Several months ago I had the opportunity to attend a conference at the First Christian Reform Church here in Calgary. I was looking forward to attending as Brian McLaren was going to speak on his new book 'Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope'. Following the evenings events however, I found myself completely intrigued by the first speakers thought patterns and allegories to contemporary life. Bob Goudzwaard is professor emeritus, at the Free University in Amsterdam. He was elected to the Dutch Parliament in the 1970's and served for a time in a Christian policy research institute in The Hague. He is the author of numerous books including 'Capitalism and Progress: A Diagnosis of Western Society' and 'Hope in Troubled Times: A New Vision for Confronting Global Crises'. It was the latter of these two books which I picked up that evening in the hopes of getting deeper into his thoughts and principles.
'Hope in Troubled' Times was a fascinating book into the needs and concerns for Global action and is packed full with conceptual pictures leading to rich and dynamic dialogues. That said, Bob Goudzwaard spends a great deal of time unpacking the patterns in which ideological practices have influenced the way we approach the many issues which confront human values and social constructs. Although not directly stating it in his writing, I could not help but make the connections of ideological patterns and the Christian Church.
Before delving into these thoughts though I think it should be appropriate for me to give a bit of a disclaimer. I am by no means an expert on ideologies or the history of the Christian Church. In honesty, I do not consider myself to be highly schooled or educated in these matters either. Many of these thoughts to which I share here are more rather an exploration of my own personal nature and relationship with the church and the desire to be authentic in the discipleship of Jesus and his followers. Please do not consider them authoritative by any measure!
With this in mind here are Bob Goudzwaard's six elements to Ideology with my reflections to the Christian Church:
"The first phase of each full fledged modern ideology is conception. In the conception phase, the conviction develops that a radical change or intervention is required. Certain concepts and ideas demand different, perhaps more offensive, content. People begin to reflect on the end they wish to attain, and they weigh the strategic and tactical means needed for reaching the end. In the conception phase more and more people accept the idea that a specific concrete goal must be achieved at all costs...
"... Using the distortion of reigning norms and values, the ideology recruits disciples, and the critical moment arrives for potentially successful action. The highly charged, explosive moment for setting the ideology in motion has crystallized."
It is hard to imagine the state of unrest which most Hebrew Israelites would have been experiencing several thousand years ago as Caesar and the Roman Empire brought "peace" to the world through there military occupation and rulership in Palestine. Seeing daily reminders of the cost to that peace through the crucifixion of thousands of their people would no doubt scream for social, political, and cultural reform. Most assuredly against Roman and Greek Hellenism.
It seems interesting that many of the conceptions of that reform took many different view points within Jewish beliefs and hopes. Despite the strong calling of worshiping one God the Pharisee's believed a Messiah would come providing that social reform happened within the Jewish community itself to a state of perceived moral perfection. The Zealots wanted reform through the over throw of Roman occupation; typically through violent confrontation. While others, such as the Essenes chose to withdraw from society all together as they created social communities out in the dessert country side free from the influences of the outer world's contact. I can imagine sitting in the living room floor or at the kitchen table of a first century Jewish home and listening to the debate along with any combination of these needs and desires for social revolt and reformation.
In my own thoughts I think of the groups today who similarly resemble these first century factions. Ideologically many in the Christian church today believe there is a need to return to a specific moral code. That code is often determined by a world view which pictures the past, particularly the 1950's and 60's as an ideal moral state for social progress. Ironically this seems similar to the Pharisee's of the first century. Amish have tended to segregate themselves from the social world believing it to be corrupt and enslaved to consumerist patterns (perhaps in some ways being right) which also is similar to the Essenes.
In some ways I can't help but wonder about the Missional and Emergent groups which in essence are also attempts to conceive a "Kingdom" or church which is culturally relevant and centered on God's Missio Dei. My own draw is for this reform in a holistic pattern also. The missional stand point is for the need of the Christian church to find greater roots in the way Jesus first conceived the essence of God's Kingdom here on earth and the way he found Lordship over the hearts and minds of those who would follow him.
Jesus' conception of God's Kingdom and the implications of its social, moral, political, and cultural reformations seem to be eternal in nature so as to be relevant in all spaces and time. With that in mind, how then do we protect missional and emerging practices of that kingdom from becoming ideological themselves or influenced by social, political, and/or cultural bias's?