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The Pew Research Center has identified nine different typologies that more accurately describe the make-up of Americans beyond the traditional classifications of Left and Right.  Sure, we still have our “Staunch Conservatives” and “Solid Liberals”, but they’re just the book ends of a much more politically diverse America.  You might be surprised at some of their findings:  http://people-press.org/2011/05/04/typology-group-profiles/.  Hat Tip to Scott Mcknight over at Jesus Creed.   Be sure to check out his blog, which you can always link to from my blogroll.

I’ve been in the process of moving (and everything that goes with relocating) so, Its been several weeks since I last posted.  Before my move, I considered doing a series of posts on King David and his son Absolom.  Now that I’m somewhat settled in, my thoughts continue to return to their story.  King David, late in life and not for the first time, was forced to flee his home and his kingdom in order to escape from his own flesh and blood who had waged a rebellion and usurped his place as king.  It was arguably the lowest point in David’s life. 

Much is written about King David, “A man after God’s own heart”, a “Warrior Poet”.  King David, however, also had many weaknesses, and committed sins that would disqualify him from leadership in most any Christian (and secular) organization today.  Yes, David was intimate with God, and was a wonderful leader of men but, he was also one susceptible to the temptations of power, lustful toward women, negligent toward his family, tempted by vengeance, and often emotional to the point of over-sentimentality.  As  Gene Edwards wrote in, Tale of Three Kings, early in his campaign as a leader, David lead hundreds of  “no-goods” and they were stuck “with a leader who cried a lot”.  It was these weaknesses, namely his adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband, and his negligence as a father, that was directly responsible for this present crisis in his life.  Thus enters Absolom.

Absolom, harboring (and hiding) a long held grudge, deep wounds, resentment, and bitterness, used his intimate awareness of David’s most personal weaknesses and failings as a leader and father, to seize an opportunity to usurp David’s authority and make himself king.  Through vanity, deceit, and false pretenses of reconciliation and justice, he not only stole the hearts of the people but, also the allegiance of David’s friends and counselors. 

Nevertheless, despite his failings, and true to his character, David (a man after God’s own heart), rather than fight for what was rightfully his, he left in order to spare the city from civil war, because at this point staying to fight would have divided the people and torn the kingdom apart:

“Then we must flee at once, or it will be too late!” David urged his men. “Hurry! If we get out of the city before Absalom arrives, both we and the city of Jerusalem will be spared from disaster.” – 2 Samuel 15:14 

He decided to flee like a fugitive, leaving his loved ones, his home and his kingdom, to go into exile, trusting that God would do what was ultimately best; that if it pleased Him to do so, God would restore him in His way and in His time.

You can read the story of David and Absolom for yourself  (2 Samuel chapters 13-19).  It’s a compelling page-turner full of intrigue and invaluable lessons for the reader.  

Peace,

Roc

I’m busy today conducting a workshop, so I might not be able to post Part 3 of the Groupthink series until tomorrow. There is, however, this old tune by the Police that’s been running through my head called Miss Gradenko that speaks to the issue. I won’t bother explaining it, I’ll let the song and this video speak for itself.

Peace,

Roc

“MISS GRADENKO” 

Groupthink: A mode of thinking that people engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive in-group, when the members’ strivings for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action. -Irving Janis

Philippians 2:2- “Make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.” -Paul the Apostle (and “Chief” of sinners) 

Today I’m beginning a series of posts on Groupthink and other relational issues, especially within the church community.  The issues I will touch on pertain to group dynamics in any organizational structure whether it be a family, business, political party, or school club.  I will, however, focus primarily on relationships within a church or other ministry context because there is something about religious groups that make them particularly susceptible to the dangers of Groupthink.

Irving Janis, who in the 70’s conducted extensive studies on Groupthink, was able to identify eight traits that were common to this group behavior:

  1. Illusions of invulnerability creating excessive optimism and encouraging risk taking.
  2. Rationalising warnings that might challenge the group’s assumptions.
  3. Unquestioned belief in the morality of the group, causing members to ignore the consequences of their actions.
  4. Stereotyping those who are opposed to the group as weak, evil, disfigured, impotent, or stupid.
  5. Direct pressure to conform placed on any member who questions the group, couched in terms of “disloyalty”.
  6. Self censorship of ideas that deviate from the apparent group consensus.
  7. Illusions of unanimity among group members, silence is viewed as agreement.
  8. Mindguards — self-appointed members who shield the group from dissenting information.

As I read this list I couldn’t help but think of the recent elections and how each of these traits were symptomatic of the presidential campaign, and when I warned others of what I saw, I personally experienced numbers 2,4,5, and 8 on a regular basis.  It is within the church, however that I’ve routinely experienced this dynamic.  There are many reasons for this.  A core ethic of followers of Christ is unity.  We are to love one another, care for one another, pursue peace with one another, and to be like-minded.  Many of us within the Body of Christ take this to mean that all conflict is bad, critique is divisive, and dissent is an act of disloyalty.  Of course that is not what Paul meant when he urged us to be of the “same mind”.  He was not encouraging us to the form of “Groupthink” described above, which isn’t really “thinking” at all (in the biblical sense of the word).  Nor is this type of “Groupthink” the loving thing to do.  It does not reflect Christ’s nature or attitude.

“Make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.”

I won’t get too technical, but when Paul says be “like-minded” he is using the Greek verb phroneō, “to think,” and in some translations autos is added to phroneō and is translated “of the same mind”.  Paul’s appeal is not for thoughtless uniformity passing as harmony.  He wants us to have the same opinion or attitude regarding something in particular, something specific that makes for true harmony; something that produces unity in diversity.  The unity the world offers is a counterfeit to the harmony that Christ calls us to live out in community even when we encounter diverse viewpoints on a course of action, or are learning to live with, and care for those of another ethnos or group.  In either case we are called to be of “like-mind” and  “one purpose”.  How are we to do this?  

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” 

Of course it’s easy to see how our government has failed in this area.  Partisan politics makes it is extremely difficult for our leaders to acknowledge the value or worth of their opponent and their views for fear of losing power and influence within their own group.  They avoid critiquing the assumptions of their own group for fear of losing credibility or position.  But isn’t it strange that we see this same attitude among Christians even within our churches, denominations, and para-church  organizations? 

The eight symptoms of Groupthink are rendered less potent when leaders model Paul’s command to show others preferential treatment, and when they create a culture where the truth is spoken in love and differences are honored.  Groupthink becomes less the norm when we put away the vanity and selfish ambition that would cause us to use others for our own gain or self-preservation, or when we choose not to discredit and render “invisible” and voiceless those who disagree with us.  When we resist the urge to insist on uniformity of thought and opinion on secondary issues as a prerequisite to belonging, people are then free to be authentic, and creative in their expression of bold love toward each other because there is no longer a fear of reprisal or loss of relationship.    

So, consider the list above.  Have you encountered Groupthink in your group or sphere of influence?  Are you a leader who has enabled or even encouraged Groupthink, or have you been victimized by this manipulative practice?  Perhaps a little of both?  I would love to hear your thoughts, because in parts 2 and 3 I’ll give examples of what Groupthink looks and sounds like in practice, the effect it has on the spiritual and emotional life of the people within the group, and some practical suggestions on how to help yourself and others find freedom.     

Ron

Thanks to Dan over at http://ceruleansanctum.com for the quote below (check out his entire post). 

“Evangelicals are at a junction. They can take the path that will lead them to more futility and ineffective attempts to reform culture through government, or they can embrace the far more powerful methods outlined by the One they claim to follow. By following His example, they will decrease, but He will increase. They will get no credit, but they will see results. If conservative Evangelicals choose obscurity and seek to glorify God, they will get much of what they hope for, but can never achieve, in and through politics.” -Cal Thomas 

Read the Cal Thomas article: Religious Right R.I.P. at  http://www.calthomas.com/index.php?news=2419.

Roc

 

…”Let him begin by treating patriotism…as a part of his religion.  Then let him, under the influence of partisan spirit, come to regard it as the most important part.  Then quietly and gradually nurse him on to the stage at which the religion becomes merely a part of the “cause,” in which Christianity is valued chiefly because of the excellent arguments it can produce…[O]nce he’s made the world an end, and faith a means, you have almost won your man, and it makes very little difference what kind of worldly end he is pursuing.” -Screwtape

The Dems may have won the election, and the GOP may have lost the election, but Christians don’t have to lose our “souls” (for one reason or the other), because we…

“…by faith are foreigners in this land of promise, as in a strange country…looking for a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” -Hebrews 11:9-10

We-together are foreigners in this world.  “This land is your land, this land is my land” is true in a natural and limited sense.  But the Kingdom is OURS TOGETHER in a sense that no earthly kingdom can ever be.   

In 1922, W.E.B. Dubois, speaking to modern day American Blacks said,

“The two parties have combined against us to nullify our power by a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ of non-recognition, no matter how we vote … May God write us down as asses if ever again we are found putting our trust in either the Republican or the Democratic Parties.” 

The same can now be said of Christians, whether they be Black or White, Yellow or Red, democrat or republican, who misplace their faith in a political party or system.  This does not mean that we cannot rejoice when good prevails, justice is served, or hope is no longer deferred.  Nor does it mean that we are not to seek the good of the land in which we live by using our votes to the best of our ability, no matter how “right or wrong” it is in the eyes of others.  But it does mean that we must learn to live in this world as those who are “In It, but not Of It”. 

Is it possible to be “In the World” of a political party without being “Of It”?  I know some who take the “don’t vote for either candidate” position but who manage to be “Not in It, but still Of It”.  You can usually tell if someone is “In It and Of It” by how badly they treat those who disagree, even those who are their brothers and sisters.  Or by the disrespect they show leaders who are not of their choosing.  All because of the results of a worldly election.  The idea is to be “In It, but not Of It,”  but there are dangers.  There is a danger on the Left if people are encouraged to believe that they can usher in a Utopian Kingdom through a social gospel apart from Christ.  But there is also a real and present danger in fusing conservative republicanism with faith in Jesus Christ.  God will ultimately look at the heart of each individual through the blood stained lens of faith in His Son, and His approval is not, and will not, be based on your voting record but rather your relationship to Him.  Period.  

 I’m reminded of the lyrics from a song (though I can’t remember the title): “Look what you’ve done you politician, you separate brother from brother, like a magician.”  Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.  But don’t be derailed.  Let’s stay on track.  Don’t let politics separate us from each other.

Still A Resident Alien,

Roc 

 

I know that a couple of weeks ago in my post titled [G]Race and Politics I said that I would start posting on an article from the Reconciliation Blog, but I fell behind due to a new job and schedule.  Though I may touch on some of those issues at a later time, in light of last night’s election I would like to post a link to this post from Anthony Carter.  It speaks redemptively of Obama’s victory, being pro-life, and the providence of God http://epointchurch.org/2008/11/05/poetic-providence/.  Be at peace, for all is well.

Roc

  • What does the McCain/Palin slogan “Country First” suggest to you? 
  • When Sarah Palin says things like, ”[Obama] is not a man who sees America as you and I see America. We see America as a force for good in this world,” what does she mean by “we”?                                                                                                                                                                         These are some of the questions Edward Gilbreath is asking at Reconciliation Blog: http://edwardg.wordpress.com/2008/10/24/race-politics-roundtable-part-2/.  I’ll post my answers over the next two weeks.

Roc

Dan Edelen at Cerulean Sanctum wrote a post today comparing “the worldview differences between Externally Motivated (EM) Christianity and Internally Motivated (IM) Christianity” in relationship to the coming elections.  Will you be disappointed if (when) the “other” guy wins?  How will you respond?  How would “resident aliens” respond, and in whom would they place their hope?  You can check out his post here http://ceruleansanctum.com/2008/10/the-two-christianities-on-display.html.

Roc

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