Ideology often trumps common sense. Common sense says that honey catches more flies than vinegar — being sweetly concerned about the interests and needs of others, will lead to a more fruitful and peaceful existence. But if you are acidic, competitive, slow to forget slights and always looking for a way to put others down, your life will be marked by sorrow and loss. Why do we choose the latter? As individuals and as congregations, we are often mired in destructive and painful thought systems, or to use an appropriate word, ideologies.
Reinhold Niebuhr writes, “Modern ministry is no easy proposition; for it is committed to the espousal of ideals… in direct conflict with the dominant interests and prejudices of contemporary civilization.” His immediate concern, when he wrote this in 1929, was the racial and ethnic discrimination that brewed conflict between the sweet message of the gospel and the ideological entrenchment of his Detroit parishioners.
He could be writing about the churches that I have served. He could be writing about the political polarization along party lines that is destroying the sweet fabric of our democracy. As I blog this, I am in prayer for a family member caught in the mental trap, or ideology, of addiction. He says, “I will have no friends if I stop hanging with those who do drugs.” The mind-system may kill him. I am also in prayer for our political leaders as they run to tear apart the current peace-process in the Middle East with their ideological swords.
This week I went out to photograph the spring crocus, realizing that I had only days to capture their fleeting beauty. As I knelt, prayer-like and close, I was mindful that I could easily crush the flowers I was seeking to capture with my careful photographic ideology. Ideology often tramples common sense.
If someone offers you
a way to peace,
don’t let old thinking