The term groupthink refers to a term from the novel “1984.” If you have never read the book, it’s disturbing, but well worth reading.
I used the term as the title of this post because of an article I read – “Social Justice Bullies: The Authoritarianism of Millennial Social Justice” published on Medium.com.
The author tackles quite a range of thoughts and confronts something that he is observing – those that push social justice are not very tolerant of opposing viewpoints. The author takes this to the point of claiming that social justice advocates require a new orthodoxy in thinking and that any disagreement with the new orthodoxy is cause for labeling and ostracize those that disagree with the groupthink.
The author takes on some touchy subjects.
An example of this is the so-called gender pay gap where the popular statistic is that women earn around 70% of what men earn. The author uses information, articles in well-respected publications, and employment data to show that this gap doesn’t really exist. But his point is not the statistics, but that the reaction to such data is one where labels are attached to a person who goes against the orthodoxy of supporting the idea of the gender pay gap, regardless of the data. He essentially is saying – where is there room for debate?
As you read this post, I imagine there are a few reactions to this. You might agree with what the author of the article I highlighted was saying. You might disagree. You might claim that the author is sexist or put on another kind of label to the author. You might throw a label onto me for posting the article too.
The last one is the most interesting response because when you re-read my post, you’ll see that I never said what I believe about the article or the ideas within it.
Where am I going with this? The church is no different from the rest of society because the church is made up of people. People have a certain set of beliefs about what is orthodox and what is heretical and how to deal with those that are viewed as “heretical” or believe differently than ourselves.
The church has spent a great portion of its past denouncing those that don’t toe the line, to the point of excommunicating people, or worse, killing some. Denominations have formed from other denominations because of the thirst to be “right” and be the holders of “right” thinking and be able to point the finger (or give the finger) to those what are deemed “heretical.”
Injustice comes in many forms – the popular forms are easy to spot. Think racism, sexism, and anything else that you can attach -ism to. Part of the issue is defining these terms because in many cases almost anything can become an -ism. Which actually dilutes injustices that are occurring. If there is injustice everywhere and all around constantly, then severe injustice is lumped in with far lesser injustices. It becomes like a mortgage document – it discloses so much information that you never read it, and the information in it becomes worthless to the point that you sign it in the hope that you aren’t getting screwed over.
But injustice also comes in harder to spot forms as well – like when we go around labeling people who disagree with us on any number of topics and try to silence people. We become Pharisees who see ourselves as more enlightened, more in tune with justice (however we are defining it), and better than “those” people who just don’t get it, or “those” evil people who want to bring about the destruction of the country/church/planet/etc.
I certainly don’t claim to be great at this. I’ve sinned in this area plenty of times in my life – I have a background in politics and have done my fair share of labeling people and believing that “those” people who I disagree with are evil and trying to bring about the destruction of the country/church/etc.
But here is the Good News – We can’t stop doing this on our own. Why is this good news? Our human quest for orthodoxy and being right has been going on for probably as long as humans have been able to communicate with one another. It comes down to wanting to be in control. The first sin in the Bible was about humanity’s thirst for control. We aren’t about to change this thirst any time soon.
But God helps us. God doesn’t just wipe out this thirst in us because, well, how loving would that be? Love involves freedom and error and all sorts of things, yet loving all the same.
We humans thirst for control and we find out time and time again that we don’t have it. Only God has control – however loosely you might want to define it. Because of God’s love for us, we can surrender the need for control. It’s not easy, but it is possible. We might struggle with this, but really our struggle is our own action, not God’s.
God’s love is unconditional. We can take comfort in this. If we still insist on labeling people, how about we label people differently – maybe something like this – Child of God. It gives us a different perspective on how to look at people.