” … I’ll never forget what happened to some of my dear friends who became Communists … I saw their minds get swept away … they said what they were supposed to say – I would be talking to them, and I could almost predict, word for word, what I’d hear coming out of their mouths … I recall thinking … your life is put on the line for that [ideology] … “

Dorothy Day

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These are the words of Catholic convert Dorothy Day in a 1973 conversation with Harvard professor and psychiatrist Robert Coles as reported by Coles in his book The Secular Mind.

I believe these words carry a valuable understanding and it is this: be careful of ideology for it imposes on us a narrow (and erroneous) view of the world and, when adhered to in a doctrinaire way, it is misleading and leads to great errors in judgment.

Frankly, I think we see that in our government’s thinking and action across a range of issues from “the Arab Spring” to one-size-fits all public programs.

Indeed, the influence of ideology seems to explain better than any other factor the confusion we see among public commentators as they attempt to analyze major public events, and when we attempt to find the logic in many government pronouncements or actions.  I give one example (there are many): why are public officials unwilling to concede that some violent acts are the product of radical Islamic individuals?

To do so, of course, does not condemn all Muslims.  However, to do so does not square with their ideological disposition and the narrative that it requires.

Yes, ideological thinking, such at the secular Left offers, does mislead and lead to errors of judgment.

In law school I remember we were admonished in handling problems to neither love nor hate, but rather receive the problem as it presents itself in order to better understand it and respond effectively to it.  Seems like a useful suggestion for today.

Ideology does not favor clear and honest thinking.  As Dorothy Day says: it captures the mind and reduces the person.

Faithful people do not need ideology.  Rather they receive life in the confidence that God will see them through all of it – the challenges included.

There is strength and power in living faithfully.  Bridges are built this way.  Truth is more likely found, problems more likely to be solved.  Contentment, as well, comes in such a view, along with calm, and hope, and the capacity engage in new friendship, resolve tensions and conflicts, and realize community.

In faith we can love.  In ideology, not so.  The latter is more apt to divide and obscure.

Shalom.

Postscript – A particularly interesting book on this subject is Nobel laureate Czeslaw Milosz’s The Captive Mind.

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