Ideology or Idolatry?

idolschooseyou

Today’s readings:
Psalms 104; 149, Isaiah (42:18-25) 43:1-13, Ephesians 3:14-21, Mark 2:23-3:6


Ideology is a sneaky devil. When we are born into one, we usually don’t even think of it as an ideology, but simply as the way things are – or should be. For example, capitalism is the dominant economic ideology of the western world. We talk about it as though it is an actual entity, but in truth it is a collective agreement to adhere to a set of principles. No one still living was party to the original “agreement,” but centuries later we all (for the most part) continue to operate under its rules.

As with any ideology, over time there has been a subtle but consistent shift of how we think about it: those who originally adopted the principles did so to serve society; today we consider those principles essential to our identity, and often behave as though society exists to serve them.

Unadulterated capitalism – like any economic theory – is neither practical nor, in the long term, beneficial so we have tempered it with some socialist practices, yet we can’t even bring ourselves to call them that. To sustain an ideology we must turn a blind eye to its faults, often at our own peril.

In many Gospel stories, Jesus rejected cultural ideology in order to serve humanity. After he plucked grain and healed a man on the Sabbath, in violation of Hebrew ideology, the Pharisees started conspiring to destroy him. His admonition that “the Sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the Sabbath” did not move them. Jesus knew that their ideology had become idolatry: they placed the letter of the scripture above the intent of God.

What ideologies have we turned into idolatries? The Pharisees were certain of their rigid interpretation of scripture. Should we be as sure of our own? Have we ever defended or attacked an idea simply because the “other side” criticized or promoted it? The worst examples may be when we let political, religious, and economic ideologies blend into an unexamined hodgepodge that corrupts faith into an excuse to neglect and abuse our fellow humans.

When we are most sure of our ideologies, we are least able to consider them wisely, so they are the most dangerous. Wisdom tells us mercy trumps idolatrous laws. By example Christ teaches us to examine them and use them to serve, not to blindly bend to them. God trusts us to think. Let’s trust God enough to do so.

Comfort: It’s perfectly acceptable to question what you’ve been taught to believe.

Challenge: Ask questions.

Prayer: God of truth and mercy, I will serve the law of love and the gospel of peace. Amen.

Discussion: Some people assume questioning something will lead to rejecting it. How do you feel about that?

Join the discussion! If you enjoyed this post, feel free to join an extended discussion as part of the C+C Facebook group. You’ll  have the opportunity to share your thoughts with some lovely people. Or feel free to comment here on WordPress, or even re-blog – the more the merrier!

Common Ground

leanleftright

Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 98; 146, Leviticus 26:1-20, 1 Timothy 2:1-6, Matthew 13:18-23


Politically speaking, Christians are all over the map. Conservative, moderate, or progressive, we all believe the principles of our faith inform our decisions about how to vote. How can it be we vary so widely? The Southern Baptist Convention and the United Church of Christ read the same Bible, but arrive at very different conclusions about gay marriage. Jimmy Carter and Mike Huckabee are famously Christian, but agree on little when it comes to the moral implications of federal budget making. These organizations and people are passionate about their faith, but understand it in very different ways. How should we respond to such a polarizing environment?

If we are to find common ground, we need to start from the ground up, rather than the top down. For example, both conservative and progressive Christians should want to address poverty, since Christ tells us to take care of the poor and the sick. One side endorses a free market solution, while the other relies more heavily on social programs. Both approaches could benefit from insights of the other, but in the top-down scuffle to impose ideology on actual lives, the poor are treated more like turf than people. Whatever end of the spectrum we fall on, Christianity is not about winning, it is about serving, and the tribalism of politics make us lose sight of that.

The first letter to Timothy advises believers “that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity.” When it comes to modern politics, “dignity” doesn’t exactly spring to mind. In a culture where winners say “respect the office” and losers claim “the officeholder is illegitimate,” the message remains revolutionary.

Even when a candidate we despise wins office, we should pray for them to be successful in serving the people well. Our actions in the public sphere should reflect a humility to serve, not the viciousness of campaign rhetoric. Christians have always disagreed. Our role is to model how to disagree with love.

Comfort: Standing up for your beliefs doesn’t have to mean alienating those who believe differently.

Challenge: Spend some time listening to or watching conservative or liberal radio or television – whichever one you tend not to agree with. Do so with an intent of discovering common ground.

Prayer: God of diversity, help me hear truth, even when it is spoken by those I am inclined to disagree with. Amen.

Discussion: Do you extend a fist or an handshake to those who disagree with  you?

Join the discussion! If you enjoyed this post, feel free to join an extended discussion as part of the C+C Facebook group. You’ll be notified of new posts through FB, and have the opportunity to share your thoughts with some lovely people.