Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Okay, not Therapy, then...

I won’t have time to do the metaphor discussion justice before I head for Kazakhstan because I’m devoting all my spare time to the sofware project (at the moment I’m at dinner and can’t connect to the database anyway, or you wouldn’t even be getting this much). But I wanted to respond just a bit to Jim and to my friend Candace, with some scattered observations.

On the inappropriateness of the “Therapy” label

I agree that “Therapy” doesn’t sound right, and I think it’s because “therapy” has overtones of being necessary only for sick people. ...continue reading...This didn’t strike me as a drawback at first because, after all, I’m a Christian, following a man who said sarcastically that, “It’s not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Still, upon further reflection I find myself in agreement with Jim on this one: “Therapy” won’t do.

A CRHP buddy of mine, who was in on very early discussions as the metaphor concept took shape, had the instant reaction, “It seems to me that each of those metaphors comes from a human need that religion meets in people’s lives.” I think he’s absolutely right, and so I’m trying to rename “Therapy” with something positive based on the human need behind it...what about “Fulfillment,” to go with Fact and Family?

An important distinction

I also want to make a little more clear what I’m going for. I’m not looking for new names for “conservative” and “liberal.” The terms “conservative” and “liberal” (in theology) have to do primarily with the theological positions one takes up. But I am trying to capture, not how people think about religion, but how they emote about religion. The conservatively Christian are predominantly Fact-oriented, and theologically liberal Christians are predominantly Fulfillment-oriented, for somewhat accidental cultural reasons; but there’s nothing to keep you from being a Fact-oriented person who thinks the evidence supports liberal conclusions (Candace may, I suspect, be precisely such a Fact-oriented liberal). The terms “conservative” and “liberal” have to do, if I may put it this way, with denotation; in the metaphors I’m trying to get at connotation.

Objectivity / subjectivity

Try thinking of it this way: Fact people typically conceptualize religion as objective; Fulfillment people typically conceptualize it as subjective. A Fact-oriented person is very unlikely to say, “That may be true for you, but that’s just not the God I believe in.” You can hear Fulfillment-oriented people saying things like that all the time just by going down to any university coffee shop and starting up a discussion on religious tolerance. When Jim says, “I am still struggling with how you use Fact, I almost interpret it more as Legal rather then Truth:” Jim, me boyo, you are hot on the trail, because the Fact mindset is much more what Fulfilment people describe as “legalism” than what Fulfillment people seem to think of as “truth.” Whether or not mail fraud is illegal does not depend on whether any given would-be con man thinks it ought to be or not, because it is a question of objective fact rather than subjective taste. Now, “legalistic” Fact-oriented people automatically slot the question, “Is birth control a sin?” into the, “Is mail fraud illegal?” category rather than into the, “Are sports more satisfying than theatre?” category, whereas Fulfillment-oriented people will tend heavily toward the latter. And in the context of religion, Fulfillment-oriented people habitually use “truth” in a way that shows they think of it as varying from person to person (different things satisfy different people), but they never use “legal” that way; while Fact-oriented people don't use “truth” to describe things that vary from person to person based on temperament or need. When a Fulfillment-oriented person sees a Fact-oriented person talking as if a particular moral rule (e.g., God forbids the taking of personal vengeance) applies universally, he is much more likely to say, “That guy is a legalist,” than to say, “That guy thinks it's genuinely true that God forbids the taking of personal vengeance,” or whatever. But to the Fact-oriented person, to complain that he's “legalistic” for saying that private vengeance is immoral for everybody whether they personally happen to think so or not, is as silly as complaining that he's “legalistic” for saying that Newton's Laws of Motion apply to everybody whether they personally happen to agree with Newton's Laws or not.

Furthermore, Jim is right to see Fulfillment as an essentially pragmatic orientation; that is precisely why Fulfillment is the dominant metaphor in the deeply pragmatic American culture. I could see myself using the label “Results” almost as easily as the label “Fulfillment” – I could say that there are the Fact-oriented, and the Results-oriented, and the Family-oriented. I wouldn’t, however, see most Fact-oriented people as philosophical idealists; the pragmatist/idealist distinction in philosophy doesn’t correlate to the Fulfillment/Fact distinction, because pragmatist/idealist is a distinction of rational principle while Fulfillment/Fact/Family are categories of emotional response.

Food’s here. End of post.


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