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December 27, 2009

For Christian Knights, romantic love is an impulse that can threaten one’s moral bearings. For this reason, they can be ambivalent about sexuality. For Knights, the sexual ideal is found in the example of the Virgin Mary or the virgins in Revelation whose chastity makes them worthy for rescue by God during the End Times. And Christianity features a celibate Messiah and a repressed apostle (Paul). For Christian Knights, sexual purity is the ideal.

As a result, Christian Knight churches sometimes offer little advice to young unmarried couples beyond the dictum to “pray together and don’t have sex.” (This is the focus of the chastity-encouraging “True Love Waits” program popular among evangelical Christians.) These churches encourage young people to pursue only “Christ-centered” romantic relationships, casting them as acceptable only if one’s romantic interest believes the “correct” things, and is willing to accept a holy chaperone–the Holy Spirit–in the relationship.

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December 27, 2009

For Christian Gardeners, romantic love can point one toward God’s intention for their lives. The great spiritual skill Gardeners work to learn is not discipline to resist desires, but to discern between God-called desires and selfish desires. And Gardeners work to steer themselves in the best of directions or, as Meister Eckhart once wrote, to “put your passions on a bridle of love.”

To use the metaphor of a swimming pool, in matters of love, sexuality and relationships, Knights work to fence off the pool; Gardeners try to teach people to swim. For Gardeners, sexuality is perceived as part of God’s ongoing creation process, and to be celebrated when pointed toward one’s great love and mate. After all, many Gardeners conclude, all of creation has been making love and singing about it since the first moment of Creation. Sin in sexuality is only as old as—and completely limited to—the human creature. Rather than seeking holy chaperones, Gardeners believe God points those whose love is true toward each other.

Gardeners are no libertines—they merely recognize love and sexuality as blessings and opportunities to grow a good relationship rather than spiritual minefields.

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December 27, 2009

Both Knights and Gardeners can be paragons of honor, chivalry, chastity and fidelity—and live with great integrity to those principles—but for different reasons. Knights pursue the highest morality in romantic relationships; Gardeners work to grow the best romantic relationship Garden.

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December 27, 2009

Both Knights and Gardeners characterize relationship behavior that lies outside their ethics as selfish. Knights see infidelity—and sometimes homosexuality—as selfishness. Gardeners see the pursuit of relationships outside of their committed one—or engaging in relationships lightly or indiscriminately—as selfish.

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December 27, 2009

Today, evangelical Christian Knights see heterosexual marriage as the primary bulwark against evil and societal collapse. They have concluded that (1) the traditional heterosexual marriage—and nuclear family—is the basic building block of society, (2) the United States of America was established by divine will to represent the virtue and idealism needed to transform the world for the better, and that (3) if the basic building block that made the United States strong collapses, then the nation—and God’s intention for the world—will collapse with it. Put another way, if you undermine traditional heterosexual marriage, you undermine everything.

Evangelical Christian Knights see humans as morally weak and inherently evil. They believe Satan attacks humans at the weakest point in their moral “armor,” and since they believe the Original Sin was sexual in nature, they believe Satan will attack via sexual temptation first. Sexual chastity and fidelity in marriage is therefore necessary to keep the United States strong and intact.

As a result, evangelical Christian Knights see homosexuality as selfish and aberrant, and believe homosexual marriage is not a harmless personal choice, but an attack—backed by Satan—against the integrity and strength of the United States. And since they believe the United States is God’s moral Knight among nations, this is also an attack against God’s intentions for the entire world. These are the reasons why evangelical Christian Knights support “defense of marriage” legislation, oppose homosexual marriage, and other efforts to protect the traditional (meaning two-parent nuclear) family. It is also why some evangelical Christian Knights work to reinforce the hierarchy and gender roles within the nuclear family along the lines seen in the classic TV show “Father Knows Best.” They believe the traditional, correctly-functioning nuclear family is not only divinely ordained, but the reason for the moral, economic and military supremacy of the United States during the postwar era. More than mere puritanical moralism (they often rankle at the charge of homophobia), evangelical Christian Knights see themselves as crusading to protect the world from the allied forces of Satan.

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December 27, 2009

For religious Knights, pornography, infidelity and homosexuality are taboo simply because they see them as violations of God’s commands and intentions.

For religious Gardeners, pornography, infidelity and abusive relationship patterns are taboo because they thwart the growth of God’s Garden that is the love relationship. In Jewish theologian Martin Buber’s terms, pornography, infidelity, and abusive relationship patterns create “I-It” relationships—in which one person perceives and uses the other as a thing—rather than an “I-Thou” relationship—in which both people treat each other as equals, and work to grow each others’ lives.

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December 27, 2009

Knight families are generally hierarchical. As in “Father Knows Best,” there is a clear leader. (Sometimes, however, they conflict over who “wears the pants” in the family.) Roles within the family are clearly delineated and assigned to the “proper” family members. Within the extended family Knights may seek to discern who their allies and enemies are and engage in family intrigues to gain advantage or protect themselves. In the political realm, “family values” often are Knight values.

Discipline is key in Knight parenting styles. Knights view a disobedient child’s behavior as an attempt to challenge their parents’ authority—a situation that can be resolved with stricter discipline. This strict discipline is rightly understood as a form of love for their children. If you’ve heard a parent say, just before spanking a child, “This is for your own good,” you’ve seen a Knight parent in action. If, however, children become Knights like their parents, they may grow to oppose their parents’ values and rebel. This is the pattern that inspired the cliché that the most troublesome teenagers are the children of cops and ministers.

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December 27, 2009

Gardener families are more egalitarian. While parents remain the authorities in the family, power and roles in the family are assigned by talent or ability to solve the family’s problems, not by gender. Within the extended family, Gardeners do not work to discern allies and enemies, but rather opportunities to grow the family by understanding its systems, dynamics, heritages, and patterns.

Discipline for Gardener parents is about providing a healthy environment rather than obedience or enforcing moral correctness. If you’ve heard a parent say, just before spanking a child, “This is going to hurt me more than it’s going to hurt you,” you’ve seen a Gardener parent in action.

Gardener parents see themselves as guides rather than guards. As a result, structure and opportunity are key to Gardener parenting styles. Gardener parents work to provide structure that steers children toward better futures, and provide as many opportunities for them to pursue their dreams as possible. Gardener parents are architects of their children’s lives and cheerleaders for their good work.

Both Knights and Gardeners may pursue “protect the children” legislation, but for different reasons.

At the extremes, Knight parents can be too harsh; Gardener parents can be too permissive.

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December 27, 2009

For Knights, authentic religion is a test of theological and moral correctness.

For Gardeners, love is authentic religion; love is the proof of theological and moral correctness.

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December 27, 2009

At the end of the day, as he or she lies in bed before falling asleep, a Knight may ask “Did I live true to principle today?” And an honest Knight may answer “No” – and may feel guilty for falling short. As creatures of dichotomies, Knights ask questions of themselves based on dichotomies.

At the end of the day, as he or she lies in bed before falling asleep, a Gardener may ask “How can I better grow my loved ones tomorrow?” As problem-solving, opportunity-seeking creatures, Gardeners ask questions of themselves that emphasize problem-solving, opportunity-seeking, and divine direction or intent.

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December 27, 2009

What you perceive as heroic or virtuous behavior influences how you form and maintain your love relationships, which in turn affects how you behave in conflict situations.

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December 27, 2009

Knights find their lives’ greatest fulfillment, mission, and meaning in conflict. They seek the Great and Holy Showdown—the moment their entire lives have prepared them for. And they can suffer shortages of meaning in their lives without a worthy opponent. As a result, Knights seek enemies. They need them. And the greater the stakes of the conflict—and the larger the adversary—the more meaningful they find their lives and efforts. Knights envision themselves as David facing down Goliath or as a good confronting an evil.

Knights don’t need a God, but must have a Devil.

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December 27, 2009

Gardeners find meaning in contributing to growth—and tend to avoid conflict that could jeopardize that contribution, scorch the earth, or set back or thwart God’s intentions. Gardeners look for challenges and opportunities, and seek partners rather than enemies.

Gardeners are not conflict-averse or non-confrontational. They will fight to protect a Garden, but not to eradicate an enemy. After all, every farmer keeps a rifle in the house for emergencies. Only when the greater vision of the Garden is kept in view will Gardeners engage in a smaller conflict against weeds, pests, or interlopers.

Gardeners must have a God—or a vision to strive toward—but need no Devils.

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December 27, 2009

Knights’ central question regarding conflict is What evil needs to be defeated, eradicated, or pushed away so the world can self-correct? Knights assume that the removal of evil is all that is necessary to fix the world.

For example, the Bush Administration and U.S. military did not plan for reconstruction after major combat operations in the early days of the Iraq War in part because it assumed that the removal of Saddam Hussein and the Ba’ath Party would be sufficient for democracy to bloom in Iraq.

Similarly, many liberal and conservative Knights seem to believe that removal of the other will be enough to restore the culture, government and moral standing of the United States.

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December 27, 2009

Gardeners’ central question regarding conflict is What needs to be built, planted or cultivated so the world can become better or prevent conflict that threatens Gardens?

Gardeners assume that conflict can be minimized by, say, establishing rule of law to undermine the practice of vigilante justice, or establishing organizations like the United Nations to curb wars between nation-states. Gardeners also establish organizations that aim to grow local and global economies like stock markets or the World Trade Organization.

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December 27, 2009

When faced with long-term, seemingly intractable conflict situations, Knights tend to fight the alligators while Gardeners try to drain the swamp.

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December 27, 2009

Knights can be found among both conservatives and liberals. Liberal Knights try to eliminate the conservative Establishment while conservative Knights try to eliminate the liberal Movement. Both sides derive meaning from opposing the other. This is a reason why culture wars arise and persist.

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December 27, 2009

Knights often believe that war waged in a righteous cause—rising up to confront the forces of evil or ignorance—is a spiritual success. Gardeners, however, often believe that resorting to war—regardless of its righteousness or necessity—is a spiritual failure. This does not mean Gardeners will not participate in a war; it just means they’ll never consider it a virtue.

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December 27, 2009

American Knights often perceive the United States as the greatest force for good against evil in the world. American Gardeners often perceive the United States as possessing the greatest systems for making the world a better place for everyone. Knights see the United States as the great white Knight on the world stage; Gardeners see it as the most capable Gardener.

Because they hold these views, some Knights believe the U.S.’ war in Iraq and War on Terror are a fulfillment of the highest American values. Most Gardeners (and some Knights) see it as a betrayal of those values.

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December 27, 2009

Every U.S. President has had to function as both a Knight and a Gardener—it’s the nature of the office—but most Presidents have reputations as functioning primarily as one or the other. Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush are known for their Knight orientations in domestic and foreign policy. Bill Clinton, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Barack Obama are primarily known as Gardeners.

Several Presidents have shown great flexibility between the two modes. Abraham Lincoln fought the Civil War (a Knight’s mission) then sought to bind up the nation’s wounds (a Gardener mission). Franklin Delano Roosevelt was known for ending the Depression (a Gardener endeavor) and fighting World War II (a Knight campaign). Harry S Truman was known for dropping atomic bombs to end World War II (arguably one of the most Knight-like acts in human history) but also for passing the legislation necessary for the Marshall Plan, supporting the establishment of the United Nations, and early support for civil rights (all great Gardener endeavors). John F. Kennedy was known both for the New Frontier—and the Bay of Pigs and Cuban Missile Crisis.

History sometimes judges world leaders on whether their leadership style matches the needs of the time. For example, history remembers British prime minister Neville Chamberlain poorly for his Gardener approach to Nazi aggression—seeking appeasement in the name of preserving a Garden rather than confrontation to protect it. President George W. Bush may be remembered by history poorly for pursuing Knight approaches to resolve political, military and economic problems that may have required Gardener solutions instead.

Matching leadership style to the nature of pressing world problems may become more of a consideration for voters in future political elections.

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December 27, 2009

How a conflict begins, is waged, and ends depends on whether Knights or Gardeners command and control it. Knights undertake conflict to vanquish an evil; Gardeners undertake conflict to preserve a Garden.

When Knights control the persecution of a conflict, they ask Gardeners to lend their ingenuity to aid the war effort, as they did with the scientists who undertook the Manhattan Project during World War II. When Gardeners control the persecution of a conflict, they ask Knights to only defend the Garden, not completely vanquish evil, as they did when they established the Cold War foreign policy of “Containment” to curb Soviet expansion.

Religious Knights see Gardens as aids to winning the Great Cosmic War.

Religious Gardeners see conflicts as subsets or interruptions in the growth of the Great Garden.

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December 27, 2009

Knights cast a vision of victory or existential stakes to provide meaning to their struggles. For example, British prime minister Winston Churchill, on the eve of the Battle of Britain, roused the British to great valor for the nation’s Great Showdown in World War II, in this, the archetypal Knight message:

Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization… Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be freed and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age… Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves, that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, “This was their finest hour.”

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December 27, 2009

Gardeners cast a vision larger than victory so people remember why the struggle is important. For example, John F. Kennedy—at the height of the Cold War—cast such a vision in this, the archetypal Gardener message:

Today some would say that those struggles are all over—that all the horizons have been explored—that all the battles have been won—that there is no longer an American frontier… [w]e stand today on the edge of a New Frontier…a frontier of unknown opportunities and perils…. But the New Frontier of which I speak is not a set of promises—it is a set of challenges. It sums up not what I intend to offer the American people, but what I intend to ask of them. It appeals not to their pride, not to their pocketbook—it holds out the promise of more sacrifice instead of more security… Beyond that frontier are the uncharted areas of science and space, unsolved problems of peace and war, unconquered pockets of ignorance and prejudice… It would be easier to shrink back from that frontier, to look to the safe mediocrity of the past…

I am asking each of you to be pioneers on that New Frontier… There may be those who wish to hear… more harsh rhetoric about the men in the Kremlin… [T]he harsh facts of the matter are that we stand on this frontier at a turning point in history. We must prove all over again whether this nation—or any nation so conceived—can long endure… That is the real question. Have we the nerve and the will? Can we carry through in an age where we will witness not only new breakthroughs in weapons of destruction—but also a race for mastery of the sky and the rain, the ocean and the tides, the far side of space, and the inside of men’s minds? Are we up to the task? Are we equal to the challenge? That is the question of the New Frontier. That is the choice our nation must make… All mankind waits upon our decision. A whole world looks to see what we shall do. And we cannot fail that trust, and we cannot fail to try.

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December 27, 2009

For religious Gardeners, “risk” is the secular word for “faith,” and playing it safe is a sin. Ingenuity—and the courage to pursue it—are the greatest qualities a Gardener can possess. Religious Gardeners believe The Creator created us in his image to create—to co-create the future with him.

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December 27, 2009

When Knights oppose Knights, conflict can be great and bloody—literally, spiritually, or both. Literal wars can result—as between the United States and al-Qaeda and Iraq. These wars can be egged on by extremist Knight pastors like Jerry Falwell who advised President Bush in 2004 that the United States should “Blow them [the terrorists and Iraqi insurgents] all away in the name of the Lord.”

Knight-to-Knight conflict doesn’t always involve militaries or terrorists. The Branch Davidians of Waco, Texas, believed that the End Times, according to their interpretation of Revelation, would begin at their compound (which they called “Ranch Apocalypse”) when the agents of the Devil came over the horizon to attack. The Branch Davidians saw their duty as to outlast the apocalypse and lead the counteroffensive against the Devil. They interpreted the arrival of the mile-long convoy of heavily-armed U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms agents as the fulfillment of prophecy. The resulting firefight—and 51-day siege of the compound—between these two parties of principled, compromise-resistant Knights resulted in the complete immolation of the compound and many of the Branch Davidians themselves.

Years ago I was asked to investigate why a spate of churches in a specific region had split during the previous five years. (In Protestant life, congregations may “split” over irreconcilable theological or other differences—like a divorce—to form two separate congregations.) I found that most of the pastors of these churches were recent graduates of a seminary in the region that had begun training its students to be aggressive Knights. The seminary had begun teaching its students that if a church was not engaged in spiritual battle with the Devil out in the community, that meant that the Devil had infiltrated the church and made it complacent. Once these students became pastors in churches in that very “live and let live” region, they followed their Knight training to root out the Devil’s infiltrations within the churches—which split the churches.

Similarly, organizations that have long-established patterns of Knight relationships with their leaders can hire, abuse, and fire their leaders over and over again.

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