Ironic Partisans

Ideology is evil, if you disagree you are wrong and must be silenced.

I’m seeing a great deal of posts around the web about the evils of ideology. In many ways, given the rise of political and religious extremism around the globe, that’s understandable. Those who are often writing against the dangers of ideology are often calling for people to step back and see “the other” as human. I like that.

My problem is we seem to be confusing ideology with partisanism 1. Every human being on the planet works under some kind of ideology – it’s what forms the basic skeleton of our various worldviews. This is inescapable. Partisanism, on the other hand, extends that notion of a basic structure and add, “And if you disagree you are wrong and must be silenced or destroyed.”

If it’s only a simple vocabulary drift, what’s the issue? Mostly it has to do with the way I see cultural battle lines being drawn. Those who reject the notion of all ideology 2 posit themselves as being more ethical and morally upright than “irrational ideologues.” In so doing, these well-meaning people wind up becoming partisans without even being aware it’s happening. Partisans are created any time people see themselves as being more authentically human than others.

  • Liberal Christians do this when dealing with more traditionally orthodox Christians.
  • Evangelicals tend to do this with all non-evangelicals.
  • Republicans and Democrats depend on this tendency for their own institutional survival.
  • Radical religious sects use partisanism as a recruiting tool.
  • Bloggers do this when we look in the mirror and say, “Yah, we’re right and they happen to be idiots.”

For me the best thing to do with an ideology is both to understand, as best we can, why we hold on to it and what it’s implications are. This leads to humility, and humility might be the best defense against partisanism we can muster.


  1. I think I made that up, but that’s OK. I’m thinking we need an “ism” for this. 
  2. Which, ironically, is an ideological stance. 

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  1. Excellent post! Makes me think about how a perspective moves from being an ideology to a partisan position. I’d be interested in what others have to say. My guess is that when our identity is in question and needs to be bolstered, making an ideology into an iron clad pride filled weapon of mass destruction somehow creates a facade, an illusion of value as a person and identity, a place to stand in a world that is shifting.

  2. If that’s true, why are so many of us in the church failing to find a our true identity and solid rock in a shifting landscape? How does fear arise so quickly and strongly? What are we missing? What have we misunderstood? What can we learn from our response of grasping for partisan politics and facades instead of Jesus for salvation?

  3. Oh, I see.

  4. I found someone who agrees with you about 2 churches: http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/donald-trump-gospel-liberty. But I’m glad to see they are coming together: http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2016/01/25/3742627/trump-presbyterian-immigrants-oops/. The angles will need to sort it out.

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