In many of my past few posts, I have been talking a lot about ideology. Ideology is a common term used in
Rather, I am critiquing the stranglehold ideologies have on us to control the way we think such that we tend to fit different events in our lives, whether it is something we ourselves are doing or something we are witnessing, into the pattern of thinking and to exclude all other possibilities from the
Furthermore, the formation of ideology is not necessarily the intentional construction of any one person or organization. It can be when some person or persons have unilateral control in which it is instituted through repressive measures that keep people in outright fear. But, more often than not, the ideologies of larger societies and cultures are perpetrated through this mild aversion to being judged that stems from seeing how people who thought and taught like that were punished. While those who are punished may be evil themselves, they are taken of symbols of something that isn’t necessarily evil itself. For instance, radical Jihadists get punished can subtly perpetuate the notion that to be Muslim, to think like a Muslin is dangerous and evil. Or, take what happens in the media portrayal of African Americans, who are shown to be punishes for various crimes that the community judges severely (ranging from the truly heinous to drug charges) and the formation of thinking is to think these type of people are dangerous, so don’t think and speak like them, such as in musical style of rap or slang language they use. Even if no one consciously thinks “hey, lets portray Muslims or African-Americans in a negative life” or even if “these people we are talking about are dangerous,” there is the often subtle, unconscious, largely unintentional propagation of certain ways of thinking: “don’t be this, don’t act like that” drawing connections between the various aspects of specific religions or ethnicities to dangerous way to think and behave. I use the example of Muslims and African-Americans not to simply propound on the ideological effects or religion or race, but to show how various ideologies can gain control over the power of thinking, even in subtle ways.
I also point to how thinking
In all these cases, through various mechanisms, the way we construe people and situations are controlled by thinking patterns enculturated into us as these type of events occur again, again, and again. Ideology makes the way we pay attention to reality very inflexible, inclining us to fit events into nice, tidy categories of knowledge, rather than allowing for a hermeneutical flexibility that considers what we have learned but allows for other construals of events to make sure past learning is an actually good fit for present experience, rather than assuming it is based upon superficial, surface similarities.
How does one break free from such an ideological stranglehold on our thinking? At the core, one provides legitimacy for another way of thinking. One recognizes that while many of the
This is the story of the early Church, particularly the Pauline mission throughout the Roman world. The Romans had an impressive array of
In the midst of this context, Paul’s evangelistic mission would challenge this ideological stranglehold of thinking through two critical pieces of “data” that would be presented to others: 1) the story of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the tradition of others seeing him resurrected body and 2) the power of the Holy Spirit, both in publicly visible dramatic events and personal impacts within the heart occurring in himself as a weak vessel. These two “data points” would firstly provide a decisive challenge to the religious, political, and philosophy ideology of the period by providing legitimate testimony of events and direct witnessing of events that challenged the ideological control on thinking.
However, Paul was not like a mindless iconoclast who was tearing down everything to simply tear it down to build his own vision among the early Christians. Rather, his own stated purposes in 1 Corinthians but implied elsewhere was to place down the foundation of Jesus Christ and get people to have faith in the power of God. Rome wasn’t the true enemy, as Romans 13 suggests, but there was a need for resistance and rejection of its ideology, of its “wisdom” as saying anything to be trusted about God and therefore the ultimate fate of the world that God created.
It is this breaking free from ideology, which Paul would call the renewal of the mind in Romans 12:2, that would allow people to be transformed so as to truly comprehend God and His will. But this form of thinking wasn’t about abstract principles, rules, and systems, but a thinking that can recognize the way sin manifest controls one’s life in the flesh and to resist its control because of God’s enabling this through
Thus, the Christian journey is not simply a breaking free from sin as some evil impulse, nor even a freedom from the negative consequences of death, but the very powers that can engender and enculturate a pattern of thinking that resists any other forces that would fight against these forces of sin and death. Liberation and sanctification promotes a novel experiences of life, (but one that is not a pretense for egocentricity and abuse but one centered around the love for God and for people) which had been previously been unconsciously controlled through the insidious power of ideology steaming from reasoning influenced by perceived dangers; this liberation and sanctification can be construed and labeled by others as bearing some resemblance to the obvious sins and errors and injustices as the past based upon surface, or even imagined, resemblances. Both Jesus and the early Christian movement were routinely classified as politically revolutionary and rebellious, seeking to try to overturn the political order, when in fact God was working through His Son and then the Body of Christ to bring forth the realization of His power and love, to order life on the earth in accordance to the will of heaven by God’s earthly presence, regardless of whether that would ultimately include or exclude Roman power depending on how it fulfilled
To summarize, ideologies are more than simply a prevailing set of thoughts and values, but they exhibit a rigidifying control of thinking that can control perception of life events without necessarily any intentionality on the behalf of anyone. The early Christian movement, particuarly as lead by Paul, exhibited a resistance to this ideology and the way it influenced behavior and thinking, but this was not in the name of some direct resistance of Empire but rather with the goal of seeing the glory of God in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit come to and fill the entire earth. Ideology was resisted so that people could be free to come to realize and embody the good life in both their action and thinking that God intended for them and all of creation.
In other words, ideological resistance, new patterns of thinking, and struggles against sin were all instrumental parts of the early Christian movement, but these are not themselves core values that defined the ultimate purpose of believers. Being counter-cultural apart from conformity to Christ is of no value. New patterns of thinking apart from the transformation of the Spirit is of no value. Struggling against some bad actions without living a life pleasing to God is of no value. But rather, the calling from God to journey on the path laid out by Christ through the leading of the Holy Spirit brings the resistance of ideology and the controlling strangleholds it has on behavior and thinking into orbit as necessary for the specific goal of seeing the powers of heaven realized on earth in the believer’s lives.