By the Book
Fr. Dale Matson
When I was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1967 it was made “crystal clear” that uniformity in dress and conduct would be trained into us to the point that as a group we would act as one. This was facilitated by drill instructors who schooled us in the FM 22-5, UCMJ, and the Code of Conduct. These books insured that all Army personnel would be trained adequately and treated with uniformity. As I write this I am reminded of the Ten Commandments given to the Israelites in the wilderness to train them for God’s purposes. In any formative experience, there must be codified expectations, training and consequences. Sometimes it means life or death.
My first professional training experience in civilian life, becoming a plumber, required me to learn the plumbing code. This book is also a code of conduct and standards setting out criterion for trench excavation, sewer pipe pitch, frost protection, material selection, joint inspection, computation tables and countless other mandates. The code book is always at the work site. Once again, the code provides for uniformity, precision, accountability and guidance. If a worker was buried in a deep trench, it is because the design of the trench required by the code book was not followed.
My next career was as a Psychologist. Psychometric assessment is an important role of Psychologists with Intelligence assessment as the benchmark for all the assessments conducted. Because of this, training in cognitive assessment is emphasized with a course dedicated specifically to administering these tests. The Wechsler intelligence manuals are the rubric for how those tests are administered and scored. The trainees are videotaped and critiqued on their test administration to ensure absolute uniformity and compliance with administration standards. Score reliability and validity are crucial and inter-tester reliability is necessary. In reality, Psychometric assessment is n=1 research. The neuropsychologist helps the neurosurgeon determine what brain area may require surgical intervention. The Psychologist never gets far from the Wechsler administration manual even after years of assessments. The Psychological report is a legal document and the entire life course of a young person may be affected.
The primary books for my final profession are The Bible, Book of Common Prayer the Altar Book and the Constitution and Canons of the Anglican Church of North America. They are the norm and standard for my conduct as an individual and as a Priest. These books help maintain the standard of faith once delivered to the Saints (Jude 1:3b). It is a gradual revelation that these books while not confining do determine the latitude of personal life. For example, as a Priest, I may no longer preside at a civil wedding. For Martin Luther, by the book, meant Sola Scriptura. For many it generally means someone who uses established guidelines. For me, it means continuing to live, learn and conduct myself by the book.