If anyone wants my new slogan for the new year, the title of this entry I find very fitting. If I have a New Year's Resolution (which I really don't because I think every day should be at least some exercise in self-reflection and improvement) than this would be it. To spend everyday loving others regardless of their ideology. Now some people may have read my posts and feel that I do an unfair amount of bashing of conservative religious principles in my posts. I will admit in the past I have been very hard on conservative religious principles because of my bad experience with this kind of religion and my interactions with certain people. However, what I am coming to realize more and more is that the problem of ideology and hurting people because of difference is not just a conservative problem, though conservatism is a powerful social example of an ideologically driven dividing of people. So I want to extend this apology, and then explore more about how ideology is a problem for many people.
In relationships, the most basic form of ideology is seen in the clique. A clique is a group of people who come together who have common interests and beliefs. However, a clique is also defined by the closed-off nature of the group. In other words, cliques are ideologically driven groups of people. Now whether the ideology is theater, dance, athletics, drama, or faith-based, these groups can become closed off to others. There are two main possibilities (and a mix of the two) that enable cliques to be formed. First, the structure of a system can divide individuals from each other, and second, individuals in a group choose to divide themselves from everyone else. The structure can divide individuals because it can favor certain cliques over others because of skills that are seen as more valuable to society. People in entertainment cliques (athletics, dance, etc.) have this temptation because of how highly our religion and society value entertainment. Also, individuals in certain cliques can choose to divide themselves from others because they don't like the attitudes or values of a particular group of people. This happens in most cliques, because people can come together around a common enemy easier. These cliques are also encouraged by society, because when people are divided, people do not experience the Other, and thus have a much smaller focal point to grow. Also, when people are divided, they are easier to control. Of course, this is more of a correlation of the effects of individualism than anything conspiratorial.
The reason people form ideological cliques is because it has a lot of benefits. Most particularly the clique is comfortable. People are gathered together with others who will affirm their worldview and stand together against other people who are not like them. It is also how we are taught to make friends, we must find people who share our values and connect with them, as they will affirm our values and then we will create a better world. But there's one severe problem with this methodology, particularly enlightened my postmodern thought. No two people think alike. This precise problem is exactly why cliques fall apart and for the most part do not withstand the test of time, as interests change even the people in the clique have subtle differences that divide the clique from each other as difference was never talked about or discussed. This ideological method of building friendships also creates a meta-narrative problem. In a world of cliques, where everyone feels their ideology has the best narrative to fix all religious, societal, and existential problems, there is continual competition for people to have the best meta-narrative, and thus the best ideology. When in reality, the only way to have the best meta-narrative, is to be willing to lose your overarching story and privilege the other, because it is in this way that we connect to others, and have a real connection.
To speak in strictly religious terms for a moment, the Catholic Church has a major problem of ideology right now, and it affects the majority of people involved with the Church. The "liberals" hate the "conservatives" and the "traditional Catholics" think the "progressives" are driving the Church to hell. In reality, this back and forth just submits itself to the same problems the American two-party political system does. Both sides complain about the other, when in all reality both sides are really working together and are not as different as one might think. They only appear different in order to preserve the status quo which is in place. The Catholic Church is similar in many ways, because the problems which are at the forefront are not dealt with because we spend so much of our time building a new ritual narrative that will deprogram bad religion and program what we see as the true religion. There is very little sense of unity in diversity, and a good portion of that is because of their demarcating line of faith. When faith is defined by obedience to sexual teaching and authority, it creates an identity which is not dynamic. The problem with an identity that's not dynamic is that a) it is inconsistent with our experience as human persons, because human persons change and develop because of personal, societal, and interactive influences. In other words, human identity is dynamic in itself, so to proclaim a demarcating line of faith that's not dynamic is inconsistent with how humans build identity in anything. (It's also the same problem that results in the clique). b) an nondynamic identity is inconsistent with its own theology, particularly Trinitarian theology. If the Catholic Church believes in the Trinity, then having a nondynamic demarcating line of faith is a horrible disconnect from the Revelation of God in the Trinity. Good relationships require a dynamism as people change over time. The Trinity as three relating persons who have unity (e.g. one God) then model what it means to have a relationship that develops and grows over time, but yet remains the same, remains a relationship whole in itself, yet constantly growing (or more strictly put, constantly being more revealed through the events of history.)
Now that we have seen the problems of ideology, we can think about solutions. The major solution is that in relationships we need something else besides ideology. Ideology is one of the major problems in relationships as it feeds into human fears about the other. We as people need to be able to transcend our differences and spend time truly engaging the experience of others whom we encounter. In other words, we need a sense of dynamic relationship to replace our ideologically driven sense of friendship. Namely, we need love. We need the fullest love of the other to replace our ideologically-driven ideas of friendship and connectivity.
Where do we find this fullest love in the American context? The Catholic Church. As many problems as the Catholic Church has, it is the only real solution to engaging the problems of an ideologically driven community building. The weakness of Protestantism is that is can splinter among itself because of differences in the community. Protestantism overvalues diversity in the sense that it struggles to find ways of connecting people who think differently. This temptation is increased when people can start a new congregation because of differences in thought. Other religions might be more beneficial in other parts of the world, but the amount of influence Christianity has in America cannot be understated and thus it becomes a necessary part of a solution. Now the Catholic Church has issues to creating an environment of fullest love. In particular, the recent drive toward unity and discrediting diversity is extremely dangerous. This is what drives Catholicism to follow a similar path to our Protestant brothers and sisters. Our solution... we, Catholics in particular, but this invitation also goes to people of good will that want real social change, need to stand up and fight the authority that tries to overvalue unity. Our unity can only exist to serve the diverse needs of our neighbors. If our unity is not doing that, then we become the greatest failing and greatest cause of division and discord in society. And I talk about Catholicism, because I have hope for what the Church can do in the future to promote a deeper love among people. Sad to say, I don't have much hope for much of the Protestant world because of how easily it splinters and how most Protestantism becomes too entrenched in political affairs. (e.g. the Westboro Baptist Church being against homosexuality and using that as a political platform to protest the military, and the Amish as being separatist from society as they fear what technology and convenience does to the person to isolate them from community. Even if both of these groups have valid points or something to add to a conversation, their tactics of separation increase the difficulty for people to participate in a real conversation for changing society as they are distancing themselves from society.)
I give Catholics a lot of responsibility in writing these words. It's our time to make change. It's our time to let love be stronger than ideology. We have the resources to do this in our mystical and Patristic traditions, particularly looking at later works of mystical theology which see grace in all sorts of interactions with the world (cf Rahner's Spirit in the World, etc), and at Patristic Theology which sought to teach Catholicism in a world filled with Roman and Greek influence, and it incorporated a lot of Greek and Roman concepts to make Catholicism intelligible. (Also, it's the same reason why we have some of the problems we do now, as Revelation has shown us problems with Greek and Roman ways of thinking and we have not adapted to the issues presented by dualistic and Gnostic influences in Catholicism.) We can bring the people together if our faith brings us to a place where love is greater than ideology. Until we do this, we will never bring any sense of peace to our broken world, but we will only continue to participate in it.
To begin this change, we have to engage people's real needs and daily lives. We have to be the people who really ask how others are doing. We have to ask if others are satisfied with their lives and push those close to us to be all they can be. Part of engaging in dynamic relationships is to encounter the other in the daily context of life and letting needs come forth as they are. There are days when people will need touch, and there are days when people will need others to keep a distance so they can reflect. The realness of dynamic relationships is that we need to be open to what others need, and trust that others will come to meet our needs and be open to us as well. Building a community that can do that will open the potential for much needed change to happen, as people will see the experience of the other through their symbols, and be challenged by her experience. If people respond authentically to this challenge and meeting the other's needs, then and only then, will we overcome structures which seek to divide people from each other.