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2010-01-08

What's An Ideology

This brief blog entry is meant to serve as the beginning of what will hopefully become a larger group of blogs. My aim is to consider how various aspects of our Western culture impact / affect our calling as Christians to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt 22:39), particularly as it relates to questions of Social Justice. All I'm hoping to do in this first blog is to consider the way ideology shapes how we live.

What drives human activity? Why do we do the things we do? I know that's an enormous question, the scope of which is far bigger than I shall even begin to adequately consider here. I want to suggest that the following, oversimplified causal diagram holds true as a general description of the “engine” of human activity.
         Beliefs->Ideologies->Human Actions

At the most foundational level, an individual's actions have their origins in the beliefs that person holds. What I mean by this is that what an individual believes about the big questions of existence: is there a God or is there not? Is life merely a chance coincidence? Is there such thing as universal truth or merely subjective opinion? etc. provide the very bottom layer of the structure which ultimately produces human action.

Next, proceeding from or built upon beliefs are ideologies. Dictionary.com defines “Ideology” as “the body of doctrine, myth, belief, etc., that guides an individual, social movement, institution, class, or large group.”1 An ideology is therefore more or less synonymous with “worldview,” in that it is “The overall perspective from which one sees and interprets the world.”2 An ideology is basically a matrix of ideas, opinions and perspectives which proceeds forth from our beliefs and which we ultimately use to shape our intentions, actions and responses to the situations we find ourselves in. Indeed it could be said that ideologies form the linkage between our beliefs and our actions.

At least, this is the way things should work. Ideally all of our actions would be consistent with our ideologies and all of our ideologies would flow naturally from our beliefs. Unfortunately this is not the case. Obviously humans do not always act in ways which are consistent with our ideologies, nor do our ideologies always flow appropriately from our core beliefs.

This tendency toward inconsistency, however, is not my subject. Indeed, what I'm going to argue over the next few blogs does not focus on belief (ie: Christian or non Christian) or even actions (ie: consistent or inconsistent), though of course beliefs and actions will be referenced when needed. Rather, I want to explore how ideologies relate to and impact Social Justice.

I'm doing this because in several recent conversations with people who are somewhat hesitant about working for Social Justice, much of their confusion and resistance seems to result from ideological confusion. There are many competing ways to think about ourselves and our place in our world. While some ideologies can coexist just fine, not all worldviews are implicitly harmonious. That's basically a fancy way of saying that sometimes there will be conflicts between various ideologies we could adopt and choose to shape our actions with. Whenever there is strong conflict between ideologies, individuals must make a decision about which potential ideology will have priority—we must determine which ideology we will ultimately allow to shape our actions.

Specifically, over the next few weeks I hope to build on this blog to consider how ideological confusion can hinder the good and necessary work in areas of Creation Degradation and Economic Inequality.

1)http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/ideology
2)http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/worldview





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