Yesterday’s post was revealing. The reaction in the comments and on twitter/FB display IMO the power of the prevailing ideology in our society and how deep it runs. By and large the conversation was great and civil. But you could see how questioning the ideology was so disturbing that people couldn’t respond to the arguments themselves. Indeed, so many of the questions in response to the post could only be asked from within the ideology. Both sides, conservative, progressive, fundamentalist or liberal, Neo-Reformed or Emergent (or whatever labels you want to use) got testy. In some cases I got called names like “fundy,” liar and bigot. When an ideology gets poked, Zizek taught me, strange excessive outbursts of emotion should be expected.
This ideology is so NOT gay. By putting it that way I’m trying to emphasize this ideology runs across the entire gamut of every sexual area of human life, from the way we view movies, go to therapy, get married. It has little to do with LGBTQ issues of the church. And yet it is rarely questioned, because to do so is to open up a can of worms and an onslaught of emotion none of us really has the time for.
This ideology says that sex is primarily for personal satisfaction, the expression of intimacy. This is at the core what it means to be human. Sex is the meaning of life. Sexual expression is innate and immediate taking no formation. It says desire is what it is. It is largely determined by biology and it is meant to be fulfilled. Science teaches us this and we do not ever distrust science. We have a whole entire society that runs on this ideology. It drives our advertising. It under girds the ways we engage in healing, medical practice, psychology, marital counseling etc. etc. The culture industries including televison and cinema rarely engage and explore the adequacy of this account of things. Instead they play on it, use it to sell tickets. It undergirds the massive addictions of our time including pornography and the inability to stay married to one spouse that is basically now a given in our society. The entire capitalist economy, one might say, runs on this. Question it and the economy will fall.
I suspect the way this ideology forms us (as Foucault taught me) is unconscious. Its shaping is so part of our subjectivity, we believe it is our own. It is so deep that the mere thought of celibacy is viewed with horror. No rationality can address this. I remember trying to convince people NOT to buy a house in 2005, 2006. No matter how rational my arguments, the desire and feelings and fulfillment associated with owning a home was too great. As we discovered, no one really owned their own home, the banks did. And many of us were screwed. Thus is the power of an ideology.
Yet can anyone deny that the core Christian convictions, our very Story in Christ, denies some if not much (but not all) of this ideology? Is not self denial the core of entry into the Kingdom? Is not “submission” (another dirty word in this ideology) to God and His Kingdom what makes the Kingdom? Are we not asked to pick up our cross and follow Jesus? Is not mortification, the dying to one’s self and “the flesh” at the core of God’s program into new life? Does it not begin here from which incredible resurrection flows? As Bonheoffer said, “When Christ calls a man (or woman), he bids him (or her) come and die.” Can anyone deny this?
In yesterday’s post, I was advocating the church as the location for making open a space beyond the ideology, a space that “makes way” for the Kingdom: the birthing of new life in the world via the way of Jesus – the cross and the resuurection. I think we can do this. But as Zizek has made me so aware, we cannot confront ideologies straight on. You must make space, open up ruptures, open cracks under the space of the canopy where some new reality can be birthed. “But we don’t want a new reality!!” I hear some say. Well I’m ok with that. May all who want more of what they already have, who feel the existing ideology is great, be blessed in that. I refuse to judge. I don’t believe in coercion or forced conversion programs or anything else driven by coercion. This, I am 100% sure, is not the Kingdom. The Kingdom is offered as a gift. It is here for those of us who hunger for something else. It is not something I or you can predict or can control. All we can do, like John the Baptist, is prepare the way, make an opening for God. The church should be the space to do this.
So, thanks for the great conversations yesterday. We need to and shall (I’m sure) do more. Your comments and push back are welcome. I am sure I have missed some things (It is a blog post afterall). Tell me what I have missed :).
FYI: For those interested in more of this kind of theological/cultural engagement, join Deb Hirsch, Dallas Willard and me in the workshops at www.missioalliance.org conference in Wash DC in April. I think there’s only a few days to register for nice discount. Check out workshops on website.