Thursday, October 13, 2005

The Gospel brand

While there are some superb chapters in the Book of Mormon, my favorite is 3 Nephi 27. In this chapter Christ lays out the essence of his Gospel.

27. Verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel; and ye know the things that ye must do in my church; for the works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do; for that which ye have seen me do even that shall ye do;

Interpretations of this idea are usually pretty constant. We should follow the example of Christ. However this idea certainly downplays philosophical styled theology. The religious branding tendencies I have been talking about seem to be give sophisticated theology much more weight than the Gospel in this chapter seems to. In fact from this chapter one could get an idea that detailed theology, like faith vs. works, trinitarian considerations, etc really aren't overly important. However downplaying institutionalized religion and doctrines certainly doesn't seem what Christ is saying either.

A downplay of sophisticated, brand expanded theology tends to flow from a belief that abstract details aren't important in and of themselves. Rather they are important as distinguishing details. In this sense they just help one chose which path has divine approval. However, if we believe that branding details really are irrelevant, it seems like a slippery slope is created. People may feel that their idiosyncratic take on religion is as appropriate as any other take, institutionalized or not. In fact, like many people today, one could be tempted to say that traditional religious conventions and roles, like the law of Moses - appropriate for stiff necked people, but easily outdated by an increase in social sophistication and intelligence, or by increased needs and abilities.

Now I am never very keen when people start thinking they are always the exception to a rule. I think the Nephite's extended use of Mosaic law is a good counter point to the modern, "I'm sophisticated enough to be an exception" tendency. What I find interesting in 3 Nephi 27 comes about as one starts looking at the way businesses and large projects are run.

When working as a team on a specific project, there are usually quite a few different ways things can get carried out. You can have very rigid management, you can have laissez faire direction, or anything in between. Usually what matters most is that people adapt to what ever method is chosen, avoiding working at cross purposes. It is very hard for a manager to run a rigid time lined project when some members are accomplishing their tasks with laissez faire open endedness. Others can not follow because they have to reconstruct the mindset of all the underlying pieces to predict how details need to be accomplished.

Now this is not a problem if everyone is creating things on their own. It is not much of a problem if we are collecting outside help. Ultimately this is because as the sole filter, everything will mesh. However, once one is in a position of following rather than creating, things change. They change even more when one is following a large goal and simultaneously directing people underneath you. In this case, one needs to be very certain of the methodology and direction chosen by the head for the project. If not, things will not mesh.

And so it is interesting that Christ has chosen imitation as the model we are to follow. While not to shocking for people with religious backgrounds, it is interesting to see where this puts us. It certainly doesn't put us in a position to brand a product, expanding on rather insignificant details. It doesn't even put us in much of a position to choose the way we want direction. Instead it puts us firmly in a role of adaption. Adapting to what? Well the methodology chosen to relay information. And what is that? Well vs. 7, 28, 29 certainly give us the answer. "In his name" certainly implies emulation.

And so it seems like Christ is using the vehicle our natural religious, zealot like tendencies despite the harm that religious fundamentalism may have. (pharisees, muslim & christian extremists, leavening of the gospel, etc). And so even if one sees little point to some rituals or religious behaviour, it seems like what matters is how they are used in our adaptation to Christ's chosen methodology rather than any intrinsic value they may have when isolated.

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