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Ideology Sweaters

Someone I’ve looked up to for a decade of my life deleted me off all their social media last month. They deleted me, and others, for many reasons but one was that they did not want anyone in their social media sphere who could poke holes in their narrative. And the sad realization is that their narrative is far more important to them than we are or ever were.

As I venture further and further into adulthood, it becomes clearer and clearer that adults aren’t always the adults I think that they are. It also becomes clearer that the delicate preservation of many people’s personal narratives is far more important than the actual people around them.

We are an ideology-based people. We care deeply about the morals and the values and the belief systems that we hold to or create in our lives. Everyone, everywhere has an ideology sweater that begins with the things their parents or grandparents or role models passed down to them. It is knitted of their ideologies until we get old enough or far enough away from them to start thinking for ourselves. Then we begin adding our own threads to the sweater.

As we get older and realize that so much of the world does not hold to the same morals, values, and belief systems that we do, we tend to start to hold those ideology sweaters even tighter and even closer to our chest. We do specific research around how to defend our ideologies and how to convince or attack those who threaten to pull at the loose threads hanging from those sweaters we have hugged so tightly to us. That defense mechanism can be even stronger if we are so certain that whoever raised us cannot possibly be wrong. How can these other outside people accuse my parents/grandparents/aunt/uncle/big sibling of being wrong?!

Don’t get me wrong here, this is not a universal experience. Some people choose not to hold their ideology sweaters tighter to their chest but, rather, release them all. Sometimes, they even choose to pull at the loose threads all on their own to see just where they lead and what other morals, values, and belief systems may be hiding at the end of those threads.

I don’t aim to condemn either choice. I’ve found myself in seasons of my life where I’ve tucked away the loose threads of my ideology sweater so deeply they couldn’t be tugged on by anyone. I’ve also found myself in seasons where I’ve thrown the sweater to the wind and purposefully let all the threads fly free to see where I wound up.

What I do aim to do is warn you of letting your narratives hold precedence over the well-being of living, breathing people.

I can almost guarantee that someone out there is seething and foaming at the mouth while chanting Matthew 10:37. I believe wholeheartedly that to love God, though, is to love others. They are not mutually exclusive.

There are times when it’s necessary to hold your belief set as a higher priority than a person. In my limited adult experience, that has only been when that person is choosing to hatefully attack and bully or manipulate you through your morals, values, and beliefs. That is not someone beneficial to your environment.

But if you have those in your environment that lovingly (even tough lovingly) push you to look closer at your narratives or consider looking closer at their own narratives…do not prioritize your ideology over their worth as a human being in your life.

Do not be fragile enough that someone’s disagreement with you will dissolve them of their relevance in your spaces.

Rather, as you get older, reassess your ideology sweater and make sure that the core stitches of that sweater are made up of the importance and love of community. Of the body. Of the collective. Of others. Make sure that the ideology sweater you’re holding gives you the strength to love and hold the collective as a priority as opposed to the ideology sweater being what hinders you in loving and holding the collective as a priority.

I am, personally, a Christian person. I grew up in the Church. I lived in the Church. I ran away from the Church. I ran back to the Church. I worked in the Church.

I have communed with God in a formal building with a steeple. I have communed with God in the living room floor of friends’ homes. And I have communed with God through the static of a Zoom call.

With all of this life lived in the presence of both faith and religion, I recognized in my early twenties that the Church had done so much to oppress and suppress certain groups of people even though the God I know and believe in doesn’t believe in the oppression and suppression of Their children. Of course this is a realization that began in my early teens but I only began to understand the full extent of in my twenties. Gaining the outward education and the inner confidence and faith to be able to help correct those wrongs even in my tiniest corners of the world became a priority for me.

What I recognized in the midst of all that education and confidence building is that God, and the faith that comes with my belief in God, is fully community-based. I believe this to the core of my being because of my own internal discernment and because of the proof and evidence I see when I read the Bible.

After listening to the Holy Post Podcast recently, I was introduced for the first time ever to the fact that many evangelical Christians (especially here in the good ol’ Bible Belt) are raised to believe that the cornerstone of their faith, the one thing they have to have to be able to call themselves Christian, is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Let’s say that one more time…a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is the most important part of your faith.

An individualized and singular relationship with Jesus.

It is a concept drilled into us at such an early age, for so long, that we start to unconsciously see faith as an individualized activity. A single player game. We were told to focus mainly and mostly on our individual relationship when, in reality, that is so antithetical to what the Bible and Jesus’ teachings tell us to do.

The body of Christ, the community, the collective, is what the Bible and Jesus want drilled into our minds and our faith. Of course we’re supposed to have a relationship with Jesus. But we cannot have a true and full relationship with him if what breaks his heart does not break ours. If the oppression and suppression of any member of our global family does not break our hearts, then we don’t have a true and genuine relationship with Jesus Christ in the first place.

This idea of the collective and the care and importance of the collective is relevant in the shallowest end of the pool (where personal role models topple from their pedestals for not caring the way we care) all the way to the deepest end of the pool (where whole systems of our countries operate to actively oppress others).

But, again, not everyone even sees the pool. Not everyone sees the way their ideology sweater has become infinitely more important to them than the living, breathing, divinely made human beings around them.

So my advice to you as you don your mental and emotional muck boots and begin to wade through the sticky, difficult parts of forming your values, morals, and belief systems in your twenties is this:

Do not let others’ fear of loose threads in their ideology sweaters keep you from denying the living, breathing, divinely-made human beings around you.

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