We have a lot of “isms” in our culture. I’d imagine that you’re familiar with many of them.
Conservatism, Centrism, Liberalism, Fundamentalism, Progressivism, Idealism, Pluralism, Calvinism, Arminianism, Universalism.
I could keep adding more items to this list until the server farm collapsed from old age. The list of “isms” is long.
These are tags that we use to label groups of people with specific world views. Many of these groups of people are even at war with one another. For some, the war is a war of ideology and rhetoric, while for others it is a war with actual bombs, guns, and other forms of weaponry.
There’s something about “isms” that have the propensity to deteriorate over time. I’ll even go out on a limb and say that many “isms” begin with the good of people in mind. Maybe a person (or a group of persons) are standing up to a system of injustice, inequality, or oppression.
Over time, however people begin to rally around a particular “ism” so faithfully, so blindly, that anyone who doesn’t support it is labeled as the enemy.
Unfortunately, the next logical step in this line of thinking is that the enemy should be eradicated. Slander, persecution, and bloodshed begin to be thought of as necessary to purge society of its contaminants.
Finally, an oligarchy arises and cripples the world until the next revolution of “isms” rise from the downtrodden masses.
This pattern has been at work in the world as long as humans have been in existence.
But it doesn’t have to be.
As a person who believes in the good of people, I also believe that we as a culture, a society, and a global family don’t want to see a world that continues to go through cycles of calamity such as this.
The book of Isaiah says something alarming about a messiah who would come to right all that is wrong in the world. He doesn’t show up and revolt. He shows up and surrenders.
The passage reads,
“He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.”
- Isaiah 53:7
That sounds weak to me, but what if it’s true?
What if our faith and our ideals are not something to be defended?
What if they are not a battle?
What if faith is supposed to be vulnerable?
What if power truly is perfected in weakness? (2 Corinthians 12:9)
David Bazan once said,
“Faith is a vulnerable thing, not a battle.”
And I think this is what we are in need of in our own “isms.”
We need politicians, priests, pastors, clerics, imams, fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, teachers, professors, deans, and CEOs who will champion systems that bring us together and give us hope for a brighter future that is possible- not to separate us into paranoid camps where we plot how to begin eradicating each other.
And this begins with you. It begins on the job, in the pub, and in arguments with your spouse or your friends. It begins by surrendering your need to be right all the time.
We must stand up and speak up for a better way- a way where all people are welcome at the table of humanity- even those who are on the fence of hoping for a better way.
Sure, we’ll all have to give up some of our sacred cows, but we’ll also see the beauty of other cultures, faiths, and “isms” that will (hopefully) lead us all to place where we realize that sacred cows are actually the problem, not the answer.