Clergy: angels or enforcers?

26 April 2013

Liz Jump Team Vicar of Blackbourne, in the diocese of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich. See 'I took the test', below.

Liz Jump Team Vicar of Blackbourne, in the diocese of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich. See 'I took the test', below.

THE clergy's is one of the few professions to show a higher level of care at work than in their personal lives, the findings of a psychometric test completed online by more than 80,000 people worldwide suggests. The drive to be obedient, however, is even stronger than the drive to care.

The MoralDNA test asks people to what extent they agree with a series of statements describing how they make decisions. For example: "I won't take the easy option if it's the wrong thing to do." Some of these questions relate to the workplace. The answers are used to create a "MoralDNA profile" that reflects the user's "decision-making preferences": the ethics of obedience, care, and reason.

The ethic of care is defined as meaning "that what's right is based on our humanity, empathy, and love for other people". The ethic of obedience relates to "obeying or complying with reasonable rules, laws, policies, and procedures". The ethic of reason relates to "what we judge is right".

The "corporate philosopher" who designed the test, Roger Steare, said: "In almost all cases, people report a reduced ethic of care at work, either because they are told to behave in a certain way or because they have to put the interests of their employer over the needs of the customer."

The only professions that report a "slight increase" in the ethic of care at work were those whose work came under the heading of Homemaker, Religion, or Healthcare, who dealt directly with caring for people. Professions at the bottom of the table for the ethic of care include chemicals, politics, oil and gas, and the armed services.

People who complete the test are assigned to one of six MoralDNA "character types": philosopher, judge, angel, teacher, enforcer, or guardian. The most common type for those working in religion, Mr Steare said on Monday, was "enforcer", defined as "the people we rely on to make sure that everyone obeys the rules". He said: "Generally speaking, there is a leader to whom you are answerable. Dissent is frowned upon. Even though they care more than average, they are more obedient than many. Obedience will overcome that sense of care."

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This was "concerning", he said, and a "strong argument for having more women as religious leaders: generally speaking, they will put care above reason and obedience".

www.moraldna.org

'I'm an angel, and that's official - at least, according to the MoralDNA survey. A series of agree/disagree statements generate a result that describes your moral "coding"; and "Angels", unsurprisingly, put care for others first.

Given that the questions ask how you make decisions, and what guides your thinking at work, as well as in private, I'm not surprised that, as a Vicar, I should come out as believing that care for the other is primary. So far, so good.

But can morality be condensed into simple questions and answers? What about context? The "what ifs?" of life, meaning decisions that we would make in the abstract, can become blurred and confused once real people, and the fuzzy edges of life, appear.

I do, however, find myself trying to categorise my colleagues, and I might suggest that they all try this. Anything that helps us to understand how we view the world, and take our places within it, is worth a look.'

Liz Jump
Team Vicar of Blackbourne, in the diocese of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich

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