Friday, 2 August 2013

Creative people and the churches: Heretics OK, Apostates intolerable


There is a problem with creative people and the churches, because:

1. Creative people have a built-in tendency to change things - and some things in the church should not be changed.

2. Creative people typically have a personality type of the (moderately) high-Psychoticism type which is a shopping-list of mostly undesirable traits

For example, creative people are often not conscientious, which means that cannot force themselves to perform duties reliably, regularly, over a long period. They may lack empathy and be rather unconcerned by the opinions of other people. They may be impulsive, prone to tantrums and sulks.


In sum, creative people are more than usually 'selfish' and usually not 'joiners' and find church membership to be more onerous, more irritating, more boring than do most people - exactly because they do not much feels the rewards of service, community, groupishness...


Now, all of these can be moderated and tamed - by personal effort and by a structured environment - but only in degree.

The fact is that people high in Psychoticism - and thus creative people - are generally troublesome and generally not very useful to the running of the church. They tend indeed to be somewhat parasitic on the hard and dutiful work of others.

Since creativity is rare - it may seem that churches are better off without creative people since although there are not many of them, their potential for causing trouble is considerable.



The church absolutely needs creative people - at least it needs them over the long term - even though there are many examples of churches being damaged by the activities of creative people (such as theologians) the fact is that the complexity of the world over the long term means that there will always be unforeseen problems which the church must solve, and which can only be solved by creativity - which means by creative people.

Uncreative churches (and this is a problem of all churches without enough men, where women dominate, that are anti-men, where men lack scope - because most creatives are men, because Psychoticism is higher in men) will over the medium-long term decline and become absorbed into other institutions or become extinct, as a matter of certainty.


Therefore, the church needs to retain creative people over the long haul (as it were 'on a retainer' - for when they are needed) - needs to keep creative people sufficiently within the church that they will consent to and indeed be motivated to work for the church in the way that (only) creatives can.

I mean deeply motivated - in the special way of creative people - which may mean an obsessive rumination on a problem, a process lasting years, even decades.

This degree of motivation cannot be imposed but must come from within - and it means that creatives must be inspired to work for the benefit of the church. They must be loyal - or, despite their many, frequent, minor disloyalties - their basic affiliation to the church must be maintained.


This means that a wise church leader will often need to defend creative church members from expulsion, and from other sanctions which would tend to exclude creatives. And this means some degree of 'special treatment' which can be hard to justify - at least superficially.

But on a deeper analysis, it is not hard to justify, because there is a general principle which means that an individual should be treated as an individual - and a person who has a different make-up, nature, character, personality ought to be differently treated from the mass of people from whom he differs.

Yet, again this is hazardous - as 'special treatment' may be interpreted as a license for bad behaviour, which would itself lead creatives out of the church, or else give them the attitude that it is up to the church to accommodate whatever they happen to want.


Furthermore, there is the matter of heresy.

Creatives will always be heretics - no matter how much they may try (and often they won't try!) to be orthodox, their heresy will show itself to the genuinely orthodox - indeed heresy is usually very obvious, which is why there is typically an inappropriate and self-destructive over-reaction against heresy.

(This has been the bane of Christianity since its foundation - overall, the reaction against heresy has done far more harm than heresy itself.)

A heretic disbelieves in whole or part the teachings of the church, or urges a significantly a different emphasis than the church, or adds to the church something distinctive... that kind of thing.

All creatives are heretics - yet there should be efforts to keep them in the church so long as they are not apostate.


Apostates have turned against the church.

And no church can tolerate apostates - because they are a fifth column, eroding the church from within - a parasite, a cancer, a traitor.

(Of course, apostasy is usually covert and disguised - even disguised from the apostate - so must be a matter of judgment.)


In other words, a long-term-viable church must (to some significant extent) tolerate heresy among its creatives  - otherwise it will not retain its creatives, then will have no creatives, and the church will die as a result.

And the church must not tolerate apostasy.

(Apostate creatives are indeed especially harmful - if their apostatsy becomes the focus of their creativity, they may tirelessly work at it for decades, focused implicitly on the destruction of the church, and the aiding of those who would destroy it.). 

Yet apostasy is not objectively observable in the way that heresy is; apostasy is a matter of motivation, hence inner. Man cannot know for sure another man's motivation - yet any viable church must make this judgment, and must act upon it.

So the justly-expelled apostate creative can, and often does, create trouble for the church - because there is no objective evidence of his apsotasy, and he will usually deny and conceal his real and destructive motivation (perhaps conceal them even from himself) - and may present himself as arbitrarily victimized or scapegoated for some other behaviour.

Yet despite all this, the church must not tolerate apostasy.


A middle path is necessary - the church must not be subverted, but equally the church must retain and inspire creatives; orthodoxy cannot be imposed on all without excluding creatives, yet excessive license will leave apostates to flourish at the expense of the church

So, this is a tricky problem of the kind for which there is no general solution, but which may potentially be soluble by individual leaders of sufficient knowledge and wisdom and with personal authority - but not a problem that can be dealt with by committees, and certainly not by committee debate and committee-vote of the mass majority of conscientious and empathic people.


Note: These reflections came from thinking about the relationship between the LDS church and Sterling McMurrin, as revaled for example in this interview:

PDF file: search the words sterling mcmurrin interview dialogue

McMurrin makes the distinction between heretic and apostate, and describes himself as a heretic but not apostate. That seems to be how he was regarded by the CJCLDS - since he was personally 'managed' by several Presidents of the church, and retained within its community as a loyal advocate - despite his many and large heresies. 

The particular interest of the McMurrin story is that the LDS is the most conscientiousness-requiring of all denominations in terms of the calls for missionary, administrative and labouring service made upon its active members; combined with a generally high level of economic-social functioning in 'jobs'; combined with typically large families in which men are enjoined to play an active role.

Combining all these heavy duties creates a stereotypical pattern of hyper-busy and hyper-organized behaviour among the most devout Mormons, which strikes a person of moderately high Psychoticism (such as myself) as nearly-intolerable at best and outright impossible at worst!

Yet, probably due to his Mormon family background, McMurrin was kept on the inside of the LDS and loyal; and a brilliant and very valuable book of Mormon theology was one result. But it took top-level interventions from several Prophets to achieve this.