagues as “fellow plunderers,” and to invite them to become more ecological. It’s another thing altogether to be bombarded week after week by judgment from the pulpit, to hear again and again the implicit message that you are bad.

Imagine sitting in church, Sunday after Sunday, on the receiving end of criticism because of your achiever orientation. It doesn’t make any sense to you, because you are a generous person. You may have just given $50,000 to the roof fund of the church. From a modernist value system, you’re a hero. From a traditionalist perspective, you’re an upstanding citizen, obeying the rules and even willing to give the minister the benefit of the doubt on most issues – he’s an authority figure after all. And now you’re being bashed from the pulpit. How is this good news?Spiral Blame Game

Congregations can also be hard on ministers who have a different value system. Blue-Orange churches chew up and spit out ministers who are predominantly centered in a postmodernist worldview. Again, I’m sure this is done without any awareness that a clash of values or worldviews is at the heart of the matter. Until now, we haven’t had any language or any way of thinking about this that could help us stop the madness and engage rather in a dialogue about what’s happening.

As mentioned, in Tier 1 each value system assumes that the universe reached its zenith when it arrived at them. But these worldviews are the postmodern equivalent of the stations of the cross. We’re meant to move through them all in our Christian walk, not get stuck at one. It’s an evolving journey, with each station transcending yet including the previous one.

It is very important to resist the temptation to place people on the Spiral—Peter is “Blue”; Jessy is “Orange”, etc. Rather, we strive to locate the Spiral within people. We are all amalgams of each of these value systems. Specific experiences may trigger the warrior in me, the traditionalist, the modernist, or the postmodernist—and this can happen all in the same day! These worldviews are more like musical notes that form a chord. The chord consists of many different harmonics and admixtures of notes. So it is with all human beings.

Coming Next Week: Tier 2: From blaming to being. 

Bruce Sanguin bioBruce Sanguin is the author of five books, including The Advance of Love: Reading the Bible with an Evolutionary HeartIf Darwin Prayed: Prayers for Evolutionary Mystics and The Emerging Church Revised & Expanded: A Model for Change & a Map for Renewal, which this post is based on. He served as an ordained minister for 28 years in the United Church of Canada. He now writes and teaches at his unique online community, Home for Evolving Mystics.

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