Ideology: a set of beliefs, especially religious, philosophical or political beliefs on which people, parties or countries base their actions.
Ideologue: a person who zealously advocates an ideology with an uncompromising and dogmatic manner. Ideologues often employ questionable tactics to advance their positions because they believe the end justifies the means.
I am a recovering ideologue. Ideologues often colonize environments and justify the use of dubious means to accomplish results supporting their ideologies. Because of their passionate advocacy, they are willing to throw people under the bus to advance their causes. They are black and white in their thinking. You’re either with them or against them. There is no middle ground. They see categories, not people. They guard against looking into the faces of real people, knowing that might shed light on the hypocrisy of their ideological dogmas.
If you think I’m talking about someone you radically disagree with, you just might be an ideologue. Perhaps a little self-reflection is in order.
We must ask ourselves, In what ways am I willing to twist a theological position just to advance a cause I believe in? We must learn to read Scripture over and against ourselves instead of assuming the warnings are always directed at the other and not ourselves.
Having come out of a conservative background (both politically and theologically), Ironically, I find it hard not to be dismissive of the people who are like the person I used to be. My world is more expansive now. As my world of relationships has expanded, I naively assumed political and theological liberals would be kinder and more progressive. However, I’ve learned that all ideologues are the same. They want their way. They’re right; you’re wrong. If you think differently, you’re an enemy. They label and dismiss those who don’t agree with their positions.
Youth workers, don’t be ideologues! Our vocation is pastoral. See people as people, not issues. Be open to the Holy Spirit taking you places you assumed you would never go . I wonder if Jesus was initially uncomfortable hanging out with sinners. I wonder if Jesus was troubled with being constantly criticized by the religious elite for pushing against the prevailing positions of those ideologues. I wonder if we experience the same level of frustration he experienced when we shed our desire to be ideologues.
I’m not saying in any way that this means we should be wishy-washy or unconcerned with truth. I have no hesitation in saying I am Christian to the core, orthodox in the doctrines stated in our historic creeds. I believe Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man, born of the Virgin Mary, was crucified, died and was buried and that he arose, bodily, physically from the dead on the third day. For some, those beliefs make me an ideologue.
But I will not torch others. I do not feel the need to be the Holy Spirit and bring down judgment on those who have a different perspective than I do. I am committed to conversations and relationships with those I don’t agree with. I want to be open to learn from others. I seek first to understand. We can be people who disagree on important issues without demonizing one another. We can demonstrate theological, sociological and relational generosity to our students. I’m thrilled that more and more people are rejecting old categories like liberal and conservative or right and left and discovering new, more biblical ways to navigate difficult and complex issues.
If you are prone to be an ideologue, as I am, please take a few minutes and read what Paul says here in Romans 12:14-18. Let it sink in. Meditate on these words from the Lord.Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.