Church · Song for Today · World Affairs

Beige, Purple, Red, Blue, Orange …

First, a disclaimer … this is not mine, nor is it Rob Bell’s but comes from academic scholarship. Rob Bell has presented it for a wider audience, and it’s very interesting. Me, We, Everybody, Part 2

I tried to outline some of what this was about in an earlier post, so I’m just going to take off from there. It’s all about human development. The first episode was about the micro, or personal aspects of human development. This episode is about human development through history.

And another disclaimer. This is just a broad outline. It’s not meant to give a precise blueprint, but I can see that it is a helpful way of understanding human development.

The first three are firmly ‘Me’ – based on the individual and their needs.

So – first – a period of time when survival was the main thing. Kill or be killed. Make sure that you have the basic essential of life. Food, water, shelter, etc. This is firmly focussed on the individual. Rob Bell assigns colours to each stage and this one is Beige.
In Beige, who holds the power ? I do

Second. This is all to do with pleasing the gods. Survival depends on food, and humans notice that crops need two things – sunshine and water. So we pray to the rain and the sun gods, and if the crops fail, we look for ways to ask the gods to help us. Rituals and sacrifice become ways that we use to pray to the gods. This period is magic, and the colour is Purple.
In Purple, who holds the power ? The Priest/Shaman

Third. This is to do with following a leader. As communities form, so strong leaders emerge – people who have power, or wealth, and charisma. People who are able to influence others to obey them. This period is Red.
In Red, who holds the power ? The King.

Now we move to ‘We’ – where the tribe becomes important.

So – Fourth. Sometimes leaders pass on their mantle to others in the family – usually sons. Dynasties rule over communities, but at some point the power of the individual is replaced by traditions that have gathered force over time. This is where community comes in, and we live our lives more in accordance with values and practices that have emerged over time, rather than blind obedience to a leader. This period is Blue.
In Blue, who holds the power ? The Rules

A third move to ‘Everybody’ starts from this point

The Fifth period is about beginning to look outside your community and discover that other people follow different traditions and ways of living. Scientific discovery opens our eyes to new ways of seeing, and some of humanity’s basic assumptions are questioned. (The earth is no longer the centre of the universe). So, for example, in the 16th century and beyond, this is a period when in Western Europe, we start to see democracy as an alternative way of deciding who our leaders are. It’s also the time of the Reformation, when there is a great religious upheaval in the Western Christian Church.
This period is Orange
In Orange – who holds the power ? Science.

The Sixth period after Orange is Green. This is not so much about scientific discovery changing things (although that is a major influence), but about seeing the value of different points of view. In other words – pluralism. It’s no longer about what is the right way to live, but about accepting and valuing a range of different lifestyles. The 1960’s would probably be the time when this exploded, with for example, Human Rights, the Civil Rights Movement, Feminism, The Anti-War movement, Nuclear Disarmament, Animal Rights etc. One of the characteristics of this period is the belief that every way of seeing the world has equal value – no one way is better than the others. Every story must be listened to. There is a celebration of diversity. A feature of this Green period is difficulty in moving forward, and making a decision, because no one wants to say that their way is better. Every ‘truth’ is equal. However, claiming that there is no higher level truth is a contradiction, as that in itself is making an absolute truth claim, At its extreme, Green sees any view that is held with conviction, and which they see as unhealthy, as a form of violence.

In Green who holds the power ? No-One / Everyone

The next period is Yellow, where there is an acceptance that all of the above have their place and their value. In Yellow, there is an attempt to integrate all of the other colours. So whilst the Purple ‘Magical’ period might have been discarded by the other colours so far, Yellow is keen to hold a sense of mystery that comes with the Purple era.
In Yellow, who holds the power ? I Do, kind of …

The originators of this theory, called Spiral Dynamics, suggest that a society is ready to move from one stage to another when 10% of the population are moving, and that each society has a ‘centre of gravity colour’ that describes the dominant culture. They suggest that there are other phases yet to be realised ….

I’m now asking how this might work in a church setting. For example, what might a church that is operating largely in Red look like ?

So this is me, just wondering …

Beige – A church where it would be every one for themselves. I can’t quite picture what this would look like ..

Purple – One of the characteristics of this type of Christian/Church would be asking, in the face of adversity, ‘what have we done to deserve this ?’ Working harder and praying harder to please God. God is seen as rewarding or punishing us according to what we have done.

Red – Over reliance on the leader. Unquestioning obedience, as in cults, and over authoritarian leadership.

Blue – Following the norms and traditions of your denomination, congregation. Not being open to other ways of doing things. Believing that your way is the right way. Superiority when you compare your church to other churches.

Orange – Looking outside the tradition to explore other ways of doing things. Learning new things from other traditions, and leaving behind what has been unhelpful from your tradition – eg male only leadership.

Green – Valuing all the different expressions of church equally.

Yellow – Integrating the different colours – so seeing the value of leadership, tradition etc as well as diversity.

Question. If you are a member of any faith community, Christian or otherwise, can you see any of the above in your experience …

A final thought – individuals, communities and nations all experience aspects of most of the colours. It’s not like we move from one colour to the next. But it is a journey of discovery seeing the importance of each of the ‘colours.’ I was listening to a song earlier today, and it seemed to say something about this journey of life through sometimes troubled waters, but always inviting us to sail on …

Sail on Sailor

I sailed an ocean, unsettled ocean
Through restful waters and deep commotion
Often frightened, unenlightened
Sail on, sail on sailor

I wrest the waters, fight Neptune’s waters
Sail through the sorrows of life’s marauders
Unrepenting, often empty
Sail on, sail on sailor

Caught like a sewer rat alone but I sail
Bought like a crust of bread, but oh do I wail

Seldom stumble, never crumble
Try to tumble, life’s a rumble
Feel the stinging, I’ve been given
Never ending, unrelenting
Heartbreak searing, always fearing
Never caring, persevering
Sail on, sail on, sailor

I work the seaways, the gale-swept seaways
Past shipwrecked daughters of wicked waters
Uninspired, drenched and tired
Wail on, wail on, sailor

Always needing, even bleeding
Never feeding all my feelings
Damn the thunder, must I blunder
There’s no wonder all I’m under
Stop the crying and the lying
And the sighing and my dying

Sail on, sail on sailor
Sail on, sail on sailor
Sail on, sail on sailor

I still have to listen to the next part of ‘Me, We, Everybody,’ and I’ll maybe add another post then.

Grace and Peace