Idolatry of Ideology
Ideology, noun 1. a system of ideas and ideals, especially one which forms the basis of economic or political theory and policy.
Each of us has an ideology, one that has been constructed over the years by what we have been taught, what we have experienced, and what we wish for. It may have gone through significant changes over time: deconstructions and renewals, often by discoveries of faith, enlightenment, relationships, joys or sorrows. As one gets older, our ideology tends to become more solid, even rigid, either by standing the tests of time, or by fear, willful ignorance or weariness.
It is difficult to remain childlike in our awe of what we experience day to day. We can become jaded, cynical, angry and suspicious of any new evidence that challenges what we believe to be true. In times of crisis, whether on a personal or societal level, human nature tends to seek security by holding fast to an ideology, especially if we perceive it is under attack. We become defensive, argumentative, stubborn and unrelenting. We become susceptible to what appears to have become the devil's present-day attack: the idolatry of ideology.
“Every ideology is based on taking something out of creation’s totality, raising it above that creation, and making the latter revolve around and serve it. It is further based on the assumption that this idol has the capacity to save us from some real or perceived evil in the world.” Political Visions & Illusions: A Survey and Christian Critique of Contemporary Ideologies by David T. Koyzis.
The idolatry of ideology can take movements of the Spirit and turn them into dogma; experiences of enlightenment into legalism; victories won into systems of oppression. To have a winner means there must be a loser. To stay on top, someone must remain on the bottom. Once we have something we value, we create elaborate structures to hold onto it, even if we are not fully aware that we are doing so.
The Black Lives Matter movement, like any cry against prolonged injustice, challenges the way we see the world, the systems that we have built, and the ideologies that we hold onto, and may even worship. Much like the water where goldfish swim, we are surrounded by it, ingest it, and contribute to it everyday, often without being aware of it. The response must be more than just awareness, sadness or shame; it must be followed by intentional choices to change the filter. It is disheartening and tragic when we discover that the water that sustains us, and may even favor some of us, is killing others. In truth, it is actually killing all of us.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776
It is July 5th...now we must admit the beautiful ideals at the foundation of our country have never held true for millions of our citizens. “Until we are all free, we are none of us free.” (Emma Lazarus)
‘But to what will I compare this generation?
It is like children sitting in the market-places and calling to one another,
“We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we wailed, and you did not mourn.”
As Christians, this requires that we denounce any idolatry to ideology, whether liberal or conservative, traditional or radical. We must turn back to our God, to listen, learn, heed and obey. We must become children again, open to and in awe of what our Lord is up to. We must learn to again dance and mourn.
“The church must suffer for speaking the truth, for pointing out sin, for uprooting sin. No one wants to have a sore spot touched, and therefore a society with so many sores twitches when someone has the courage to touch it and say: “You have to treat that. You have to get rid of that. Believe in Christ. Be converted.”
― Oscar A. Romero, The Violence of Love