- Theology is a set of beliefs regarding the relationship between human beings, the universe, and deity.
- Ideology is the system of ideas surrounding any subject from politics and the environment to unions and religion.
- Theology is what people think about the universe and deity.
- Ideology is how people think about what they think.
|Actually, this is a Chinese depiction of|
|Jesus and the rich young man.|
- Theology is about inner systems that lead to behavior/action/culture.
- Ideology is about how people talk--their rhetoric about what they say they believe.
I imagine a daughter who says, "I'll give you two hours," then shows up and works for two hours. What astonishes me is how often this solution upsets people. It isn't so much that they want the worker to be the first son--that would make a kind of sense. It is that they want the worker to TALK like the second son.
When Jesus compares the two sons, he is comparing theology to ideology. The first son, Job-like, grapples with what he wants to do and whether he wants to do it and maybe even why--and then does it. The second son says all the right stuff but doesn't bother to show up.
The daughter that I imagined also behaves in accordance with theology; she says, "This is exactly what I believe and this is what I mean to do based on what I believe."
In all scenarios, including Jesus's, the reasoning matters (how a person thinks) while the behavior matters more. And in all scenarios, especially Jesus's, the rhetoric (ideology) by itself is deemed meaningless. Who really cares what someone is saying if the saying is simply a bunch of "right" words?
|Bumper stickers are all about ideology.|
Generally speaking, I dislike doomsdaying rhetoric: arguing that the "end is nigh" and blaming that "end" on the corruptive nature of atheists, fundamentalists, liberals or Republicans. In addition, I try to abstain from hysterical language regarding the so-called moral turpitude of the above groups, Hollywood, secular entertainment, television, etc. etc. etc.
The people who rely on such rhetoric often fall back on the moral obligation to CHOOSE a position. In religious terms, this is the "a man with two masters got spewed out of God's mouth" mental framework (and if you think secular, non-religious people never use this language, try talking to, oh, anybody with an axe to grind).
This perspective entirely misses Jesus's point--it is trying to SERVE two masters that causes problems. It is actually impossible to help your dad in his vineyard while you are at the movies watching The Hobbit, which is why the daughter measures out her time (and Hermione gets a time travel device to take more classes). Trying to protect one's career in Hollywood while testifying before a Congressional committee ultimately leads to deep tensions within a person's soul (it can also produce great art, but that's another post for another time).
The point: decisions based on what one believes ultimately lead to actions that serve a particular master, even if that master is oneself. Using rhetoric to argue in favor of a particular master is NOT indicative of an actual position; it is simply indicative of the capacity to argue. For instance . . .
- Claiming that people who use language that favors evolution are anti-God is not in fact a theological position; it is an ideological one.
- Likewise, claiming that "good" people only vote for politicians who preach about "women's rights" is more about ideology than finding a suitable candidate.
- Claiming that a religious person should be upset by all the "filth" coming out of Hollywood is an ideological stance.
- Stating that everyone who really "cares about our planet" would blame climate change on man-made causes is about as ideological as one can get (especially since I used "climate change" rather than "global warming").
- Claiming that a religious person should not steal from his or her employee is an obvious if sometimes challenging (does that include pens?) moral position that ultimately comes down to theology (although the argument itself is behavioral).
- Likewise, claiming that people who worship God people should never vote for anyone who is pro-abortion is an extreme (in my view), highly problematic position in an imperfect world, yet it is in fact moral rather than ideological.
Why: A great many religious and philosophical disciplines rest on the proposition that humans will, if they are not careful, slide back into the mud. Call it the natural man, original sin, the id (and ego), Paglia's dangerous nature, or Stephen King's hungry alligators, what we call civilization--including art, religion, and social order--keeps us reasonably kind and reasonably sane and reasonably able to feed ourselves and others.
I tend to be more optimistic, seeing the physical experience as a gift rather than an experience fraught with incipient dangers. But I cannot deny that I live in a reasonably kind, sane, and safe world. I am the recipient of civilization. And in a bid to keep it going, I credit the separation of emotion/belief from action. We feel/we think--that does not mean we should automatically act. How I carry out my rage or love or confusion or distaste or pleasure relies on a moment by moment series of challenging choices.
In the tension between "real things did really happen" and "but every human has a subjective experience," I present problem-solving as the answer.
Humans are remarkably capable--when they choose to be--at problem-solving. They take context, personalities, beliefs, past experience, and future needs into account. I'm not saying that every time we express ourselves, we actively think, "Ah, I am now sorting through all the variables!" Truth: the brain is quite ready and willing to sort through these variables on a continual basis. It wants us to survive.
|I don't actually believe this--but it's better than the usual|
|type of bumper sticker.|
So I don't respond the same way to the police officer who stops my car as I would to my boyfriend or my best friend. I don't speak to a co-worker the same way I speak to my cats (arguably the entire world would be nicer and easier to manage if I did . . . but no). I don't (usually) start arguments in situations that could hurt me later. And I do try to remember to say, "Thank you" when I know it might please the other person and also to convey something of my inward feelings.
The point is, the brain is geared to do this. Consequently, I argued in a prior post for the need to maintain different methodologies/understandings in one's head at the same time. The more tools I have at my disposal, the more likely I am to problem-solve intelligently. Or at least in my best interest. At most to a moral end.
Problem-solving eschews rhetoric.
To shortchanged this operation--to throw out problem-solving in the belief that an ideological stance is enough to ensure moral behavior--is, in my mind, highly immoral. To substitute, "Okay, in this situation, how do I handle this particular issue/disagreement/event/person?" with "But this is the way I talk about the bad people" indicates a loss of integrity.
Ideology is the refuge of debate without soul.
And yes, that's simply a nice piece of rhetoric :)