Friday, 3 June 2016

The New Ideology

Part 1 - Model Construction


In the last two blogs I have referred to the “New Ideology”, an ideology which is gradually taking the place of Christianity in Western societies [1], and causing division in the Christian church [2]. So what is this ideology, and can its spread be modelled?

First some clarification of terminology. By “ideology” I mean the set of beliefs, rules and behavioural norms held by a group of people [3]. They may subscribe to them by choice, inherit them from birth, or be compelled to follow them by some authority. For example communism is a political ideology; vegetarianism is a lifestyle ideology. A religion like Christianity can be an ideology if people follow its norms, without necessarily having a religious belief. Thus a country can be Christian even if most of the population neither attend church nor believe in God. For most of history most people did not attend church in the UK, let alone have saving faith, but enough held to a Christian ideology to make it the accepted standard of British society.

Different ideologies can sit side-by-side if they embrace different spheres of life. But when they overlap and contradict each other there can be competition and conflict. History can be viewed as a series of coexisting and competing ideologies – sometimes one supplanting another. So communism supplanted imperialism, Christianity replaced paganism, and the anti-smoking lifestyle has almost, but not quite, squeezed out the smokers [4]!

New Ideology Defined

Until recently Christianity was the accepted ideology in the West, some countries, such as the UK, more than others, e.g. France. However as Christian practice has declined it has left a void that is now being filled by a new ideology, atheistic in origin, and humanist in practice. The new ideology is humanist because its ethical truth is determined by people, rather than revealed by God. We get to choose what is right and wrong behaviour, both collectively, and in the current outworking of this ideology, individually [5].

As with any new ideology naming it is a problem. Politicians often use the label “liberal progressive”, but as both these words have other connotations I will avoid both [6]. Instead I will plump for “Diversity Ideology”, as its chief manifestation is that a whole range of beliefs, behaviours and lifestyle expressions are acceptable. If it is right for you, it is right and must be tolerated; and the people who practice it treated as equals and fully included in all areas of society, however diverse the people are. Hence the ideology’s four defining words: equality, tolerance, inclusion and diversity.

These defining words can be found just about everywhere in the public space, such as government, education, the voluntary sector and media [7]. Of course the ideology has an inbuilt contradiction as advocates often say they will not tolerate anyone who does not adhere to these principles; the danger of basing an ideology on words whose meanings are not clarified. But that is the stuff of ideology. Just think how many problems occur in Christianity over the meaning and use of words [8]!

The Diversity Ideology often manifests itself in the promotion of sexual diversity, the lifestyle ideologies of the LGBT+ families. Specifically the ideology promotes the gay lifestyle with the continuing adoption of same-sex marriage, and transgender issues with the current “bathroom wars” in the USA [9]. But I think the ideology is much larger than these sexual behaviours and existed before they became current. It has been competing with Christianity in the public space for some generations and has perhaps latched on to LGBT+ issues because this is a clear battlefield between truth revealed by God and truth determined by people.

Anyway the name “Diversity” will serve the purpose of model construction for now. It is not a pejorative name. It fits in with the rainbow flag, a common symbol of the ideology. It also describes a similar movement within the first century Corinthian church, influenced by the culture of its day, whose slogan was “all things are lawful for me”. Paul, the apostle, has to correct this, urging them to flee sexual immorality (1 Cor 6:12).   

Model of Ideological Competition

What I would like to do is model the competition between the Diversity Ideology and Christianity. Part of this competition occurs in the public space, by which I mean the government, business world, voluntary organisations and media, some of which I have already referred to [7].  The public space may well be within a church itself, where the liberal wing of the church competes with the evangelical and/or traditional wings. 

Christianity

Firstly, a model of the rise and fall of the Christian church. This is given as a causal loop diagram (CLD) which expresses hypotheses without taking it as far as a simulation, figure 1. The primary growth mechanism of the church is through the actions of its people, reinforcing loop Rc1. The more people in church, the more conversions, thus more people in church [10]. Christianity has often grown as a mass movement, as in its first few centuries and the 18th-19th century revivals.

Figure 1: Causal Loop Diagram of Church & Christianity

Growth is limited by institutionalism, loop Bc2, which reduces the conversion rate through the rising organisational and spiritual lethargy of a growing church. Likewise people leave the church, loop Bc1. Growth changes to decline when the dwindling conversions fall below the leaving rate. A full explanation of this institutional model of church growth is given elsewhere [11].

To examine the rise of Christianity as an ideology then the impact of church adherence on the public space needs to be considered. As the church increases, more of the public space becomes aligned with Christianity, part of loop Rc2.  The rise of Christian things in the public space could be taken as a measure of the rise of Christianity as an ideology [12]. A past example of this is Christianity in the Roman Empire, where Christians eventually forced their way into a pagan public space by sheer weight of numbers. This is a bottom-up form of cultural change, i.e. one due mainly to grass-roots movements of ordinary people.

There is potential for feedback here as an increasingly Christian public space may well make conversions easier, no longer does the new convert need to renounce their society. However as a means of conversion it is now much weaker than it was as the public space that was Christian by conviction has become Christian by tradition only.

The final piece of the model is the neutral public space, that is the organisations etc. that were not strongly attached to either the Christian ideology or to its competitor. When Christianity was replacing Paganism much of the Pagan public space had become nominal, the neutral space in those days – it was here that Christians were able to gain public influence. Now as Christianity declines, its presence in the public space is declining leaving it neutral, i.e. Christian by tradition only. This is a balancing loop, Bc3, as increasing Christianity decreases the neutral, but as neutral declines there is less of it to be influenced. More on this in a minute.

Diversity

The model of the rise of the Diversity Ideology is a parallel model to the Christian one, other than the grass roots reinforcing loop, the conversion by individuals on the ground, is missing, figure 2. Instead all its recruitment is through its influence in the public space, loop Rd2. The reasoning behind this assumption is that religions like Christianity have massive grass-roots participation. Christians meet weekly for worship and teaching and thus reinforce each other and engage in recruitment from the local base.

Figure 2: Causal Loop Diagram of the Diversity Ideology Sector

By contrast a lifestyle ideology such as the Diversity one has no such regular local meeting places. There are pressure groups such as the British Humanist Society and a variety of LBGT+ organisations, but active participation in these is only a small minority of those who hold or practice the beliefs. Thus the Diversity Ideology, like humanism and atheism, is top-down in its influence, not bottom-up. Rather than individuals attempting to convert other individuals to the cause, there is instead a core of committed activists seeking to change society. Individuals may then be changed, through the changes in society. But societal shift, as measured by the public space, is more important to them than grass-roots recruitment. A good rally or march is always encouraging to them, but these are occasional, not weekly and relational.


Public Space

The interaction between Christianity and the Diversity Ideology is in the public space, the arena of ideological change. Public spaces tend to be neutral unless there is some effort by an ideology to influence it. This is the natural tendency to apathy, and the loops connected with this are omitted. Connecting loops Bc3 and Bd3 from figures 1 and 2 respectively, gives a systems archetype called success to the successful, figure 3.
Figure 3: Competition Between Christianity & Diversity Ideology for Public Space

Although this subsystem consists of two balancing loops its overall effect is reinforcing, seen by tracing the figure of eight in the diagram. For example Diversity increases, thus the neutral reduces, thus Christianity reduces (+ means same way), thus releasing more public space from which Diversity, currently the stronger influence of the two, can fill.

A Test of the Model

The subsystem in figure 3 can be implemented and run to test its hypotheses. The numbers advocating the Diversity Ideology is allowed to rise from the late 1950s. The Christian church is assumed to be declining throughout. Initially the Christian public space is declining, with the neutral space increasing, figure 4. Once the influence of the Diversity Ideology starts, the neutral space falls, causing the Christian place in the public space to decline faster. Diversity has exploited the weakness of Christianity in society, and because Church numbers are declining, there is little chance for Christianity to recover. By this century Diversity is occupying more of the public space than the Christian [13].

Figure 4: Results of Ideological Competition


The levels and the dates are up for debate, but the subsystem is behaving as intended.

How Can the Christian Church Compete?

The key for the church is the person-to-person conversion loop Rc1, figure 1; the word of mouth mechanism that is natural to Church, but absent in non-religious ideologies with its relative lack of regular grass-roots participation [14].  Church has declined because this loop has become weak through institutionalism, lack of belief, and lack of seeking the Holy Spirit. But the model in figure 1 represents only the average for the whole church. Although most of the pre-1900 denominations are heading for extinction, there are smaller denominations, such as Pentecostal, and individual denominational congregations, for which this loop is stronger. These are the parts of the church that convert people. The alive part!

Thus as long as the alive part of the church persists in conversion and discipleship it will currently take the place of the older denominations, and the church as a whole will start growing again. Thus the church will again be able to have a growing influence in the public space, when opportunity returns.

By contrast the time will come when the Diversity Ideology will have been hit by the same institutionalism and complacency that now affects most of the Christian church. This is same mechanism that led to the decline of communism, Paganism, and just about every other ideology of the past. A church that holds on, though small, will in the future be able displace Diversity, or whatever form Humanism takes then, from the public space.

Some final points to note:
  1.  Church may have to survive a generation or more as a vilified minority in a hostile society. This has been the case in the past, and is currently the case in many places in the world. Periods like this often display Christianity at its best.
  2.  Church will get much smaller, and many denominations will go under, before growth returns.
  3. Any Christian influence in the public space in the future may look very different to that of the past, which was connected with European empires and national religions. Church is trying to bring Christ to people, not reconstruct the countries we had in the past.
  4.  Conversion, discipleship and revival are non-negotiable. Without these the church cannot recover, public space or not.
In the next blog I will look at a number of contemporary situations that help support the model. This is a model in development so expect it to change as it goes along.

References and Notes

[1] Rewriting History


[2] Where to Plant a Church? Big City, Small Town, or Rural?


[3] For a simple definition see:
For a more comprehensive view see Wikipedia and references therein:


[4] Is “smoking” a lifestyle ideology?  Perhaps it has become one because the anti-smoking lobby has pursued its aims with such puritanical zeal that smokers have become an almost persecuted minority in the West. I am not defending smoking, which has been conclusively proved to be unhealthy.  But I suspect the ideological approach of anti-smoking campaigns, demonising smokers in the public space, has created an opposite reaction in the smoking community, raising its ideological status.


[5] I would rather not call it the “Humanist Ideology”. There are potentially a number of humanist ideologies, and I know some older humanists who do not subscribe to the current Diversity Ideology. Neither would I call it a secular ideology as both humanism and the diversity beliefs are held by many in the Christian church who have liberal views on the authority of the Bible. Humanism is not contrary to belief in a God, despite the stance of the British Humanist Association. Humanism is about the human source of authority with regard to truth. The liberal/conservative battle within the Christian church is ultimately based on whether the source of authority is determined by people now, or fixed in either divine revelation, or handed-down tradition, depending on the brand of conservatism.  It is a Christian version of the humanism versus revelation conflict.


[6] I prefer not to use the description “liberal progressive”. The word liberal is capable of a number of meanings: open to new ideas; broadness of viewpoint; a political party; advocate of freedom. I suspect liberal progressive people are much narrower in scope than these other definitions suggest. Progressive implies there is always a sense of change. But the new ideology has specific targets, which if achieved it may well stay at, thus becoming conservative!  I prefer to name the ideology by what it is trying to achieve, not its sense of motion.


[7] Examples:
Government: Department of Work and Pensions: Equality and Diversity
Adherence to their equality and diversity principles is built in to their performance monitoring and management.

Education: Sussex Students’ Union
They state: “Any groups or individuals contravening this equality and diversity policy will be subject to disciplinary procedures and patronage and support will be reviewed.” That is, it is possible to be excluded and not tolerated even under an inclusion and tolerance policy. This happens because the words have meanings more limited than they first appear.

Charities: Action for Children
They have diversity and inclusion champions. I guess you could call these a type of activist, or guardians, within the Diversity Ideology.

Media: Huffington Post: Equality, Diversity, Inclusion: The Social Values of Shakespeare
An example of an ideology rewriting history to justify their beliefs, see [1].

International Affairs: Creating an Inclusive Society: Practical Strategies to Promote Social Integration. The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs
An example of elements of the Diversity Ideology, in the context of combating world poverty, but without reference to sexual diversity. In this form it is far less controversial. But its roots are humanist, and as it thus has no religious text to justify its stance, it develops its own ideological position as a substitute.


[8] Words are often used to fight battles of beliefs and ideology within Christianity, leading to more and more refined definitions of those words. Consider trinity, real presence, justification, inerrancy, and baptism with the Spirit. I could go on! Sometimes the battle is about subtly changing the meaning of the word so that they can end up meaning something different to the original.  Sometimes the word represents a real divide in beliefs, sometimes they are an excuse for division over other issues.


[9] It is almost impossible to track down a neutral and clear account of the wars being waged in the USA over the use of bathrooms (aka public toilets) by transgender people. This one at least gives the extent to which the clash of ideologies has entered the public space:


[10] The reinforcing loop linking people to conversions is used in the institutional model of church growth being used here [11]. It is also used in the limited enthusiasm model of church growth, where only a limited number of people, the enthusiasts, are responsible for conversion, thus in the loop [13]. Dividing the church up into active and inactive members is more realistic, but unnecessarily complicated when outlining a bigger model as here. Such fine detail is left to the implementation or calibrations stages of a model.


[11] Institutionalism model is described in a blog:
and on the website:


[12] Other measures such public opinion or personal cultural alignment with Christianity will be deferred to a refined model.


[13] More people in the UK now identify as no religion than Christian. A possible cnsequence of the shift in balance in the public space. See Britain really is ceasing to be a Christian country, The Spectator, 28/5/16.

  
[14] The Limited Enthusiasm Model describes the growth of the church through person-to-person contact. It appears on the website:
and it described at a more popular level in:


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