Action And Belief Part Two: Virtual Beliefs
This is a follow-on from Action And Belief Part One: Imaginary Beliefs Jesus‚Äô invocation to ‚Äúfollow me,‚Äù demands a central role in any theological hermeneutic of belief and action. The saying, ‚Äúfollow me,‚Äù does not imply belief that makes following sensible, but following that makes belief sensible. The action makes the belief possible. Despite this, […]
This is a follow-on from Action And Belief Part One: Imaginary Beliefs
Jesus‚Äô invocation to ‚Äúfollow me,‚Äù demands a central role in any theological hermeneutic of belief and action. The saying, ‚Äúfollow me,‚Äù does not imply belief that makes following sensible, but following that makes belief sensible.
The action makes the belief possible.
Despite this, our lived experience suggests a struggle to ‚Äúreconcile‚Äù belief and action. It is common to cite Paul‚Äôs letters in relation to this. However, it is worth noting that‚Äôs Paul‚Äôs struggle with belief and action expresses itself in the midst of missionary journey.
The mission makes belief rational.
Many times, when we appear to struggle with reconciling belief and action what is really going on is a struggle to reconcile real beliefs with imaginary beliefs. We kid ourselves that the solution rests in some form of ‚Äúbelieving harder.‚Äù Oftentimes beliefs will change more readily if we alter the context within which we act, rather than change the way we think about our beliefs.
The context frames the belief.
Travel, real travel, changes everything – just as it did for Paul. The people who travel and do not change their outlooks and beliefs are often those that carry with them the highest forms of insulation and security from local culture and custom. These people travel within a bubble of virtual belief – recreating reality around them to map a zone of predetermined comfort and luxury.
Virtuality insulates imaginary beliefs from reality.
Is there any more acute example of simulacra that a British tourist who travels to Spain, or Dubai or Hong Kong only to visit a British themed pub, drink British beer, eat British food and watch British football on television? The same could be said for American, Australian, Indian or Japanese tourists. In the same way many foreign embassy compounds and not a few multinational offices are similar havens of virtuality.
Virtuality is easier that negotiating difference.
Churches can embody virtuality in this way. There are many inner city churches whose doctrine bears no practical relation to the immediate context they find themselves in – whose congregants commute to that location to ‚Äúdo church‚Äù and then commute back to the rest of their lives. I‚Äôve seen theological faculty that behave in the same way.
Virtuality allows you to safely maintain the status quo whilst arguing against it.
That‚Äôs why the study of any religious group or ecclesiology needs an experimental and qualitative edge. We cannot just examine abstract doctrinal beliefs and hope to get any worthwhile insight into the people who articulate them. We need to tease out the extent to which those beliefs are imaginary, fictional or virtual and the best way to do that is not to look at abstract statements of beliefs, but to look at practices and patterns of life.
In order to be properly theological, we need to stop acting like theologians.
(Thanks to Jason Clark, whose recent posts on related subjects have inspired me to revisit this topic).
[tags] Hermeutics, Theological Method[/tags]