Am I a conspiracy theorist? When I critique communities as a place where control is a predominant feature, many people respond that they are glad that this doesn't play a part in their own communities and that it hasn't been their experience. I have some thoughts.
I believe that the overwhelming gravitational pull of any group is toward control. Even though I myself am suspicious of control, critical of authority and concerned with people management, I believe that control still plays too great a role in my own community. It is a daily temptation and takes continuous analysis, resistance and even revolt to prevent control, coercion and manipulation from entering into our communal life and its leadership. And it still finds a way in! We all collaborate in this pattern.
The natural tendency of the human being is toward domination and slavery, even though the heart might think it desires freedom. Freedom isn't automatic. Authenticity isn't a given. So I don't believe other communities are free of it. Just don't. In Jose Saramago's book, The Cave
, which I mentioned yesterday
, the "Center" comes out with marketing slogans such as: "We would sell you everything you need, but we would prefer you to need what we have to sell!
" The thing is, the Center comes up with these slogans, and the populace willingly cooperates in its own domination. Communities just do that. It's all around us! It's practically the air we breath!
We might not be saying, "You are not allowed to be authentic! You are not allowed to think and speak freely!
" That would be wrong. But we create environments where freedom and authenticity are silently discouraged, and where it takes an enormous amount of courage and risk to be free and authentic. I know a pastor who was required by his higher-ups that his music always be celebratory. But he wanted room for songs of lament, anger and even doubt. No! Just positive celebration. He was dismissed. You see, no one was overtly saying, "You are not allowed to be sad!
" They just created an environment, an artificial one, in which sadness would've been out of place. If our lessons are totally positive, assertive and confident, then doubt and questions sound awkward and, as a result, they are not given a voice. We do it all the time
people! Even with our own spouses and children.
On one level I believe those who say they haven't experienced control in their community and that they are free of it now. But I would like to ask the questions: "What kind of mood does your community try to foster when you gather together? What other moods does this synthetic mood automatically silence?
" Now we're getting closer to the truth of it.
The fine art photograph is the creation of my friend Mark Hemmings
, and is from his mannequin series.