Here’s an expanded version of a comment that I made from my post earlier on Rising Up:
Kai and landon: I don’t want to give anyone the impression that I don’t take religious conservatives seriously. I spent a significant amount of my time browsing traditionalist weblogs, trolling comment boxes, and even occasionally reading conservative-penned essays and books. Trust me, it’s not fun. In fact, even after a couple of years of doing so regularly, I still find it emotionally stressful. I have learned (and continue to learn) about communicating with these religious traditionalists, and one of my own lessons learned is that less is more. I think others’ mileage may vary. It’s entirely possible that some people just have a knack for that sort of dialogue that I don’t have. If I can avoid direct confrontations that are unlikely to have any sort of impact, I will do so. In real life, the same.
It’s true that religious conservatives (to oversimplify in a convenient way, blue) can do much harm in the world, but the traditions they carry have a lot of worth. When I engage them, it’s not that I speak over their heads to religious liberals (green), as some people might have thought based on my last post on this subject. What does it mean to speak to an intended audience of green or higher while actually speaking to blue? One way is to cast an appropriate message to blue like so: “Your level of belief is part of a developmental spectrum, and there are higher levels where the people who disagree with you reside. Consider moving up when you’re ready. Here’s how to begin.” Not the answer you expected, huh? It’s speaking true to the unique qualities of the integral framework. Only an integralist would bring up a developmental worldview to a fundamentalist, so it’s really the message that’s most important for them to hear. However, blue is impervious to its effects (I know, I’ve tried!) Predictably, blue gets self-righteous or mad (nobody’s ego likes being told they’re not the top of the totem pole, even if they don’t believe there is a totem pole). Even as I engage blue, I try to keep green and orange in the back of my mind, because as I speak to blue, I am simultaneously sending messages to orange and green that must be, at worst, neutral. Orange and green may say something like this: Joe rejects blue, and thinks my (orange or green) views are higher and more evolved. So far so good. Hmmm… but he probably thinks his views are higher than mine. Their response: neutral, but not necessarily put off. They may not think a developmental perspective has been rationally proven (orange) or that hierarchical thinking is inherently sexist and cultural biased (green), but at least they are able to see something to agree with in my harsh “rejection” of blue. (Actually, I haven’t “rejected” blue, only transcended and included it, but this distinction would be lost on orange and green.) See?
To go a step further, integral is not only about articulating a developmental view when engaging religious traditionalists, it’s also about seeing the need for multiple and conflicting responses, and striving to make those responses work better together. There’s blue’s response to blue: “Yes, the Bible is the infallible Word of God, but ou’re wrong about the specific passage of the Bible that is most appropriate here, or the specific interpretation of what’s orthodox dogma.” (Or, of course: “You’re wrong about your religion! It’s Muhammad, not Christ!”) And then there’s orange: “You’re wrong about God being a supernatural being external to nature. God is a process within nature, and therefore could not have handed down the texts of your sacred tradition.” (Or, of course, “There is no God. Be reasonable, don’t be soft headed.”) And green: “You need to consider the social, cultural, and historical contexts of the time in interpreting the Bible, and along with this, taking into account from the historical-critical method, feminism, and other hermeneutics of suspicion.” Blue, orange, green, and yellow, different groups working together, and giving different (and conflicting) messages that are all working together to counter bad blue. That’s how it fits together.
As an integral writer, there are some contexts when I may attempt to give a full range of perspectives from good blue to orange to green to yellow. But rarely does anyone have the time. Nor is it usually an especially useful technique. I only have the time and energy to deliver a short message, I would choose to go with a message that evangelizes a bit for a yellow worldview (and I use the word “worldview” intentionally, as that is how yellow will look to blue, orange, and green). Picture “Your views are at the relatively low mythic level of a developmental model of reality,” but either made nice or perhaps a little harsh depending on the context.) It’s not an argument that blue is wrong. It’s not questioning blue’s motivations or overall personality structure (it’s a claim about their expressed views, nothing more). It’s an invitation for blue to consider a worldview that is different than their own. It’s also frustratingly difficult for them to answer; it’s easier for them to mock it or attack the motives of those who espouse it. In short, it is unlikely to change minds. But I don’t consider it my task to try to make arguments with blue from a good blue, orange, or green perspective. What I can do if I see those arguments being made is support them. I can chime in to a comment box with a simple message, “I agree with Professor Orange on evolution.” If somebody who’s good blue is criticizing bad blue, I can support good blue by reinforcing their argument waged at that level. But it’s somebody at blue who’s really in the best place to talk to blue on terms that are likely to produce helpful and constructive change. When a fundamentalist criticizes another fundamentalist and wins on that level, change happens fast. (I see this all the time in orthodox Roman Catholic circles, when traditionalists who will automatically tune out anyone who’s gay will listen to doctrinally orthodox ex-gays (persons living with what they call “same sex attraction disorder”), even if the ex-gays are challenging their own heterosexist beliefs. See my earlier post on the subject.)
Arguments between liberal (green) and conservative (blue) religionists, in my opinion, aren’t going to be successful, if you judge success by conversion of mind. If I enter them at all as a participant, I will tend to side with the liberals half the time and the conservatives the other half. (“Jesus was more than a good moral teacher, he was also Divine.” But: “Jesus’s Divinity is not of the sort that is uniquely available only to one person in all history, it’s available to us all.”) I think that builds trust and mistrust with both sides in equal respects.