Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Engaging with Institutions as Living Entities

I was grateful to receive these reflections on the spirit of institutions from Michelle Bizek. I liked them so much that I wanted to share them here:

It seems to me that the term “institution” could be synonymous with a living entity composed of living, interactive systems and that the simplest expression of this living entity is the individual and more complex expressions include groups (i.e. churches, social clubs, Boy Scouts, etc.), businesses, governments (local, state, national), nations, and finally, humanity.

Each of these living entities has a spiritual ethos and I think if we look at the simpler human system and what influences and shifts it toward a healthier expression then those principles can also be applied to the larger systems. For example, we know that personal change is more efficient when we receive permission and agreement from the subject. Of course we can intercede and practice aggressive prayer for a person, but the effecting of change, most of the time, comes more readily when the person expresses permission for your influence and agrees to work with you toward change. It is like the difference between walking around the block praying for the person in house #123 or knocking on his door, going inside, and opening dialog
with him. Once you are inside talking with him you learn what he believes, how he thinks, what he values, his habits, how he makes decisions, his history, his fears, and his dreams. Now you can pray with greater specificity and he knows you are connecting to what is relevant to him. You are engaging the spirit of the man, freeing him from the “illusions spun over” him.

Taking this to the institutional level, I think that learning these same things about the institution will reveal the spirit of the institution. Once that is identified, abberations in the dominant
characteristics and expressions reveal “ the demonic…arising within the institution” and give us the specificity for targeted prayer for change as we “recall it to its divine vocation.”

Spiritual discernment will help us differentiate between the spirit of the man, the institution, the demonic, and the holy, and the information provided by each; this is essential for efficient prayer.

- Michelle Bizek


forrest said...

Institutions are not "living" entities; they may exemplify & manifest their individual 'spirit' (much like a fictional character) but there's no person 'inside', no 'soul' in there to transform that spirit.

The typical result of people trying to reform an organization "from inside" is that they become captive to the world-view of that organization.

No harm in examining and learning to see through an alien world-view, but when you express yourself in its terms, you reinforce that way of seeing things in your listeners. (Read a little George Lakoff re how badly this works out in political debate...)

Michael Bischoff said...

Thanks for your comment, Forrest. I do think there are dangers in thinking of institutions as living entities, like people. For instance, I don't agree with giving corporations the same rights that individuals have in terms of contributions to political campaigns.

On the other hand, I think the 2nd paragraph of your comment illustrates one of the ways institutions can act like a living entity--developing and expressing a dominant world-view, which can be strongly influence those it encounters.

I have read and appreciated George Lakoff. I've also recently gotten to know some other authors and their analysis about framing political debate and action. I think they are even more insightful and practical than Lakoff's book on framing: http://www.grassrootspolicy.org/worldview