Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Life is not a football game.

So I've been doing a lot of musing over the Republican Wall in the American church. Not just because it hits some personal nerves, but because it's real. It's something that I and any liberal/minority friends run into while trying not to forsake connecting with Christian groups. It makes it easy for people like me who are either naturally introverted or have past church scars to just...walk away and try to do it on our own.

I can normally find some relief by spending some time checking out The Christian Left, but lately, even they have begun to counter the stereotyping, closed-mindedness and self-righteousness of the Right in kind...justifying it by pointing out the faults of their "enemies"...and there's the problem.

Life is not a football game. I'm not going to stop buying chicken or eat mor chikin just because someone says two things I happen to agree/disagree with.  We don't have teams. Seriously we don't. Having "teams" is the modern day example of struggling against flesh and blood...and this is definitely not limited to the church. I think it reflects a larger change affecting society as a whole that has, like so many other things, just waltzed its way ever so quietly into the midst of the Christian community. That whole Team Edward/Team Jacob deal? What happened to people just favoring one character over another? There wasn't a team Luke or team Team Gatsby/Team Nick...(I have to add that I watch Lucas, read Fitzgerald and do neither with Meyers...had to put that out there).

At what point did we lose such ownership of our own identities that we began to need an adversary to define who we were? That's the point of teams. Without the rest of the NFL, the Bears are just a bunch of guys wearing way too much clothing. Have we become so dull to the concept of shading that all encounters in life must be black or white? Based on what I see from the Christian Left and the religious right and every...person...out there measuring the state of their morality on their relationship with a chicken sandwich, I'm going to say yes.

...and I think I know why.

My management studies in biz school were pretty weak. Not surprising since my school specialized in finance and accounting, but it bes that way sometimes. There was one concept that grabbed me above the drone of my oversimplified organizational management class. Group Think. It's been blamed for everything from bad fashion choices to US forces ignoring warnings about the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. I want to get the effects of that out there so no one takes it lightly. This is more than just a difference of opinion or people being stubborn or sticking to their guns. There are real and serious side effects if behavior of group think is left unchecked and unchallenged.

It basically happens when people want cohesion and harmony SO badly within a group that they toss out personal desires, group well being, organizational mission statement and all forms of rational thought--all just to keep things happy.

This is why I think conservatives are more prone to group think...and I don't just mean Republicans. Some people are natural born conservatives...they might even vote Democrat, but at the end of the day, they just don't want things to change because change is the worst thing that can happen they're willing to risk the well being of themselves, their group, their country and their world, just for the sake of things not changing.  (On the other side of that spectrum are people who think change is inherently good...Chaos-mongers if you will, but that's a post for another day.)

So I did some fresh reading on group think to check out some of the situations that might lead to this rearing its ugly head.

  • Very stressful external threats
  • Recent failures
  • Difficulties in decision making
  • Moral dilemas
Between September 11th, the browning of America, global economic failures, convoluted electoral systems and questions over gun ownership, abortion and gay rights, the US is a hotbed for group think. I'd be shocked if it WEREN'T going on. The church in the US, with its regional focus, racial segregation, bias toward the married with children model and unified purpose is especially susceptible...homogeniety of social background and ideaology is one of the best fertilizers for it (moral of the story? Be selective, but shake up your peer group a little from time to time.) Still don't believe it's going on? Check out some symptoms:
  • Illusions of invulnerability: Belief that the US will stay the best country in the world regardless of slipping test scores, economic status, social mobility and everything else that laid the foundation for our country's greatness is pretty common
  • Unquestioned belief that outsiders are immoral/wrong: I'm personally picking up on a bit of the Chrstian Left's brand of group think. I hear "Right" and assume certain moral failings. 
  • Stereotyping outsiders: This is one of my main reasons for disliking terms like "Libs" "Repugnicans" "Obamabots" or the says more about the degradation of the user's critical thinking than it does about those being labeled.
  • Pressure to conform: all this drama over flag pins and Gabby Douglas' uniform not being patriotic enough (guess everybody forgot about Nastia in pink). 
  • Truthiness
So's going on left and right, contributes to the lack of effectiveness of the church and could lead to the end of the world. Is it preventable though? Are there remedies?

Of course, but the tricky thing about group think is that lazy leaders LOVE it (some even enough to actively feed it. I question any leader feeding an emotion like fear that grows just fine on its own). It makes their job so much easier. And guess do lazy followers. If rules and thoughts are clear and individuals have little responsibility, people who like to play it safe feel EXTRA safe. It turns organizations from slow, messy, beautiful masses of human diversity into huge, unthinking, easily controlled beasts. I left my last church because of group think that had gotten to the point where not even Biblical scripture could be used as a valid counter to the opinions and behaviors of the group. 

I consider myself pretty well insulated from group because I'm an introvert, but two because I like variety in people and keep myself surrounded by a decently broad spectrum of humanity. There is something that can drive me to it emotions. And mine are burning lately from years of previous and piles of current hurt I perceive as coming from the Christian Right. It is so, so easy to slip into the group think of the other side...they affirm what I believe! They accept me for who I am! They don't challenge my comfy little world! And ya know what...that's not their job. While I do think The Christian Left has a responsibility to not feed the group think beast, I also believe it's my job as an individual to prevent my being sucked in by not forgetting that even those on the right, are God's children, even if off base about many things. 

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