Theory X and Y

In his book The Ragamuffin Gospel, Brennan Manning says “The noonday devil of the Christian life is the temptation to lose the inner self while preserving the shell of edifying
behavior. Suddenly I discover that I am ministering to AIDS victims to enhance my résumé. I find I renounced ice cream for Lent to lose five excess pounds. I drop hints about the absolute priority of meditation and contemplation to create the impression that I am a man of prayer. I have lost the connection between internal purity of heart and external works of piety. In the most humiliating sense of the word, I have become a legalist. I have fallen victim to what T.S. Eliot calls the greatest sin: to do the right thing for the wrong reason.”  When this happens, no matter what act of kindness we perform, no matter how we humble ourselves to serve someone else, it’s crap.  It’s crap because we’re not doing it because we’re kind or we love the person we’re serving, we’re doing for ourselves.  All the good we do is undermined because we do it to assuage our guilt, to make ourselves look good or, as I heard growing up, for “stars in my crown”.  This practice causes us to keep score of the souls we’ve saved and to practice what I call carrot and stick evangelism.  You know what I’m talking about, the old “turn or burn” theory of salvation.  The idea behind this approach seems to be that people are so selfish that they will only do something when there is an obvious benefit.  And, as I’ve said before, we wonder why people think Christians are assholes.

In the 1960’s, MIT psychologist Douglas McGregor developed the management theory of X and Y.  According to Theory X. employees are lazy, will do their utmost to avoid work and hate working.  Because of this, employees must be closely supervised and complex systems of control are essential to keep things moving.  In Theory X, workers aren’t ambitious and will only take on responsibility when there is sufficient incentive to do so.  Because of this, managers have to threaten and intimidate workers to get anything done.  Theory Y tells us that employees are ambitious and self-motivated.  They understand that if the company does well, they do well; therefore, they are invested in the company’s success.  In theory Y, managers believe that they only need to provide the right environment and workers will excel.  How does this apply to theology?  The traditional reward and punishment style of evangelism is definitely Theory X.  Theory Y, however, would be Jesus’ invitation to follow him.  He doesn’t threaten, coerce or offer enticements.  He offers love and acceptance, all you have to do is take it.  I like that so much better than running to God because I’m afraid of an eternity in Hell.