Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Bandwagon Beliefs

Three days ago I wrote about bully theology. Today I want to speak of its cousin, Bandwagon Beliefs. Both relatives arise from the slum of what others think, though one is pressured upon you from the outside while the other pressures up from the inside.

"Jumping on the bandwagon" is well known in political discussion.  In our county, when the wheels began to fall off the old Democratic bandwagon, most politicians climbed off it and jumped on the Republican bandwagon that was whizzing by. A person or cause gains steam and everyone wants to be associated with him or it. The side is picked by who has the most followers or who is winning or expected to win. If a person, party or movement seems assured of success, folks want to climb on board. We don't want to be part of the losing team. We don't want to have egg on our faces. Like a snowball rolling downhill, the bandwagon gains size and strength as it sucks up what is in its path. Like a magnet, its mass appeal attracts many followers.

Our beliefs, philosophical and theological, may suffer under the adverse effects of the bandwagon syndrome. In "post-Christian America" it will quickly become apparent who has sincerely-held beliefs and who was riding the (old) bandwagon.* If there is no courage of convictions, whatever is popular or whatever is held by the majority will be the standard. Get on board, get out of the way, or get run over. The nature of the bandwagon -- and the nature of human nature -- is that most people get on board.

In Growing Up With Two Moms: The Untold Children’s View, Robert Lopez says that the gay movement "is doing everything it can to make sure that nobody hears" stories like his. The greatest significance of Lopez's story is not whether homosexual marriage is right or wrong, but that pro-homosexual groups do not want his story to be told! This is bully theology, but it is also bandwagon belief. The old bandwagon of Christian theology that homosexuality is sinful is headed uphill and is losing steam (Yes, this was merely a "bandwagon belief" for many people rather than sincere conviction). The new bandwagon of legal homosexual marriage is perched at the top of the hill and ready to make its run for all it's worth. Get on board, get out of the way, or get run over.

One of the simplest, amoral examples of the power of the bandwagon can be seen the multitudes of "turn of the millennium" celebrations that were held on January 1, 2000 -- despite all the nerdy-types and us calendar clowns telling them otherwise. Some folks can cloud this issue with lots of smoke and noise, but there are few things even someone as simple as I can understand. You don't have to be an advanced mathematician or a millenniologist. Our calendar has no "zero" year (though some other calendars do). If you count from 1 to 10, you'll find ten is the last of the first ten numbers, not the first of the second ten numbers. If you count from 1 to 100, one hundred is the last of the first hundred numbers, not the first of the next hundred. If you count from 1 to 1000, one thousand is the last of the first thousand numbers, not the first of the next thousand. Under the Gregorian calendar the new millennium began on Monday, January 1, 2001. Nevertheless the vast majority of Americans celebrated its "occurrence" on Saturday, January 1, 2000. Really, it doesn't matter who is right or wrong to understand the point. Thousands upon thousands did not celebrate the coming of the new millennium because they knew when it started (or even cared). They celebrated it because everyone else was doing it -- the bandwagon effect.

When the majority of denominated Christianity rejects creationism, an historical Adam & Eve, the virgin birth of Christ, the blood atonement, a literal resurrection, and so forth, where will you be found? Will you still be standing on the Word of God, or will you be riding the bandwagon? Let's carefully look inside our minds and hearts and see what we see. Let's look inside the Bible. Are we following God or men? In matters of belief, let's reject the bandwagon and be like the Bereans -- search the scriptures to find out what things are so, what things are good, what things are right.

O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps. Jeremiah 10:23 I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10
It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man. Psalm 118:8

* This does not mean that no one on a bandwagon is sincere. It is just the nature of the bandwagon to pick up most all stragglers and make them riders.

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