Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Problems with the concrete

I was going to put this up on Bob & Logan's page, but thought it was too much of a threadjack. Like many I appreciate John Dehlin's podcasts. I think universalizing perspectives are much more pleasant to listen to than over zealous bias. Judging by the ex-mo, or post-mo boards it is just unfortunate that lots of people have to go through such a bitter stage before moving on. Indeed I don't know if people ever fully remove many of those scars - especially in a culture of oppression empowerment.

With mormonism, it seems like people filter in one of two ways; total rejection, or universalizing acceptance. Universalizing acceptance is the less probable route. It seems to get further broken down into two subsets; those that want to stop and change the bad, and those who don't see it as a big issue. Again I think the former is more likely.

While nothing is clear cut like this, I wonder if our natural tendencies to "fix" things may help analyze the situation.

A focus on changing institutions and doctrines, puts a lot of faith in what they actually do. It implies overt means are useful in controlling implicit environments. We rationalize systems until they are perfect. Religions certainly have a tendency to do this. However I wonder if this neglects a possibility that "perfecting" may sometimes, or even most of the time, cause more harm than it actually solves (usually in the long term, not short term). See a Belmont club post on Darfur for an unorthodox perspective.

I can certainly see that universalizing tendencies are a prime goal of useful religion - like Dehlin's new order stance. However on this road lots of things get tossed out. People don't want to continually subject themselves to obvious errors in the system. Benefits are great, but this means people are always having to weigh the pro's and con's based on the moment. Because of this people often say that most any perspective is useful. What matters most is how it resonates with them. I won't deny that this isn't of a first order importance. However second order effects shouldn't be neglected in this process.

For example, why did Christ get baptized? It seems like there is something beyond universalizing ideas. There are universalizing practices as well. While we can say Christian acts are what matters, I suspect this neglects the possible importance institutions play, especially in the eternities.

WIth greater knowledge, there is a greater ability to see the consequences inherit in a grey world. While we like to think God's omniscience can result in actions that avoid any of these, I wonder about the functional possibility of that. What if God's knowledge just makes him more aware of the dangers and negative consequences involved in action-any and every action? This certainly seems like a curse of the tree of good and evil. No matter what Adam and Eve did, they would be instructing their kids towards evil. If this is the case one would either have to quit acting, act perfectly in limited ways, or say screw it forge ahead.

The catatonia of the first seems like a traditional Christian's heaven. The second seems like Satan's plan - fine if being perfectly limited is preferable to the imperfections of unlimitedness.. The latter requires a complete revamp in one's conception of God. It requires one to believe that God's actions may not be perfect, at least in any commonly accepted way.

Personally I like the latter. The world is screwed up because we are just plowing ahead with imperfect things. The very act of "perfecting" them may be impossible, or at least have secondary consequences that self perpetuate. Organizations are important because they will always do more than what an individual can. Neglecting them is as unwise a position as is belief in their possible perfection. In this way one may best view them as tools for self perfection than as tools for other's perfection. Their self rationalizing tendencies mean a continual exposure to new domains may be the only way to keep them form self implosion. Of course one could also create a destabilizing feedback loop. I think Atran had quite a bit to say about that.