Wednesday, October 3, 2012

World/Church Development Model- Part 1

For many years I have thought of church history as a growth process. The pettiness of so many people and events in the OT writings as well as atrocities committed in the name of Christ in modern history. For me it was a way that made the most sense in dealing with these inconsistencies. The growing pains of children trying to make sense of the world, the wandering teen attempting to grasp their place in life. It has always been more of a passive thought, one in fact spurned on by a comment of an OT professor who would probably disagree with the direction I have taken the thought.

In my coursework for counseling I have been reading through developmental theories, both for childhood and adulthood. I had remembered Erik Erikson's Eight Stages of Psychosocial Development from a project I did in high school, but that was about all I knew of the developmental studies. There are many more developmental models than just that of Erikson, and they all point to the same sorts of life changes, though each tends to focus on only one aspect of each change.

The following is the first developmental model, The Moral Development model as proposed by Lawrence Kohlberg and Carol Gilligan.

There are two basic theories of Moral Development. Kohlberg's tends toward a male theory of morality and Gilligan who specifically studied female moral development. Both have very similar stages of growth in children, though with differing basic desires. Each has three basic levels of development: Preconventional, Conventional, and Postconventional.

From Kohlberg's male side we have a punishment/reward system for the Preconventional level. From Gilligan we have a concern for survival. At this point not all that different. The concern for survival being that of enjoying reward and wanting to stay away from punishment. Kohlberg's tends more towards individual punishment/reward and Gilligan's on a more social level.

I would equate this stage to that of prehistory and early history when people discovered that in joining together they could keep more safe and more fed. Their concern for survival was little more than that of not dying.

At the Conventional level we see the males move to a more conformity of social norms and maintaining rules for law and order. From the female side the focus is on caring for others and a sense of responsibility to others. Each gender has set up a convention that seems to work from their perspective. The males focus on rules and order above feelings and punishment/rewards should be based solely on those rules. For the females Gilligan saw a sense of social responsibility that some action could be taken not because it was within the rules but because it is better to have peace among the group.

This would be generally be the time of early civilizations through the beginning of monotheistic religions. A time when law and order were kept by the man with the biggest sword (or biggest army at least). This convention began to fracture at the time of Christ, but would last up to modernity in some regards.

At the Postconventional level we see males making democratically arrived at social contracts, rules can be changed through logical processes, and further development into individual conscience. From the female study, decision making is from an interdependent perspective, that every choice affects everyone else.

Though beginning much earlier in the minds of philosophers and thinkers, the Postconventional stage came about during the modern period. This country was founded on the principles of the postconventional theory (and interestingly enough would bring about post-modernism).

These theories primarily focus on child development. This Postconventional stage is generally attained at the end of the adolescent years and upon entering adulthood. Since this model goes no further in explaining moral development after reaching adulthood many would surmise that is the end of moral development. I would like to make the case that as people grow beyond their early twenties (if that is to be understood as adulthood) that some members of society are able to surpass thoughts of mere democratically decided rules or in just trying to keep the social norm.

I find the likes of Dr. Martin Luther King, Ghandi, Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, William Wilberforce, Harriet Beecher Stowe and many, many others to be of this type. Taking morality beyond what the majority says or what is best for the feelings of others. It is a joining of both ideals. That we as a society find the best ways for the absolute most number of people regardless of whether they are in the majority or not. And thus lifting humanity one step further out of the mud of our own unjust societies.

The Moral Development models are explaining our past actions, the progress of society, and also in pointing the direction of our continued movement. One of reconciliation of unjust actions of our past. One of seeking at each cultural turn to work for the best for the most people. I find events like the Arab Spring and Occupy movements to be but hints of our progress as a growing humanity and inevitable forward motion for all creatures.

Next week I'll delve into Robert Keagan's Constructive Developmental Model and how that may look for our world and it's progress.