How do we keep our faith from becoming just an ideology?
To believe in something with all one’s heart to the extent that one would die for it and to passionately give oneself for a cause – these are things that could be said for both the activated Catholic and the ideologue. And, even though we would like to think that there is some fundamental difference between the two, there are widespread temptations for the faith of an everyday Catholic to drift towards an ideology. But, did Jesus just offer us some ideology? How do we keep Catholicism from devolving and perverting into just another ideology?
A belief turns into an ideology when its truth is divorced from love and from persons. It becomes obsessed with the ‘system’ being right, with ‘issues’ and ‘ideas’, not so much with the loving of the individual person. It becomes rigidly moralizing, thinking of people as a mass, with whom you are only involved so that they do things ‘correctly’. Finally, ideology eventually falls victim to the fundamentalist temptation: that anyone who disagrees with x is probably my enemy. Ideology breeds the echo chamber where the ‘us’ looks at ‘them’ as basically being ‘in the way’ and somewhat intellectually deficient because, “It’s just inconceivable that people couldn’t see things that are so obvious!” Maybe we could go so far as to say that whenever an ‘us vs. them’ mentality has arisen, ideology is at hand (or close to it).
We see how, yes, even Catholics living out their beliefs can devolve into living out an ideology. Faith can be perverted into a hollowed out collection of arguments. In this way, even beautiful things like Pro-Life work can become ideological: by being doggedly devoted to convincing someone of an argument, but missing the person in front of you. Truth is vitally important, but if we simply extract the information and contents of it and hold that up as all supreme, we have forgotten that Truth is itself a radical encounter of self-gift between three Persons. The Truth is one person for another person. Living for the truth in a way that makes no room for the person might still present factual ideas and statements, but is no longer the Truth in a way that can be trusted.
Therefore, the Truth, when it is lived out, is always intensely and genuinely concerned with the other person (and not just for that person to ‘get it’, which can objectify them). The Truth humbles itself. The Truth longs for each person’s good. The Truth doesn’t impose itself, but is an encounter. Truth demands that we allow for mystery and wonder. The Truth is not just about duty, but real, genuine freedom.
How then do we, as Catholics, rise above the temptation towards ideology? We discover ourselves to be lovers! We experience the freedom of not just bowing to the law, but of our religion being a relationship (with God and others). We allow ourselves to be passionate about what we believe in, not out of some anxiety for its power to win the arguments of the day, but because we love it and because it allows us to love. It is because we love Him! And He is not, above all, a lawyer and an intellectual: He is the Truth who is Love.
Note: Picture taken from here.