Wednesday, October 15, 2003

The Limits of Management

Well, well...the Primates of the Anglican Communion are meeting at Lambath to preside over the dissolution of the Anglican Church. a casualty of Culture Wars.

Ostensibly Liberals and Conservatives are duking it out over homosexuality. For over 30 years now Liberals have marched from victory to victory in their campaign to accommodate the Church to its cultured despisers--who haven't taken any notice. For over a decade, as part of the program of jettisoning socially embar assing regulations concerning sexual conduct, they have tried to push through a "teaching" on sexuality intended to eliminate "discontinuities" between the Church's doctrine and the mores of the contemporary world--that is to say, they have attempted to p roduce a code of conduct read off of the opinions and behavior of secular upper middle class Americans.

Now, belatedly, Conservatives have drawn the line in the sand, and the battle is on. Liturgical revision seemed too trivial to fight and was, in any case, handled with finesse. Opposition to women's ordination could not rally the troops. The only members of the Church who seriously objected were Anglo-Catholic clergy with mystical notions of priesthood who wanted to be Catholic at all costs. The rea l i ssues were too amorphous and abstract to function politically. But sex was just right--concrete, perfectly suited to elicit resentment and, of course, sexy.

Incredibly, until very recently, Liberals didn't get it. They were convinced that their new p olicy on sexual conduct would get through, with minor protests, and then it would be business as usual. They had, after all, used psychology, employed the best management techniques and played clever politics--producing a fait accompli by ordaining an ope nly active gay bishop. They looked forward to official recognition of their policy, damage control and "healing." Instead, incredibly, Conservatives behaved like grown-ups, organizing meetings, withholding funds and threatening litigation.

What they didn't get was that managment has its limits. You can get people who are already on board with a program, and even people who are indifferent or confused, to go along with your agenda by management, therapy, advertising and other modes of non-rational persuasi on, but you cannot change people's minds. 12-step programs motivate people who are already committed--AA works for people who want to quit drinking. People will put up with a lot of humiliation to get support in overcoming weakness of will. (I paid to part icipate in a Kaiser-sponsored quit smoking group at which participants had to write farewell notes to their cigarettes). Pep talks, workshops, and motivational tapes are fine for people who are already motivated: you can psyche up athletes and pump u p salespeople's e nthusiasm. People who are indifferent can be tipped in one direction or another by advertising. People who are confused can be given direction, and a vocabulary to describe their predicament, through therapy. But you cannot get adults wh o have rationally co nsidered commitments--however wrong-headed--to get on board by manipulation.

At least that is what I'm betting. The Primates are closeted and so far there are no leaks. The Archbishop of South Africa has made the predicted dipl omatic move, suggesting that there be a Study but, according to statements prior to the meeting, Conservatives have rejected the proposal as a ploy to avoid taking any action. But maybe they will bite.

I hope not. Ironically, I completely disagree with Conse rvatives' position on sexuality, and with their views on most other ethical and theological issues. I think they're wrong. But they are wrong and rational, and they have every good reason to object to the arrogant, patronizing, manipulative behavior of Liberals.

It reminds me of the last faculty "workshop" in which I participated. Faculty got $250 and a free catered tablecloth lunch for signing on for a day during winter break. The "facilitators" at this event were a couple of chickies in cute suits who were recent USD graduates. They give us three-ring binders with "materials" on five different colors of paper and set us to playing "relating games." For the first game we were to arrange ourselves in order of how long we'd been at USD, without talking. And so it went. Sometime before lunch, when we were hungry and thoroughly disgruntled, one member of the group--for a change not me--rebelled. As he put it, "We're adults--and we have Ph.D's." The chickies were speechless--we broke for lunch and then went home..

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