Ideology is Good
You can learn a lot about a culture by looking at how it’s language developed. Take Latin as an example. It’s got something like 38 different words for “kill” (that’s a rough unscientific estimate…from my head). Kill in war. Kill in battle. Kill in a duel. Kill a stranger. Kill your brother. Kill your mother. Kill a baby. Kill a schmaby. That’s because they did a lot of killing.
We’ve got our own issues with that. Do you know how many different words we have for things like “mad”? Angry, frustrated, resentful, livid, exercised, agitated, irritated, wrathful, heated, ticked, peeved, P.O’d…. Or sad: depressed, downtrodden, distraught, distressed, grieved…. Emotion is clearly one of our big concerns.
But in the last couple of generations we’ve begun to accumulate – or at least convert – a lot of derogatory terms for “strong-willed”. Rigid, dogmatic, doctrinary…. I can’t remember where I was reading today, but there was a comment on the post that used a phrase that is becoming utterly ridiculous: “ideologically driven”.
What should we be driven by?
The phrase was used in reference to the stances of some churches on California’s Prop 8. I myself think churches should have voted “present”, since it worked out so well for the President. But they didn’t hear me when I said it. Oh, well. But this commenter was clearly upset (another word for angry? or sad?) about the “ideology” that drove the church leaders to take the path that they did.
And the term has been used so, so much over the last 6 years or so that I think everyone has forgotten what it means. Kind of like when you say “murmur” over and over. Or “inconceivable“. So let’s revisit.
The word “ideology” comes from the word “idea” and is closely associated with “ideal” (the noun, not the adjective). An ideal is a single idea, but an ideology is a system of ideals. You could call them beliefs, principles, precepts, whatever; they come down to the same concept. Your ideology is what you shape your life around. It is the center of your worldview.
We all view the world through rose (or manure) colored glasses. Those glasses are our ideology. We can only comprehend the meaning of what is if we have internalized a concept of what should be. Those are our ideals. They come together to form our ideology.
That’s why the term “ideologically driven” is so preposterous. Of course those churches are ideologically driven. We all are, because we all have ideals that make up a worldview. The man who isn’t is simply adrift, unanchored to anything, real or imagined. He is a dinghy in an ocean storm. Those who have ideals and a worldview but aren’t driven by it are simply spineless. You decide which is worse.
This is just a way of saying that someone is inflexible, and closed to debate. But the person saying it is pulling a fast one. I’m not inflexible and closed-minded. I just disagree with you. Do I call you such things for disagreeing with me? I might, but I won’t pretend that I’m anything different.
Ideology is a good thing. Why has the Constitution lasted so long? Because it’s writers were so ideologically driven that they drafted a document that made it nearly impossible for people 250 years down the line to subvert their ideals. Why do federal judges get lifetime appointments? So that they can feel free to exercise their consciences (ideals).
When ideology becomes “ideology”
Ideology only becomes a bad thing when it opposes your own, and the opponent isn’t coy about it. We heard a lot about President Bush’s ideology, because it clashed with the prevailing ideals of the media. But we won’t hear much about the ‘ideology” of President Obama.
But let’s look at this for a second. President Bush may have been open about his ideological stance, but he was no more firm or “unyielding” than the current President. Obama is a liberal. He believes in increasing government spending, taxes on the wealthy, and social programs for the unwealthy. Effectively transferring money directly from top to bottom. He also believes in most of the liberal social policies, most notably abortion on demand (also known as “reproductive freedom”).
You only have to be willing to look at his decisions with the sound off. He speaks about wanting to decrease the number of abortions, while expressing a desire to remove any and all restrictions on abortion. He has argued in favor of allowing infants who survive attempted murd…sorry “abortion” being left to die unattended. He has complained repeatedly about the deficit he inherited (a legitimate claim up to about 1.1 trillion), while seeking to increase it. He’s talked about “sacrifice” and the wealthy paying a little more to help out the unwealthy, while giving less than 1% of his 7-figure income to charity. His ideology is plain.
This isn’t a rant against Obama. It’s against this silly attempt to paint ideology as a negative. We want people to be ideologically driven. What’s the alternative? Politicians who govern based on the latest focus group or CBS poll. Citizens who do whatever keeps them from discomfort and adds to their immediate happiness. Pastors who teach whatever’s popular at the time.
We have too many of those people already. What we need, particularly as the Church, is to demonstrate ideology that heals instead of hurts. One that loves rather than hates. One that speaks the truth.
That ideology won’t always be what’s popular. You’ll often have to start the healing process with pain. Recovery from surgery often hurts more than the injury. You’ll often have to show love by telling someone they’re wrong. That can look a lot like hate. And sometimes, you’ll have to honor the truth by causing division. But the result is an ability to hold stronger to the truth.
We have too many people throwing around too many words without realizing that they are describing themselves. And when “ideology” gets old, and people stop being so moved by it, they’ll come up with a new one. I guess it’s no surprise we’ve got so many terms for “crazy”.