This is my personal blog. The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of the congregations or presbytery I serve.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Now It's "Theory U," Apparently.

At the recent Presbyterian Mid-Council Leaders’ Gathering in Chicago, we learned about “Theory U.”  This is seems to be the latest fad from the academics who write about leadership, change, and management, mostly for businesses.

As I am listening to presenters go on breathlessly about the value and virtues of Theory U, it begins to occur to me that this is really at least rooted in basic Christian spirituality.  In fact, Theory U could be boiled down to the traditional categories of Purgation-Illumination-Union.  In any process of spiritual growth one will have to lose their old, ego-centric self in disciplines of repentance (purgation).  This results in one being awakened to their true Self, the Christ within (Illumination).  And finally, one lives in the light of that knowledge (Union).  Christians have been practicing and writing about this for two-thousand years.  Theory U presents this visually as a letter U, where one descends to a point of illumination and then ascends in a changed life. 
My first question is, Why is this presented as some new, innovative, creative development which we have now to learn and apply?  My second question is, Why do we not listen to this kind of thing until some professor from someplace like the Harvard Business School writes a book about it?
These are largely frustrated rhetorical questions, because I know the answers.  It is, in the first place, that we Presbyterians generally have no clue about the larger, wider, deeper Christian spiritual tradition.  For us, church history began in 1517.  We have cut ourselves off from the Western spiritual heritage and remain ignorant and unaware of Eastern Christianity altogether.  At our best we may have some knowledge of Augustine.  But of the earlier, deeper, and, frankly  saner and more biblical Greek tradition we know nothing.  We don’t talk about it because we don’t know about it.
And, part of being a liberal denomination welded to if not positively alloyed with Modernity is that we don’t trust anything that doesn’t come to us from a secular, “scientific,” source.  Unless it’s somehow vetted by atheists and agnostics, or at least academics with tenure and so forth, we don’t pay attention to it.  Instead of theological language, we insist upon the language of business and psychology before we will listen to anything.
Can you tell that I am tired of this?
I know I’m delusional.  But I hope for the day when I can go to a Presbyterian function and hear someone discuss Gregory of Nyssa, Maximos the Confessor, Meister Eckhart, or Teresa of Avila.  These and many other people not only provide the roots of many of these theories about adaptive change and transformation, but they also understand how central Jesus Christ is to any such process.