DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

A Society of Dominoes

Written by: on October 29, 2015

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Introduction

I am 40 and living with my parents….temporarily until my girls move to Texas permanently.  On Monday at 6am as I head out the door, my dad asks, “what time will you be home?”  Seriously, I am 40 years old with a wife and two children, I have flown all over the world, and my dad has the gumption to ask such a silly question. I responded, “why does it matter?”  He quickly and comically quips with a rye smile, “my house, my rules.”  As I head out the door, I mumble the time and shut the door.

His house, his rules.  This seems to be the way of culture and society.  If you are going to live in society, then you must abide by the rules of society.  While your life is your own, you are inherently connected to you family, your employer or employees, your state, your nation, your race, and maybe even your favorite sports team.  These roles or titles we own all come crashing together on us in a rapid fashion, and they shape us. As Anthony Elliot states, “Social life is often described as both freedom and constraint, or possibility and limitation (p. 19).”

Summary

Broadly speaking, social theory is the method or framework in which one analyzes how social structures fit together and work within the culture.  In other words, social theorist provide us an understanding of how our interconnected lives work as both individuals and as a complex web of beings.  To me, social theorist are simply those who study the proverbial butterfly effect.  They see one action as affecting a larger host of other actions.  They trace back the fallen dominoes to see if they can discover the first domino that fell causing a chain reaction.

For instance, Elliot spends a good time on Marxist theory.  Marxism has had a profound affect on society.  Nations such as Russia, China, Vietnam, and many eastern european nations have been shaped my the ideas of Karl Marx.  The ideas presented by capitalism are an evil to one who subscribes to Marxist theory. Elliot points out that, “What happens to people under capitalism for Marx is an extravagant inflation of sensory life and human desire, creating a sort of permanent revolution across society in which pleasure depends upon the continual accumulation of more and more things (p.41).”  So, from the Marxist perspective, capitalism is evil.  The incessant need for more and more seems odd and rather foolish.  But for the capitalist, whose ideas have been shaped by their society and government, their lifestyles are nothing unusual, but rather normal.  The Marxist too is shaped by his government, society, and culture.  Society has the ability to dominate one’s thoughts and actions subtly.

Key Point

Every action has a reaction.  Like an endless chain of dominoes, we fall in line with the other.  Does this change? Well, I would say so. First, Hong Kong is a perfect example of a society radically departing from its old standard to it new.  Out of necessity, China has had to continue to allow capitalism room to grow.  The old China is dead, and a new one has emerged.  It has shifted radically on policy, and it has embraced ideas and methods that were shelved as inferior years ago.  Out of necessity, China has increased the one child policy to two because China is an aging nation and will not be able to sustain itself without more workers within the next 20 years, so they relaxed their standards.  Society does not change unless it sees a need to do so in order to survive.  While China’s capitalism is most likely positive, it will bring a host of unintended consequences and problems with it that will not be fully known until they are in full bloom.

Social theory does seem to have a giant flaw.  They value the created thing above the creator.  What they may view as repressive for them may indeed be sinful, but it may not matter as long as the creation is happy, whole and well adjusted.  As more and more social theorist push for society to be more accepting and less repressive, then it may lead down a new dimension that is unpredicted and catastrophic.

About the Author

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Jason Kennedy

I am a pastor of a thriving church in Grapevine, Texas. With two little girls (5,8), and a wife that is a medical doctor (family practice), life is non-stop.

13 responses to “A Society of Dominoes”

  1. Pablo Morales says:

    Jason,
    The domino effect was a clever illustration to capture the social connections portrayed in the book. Thank you for a good blog. I agree with your assessment at the end of the blog. I was also left with a feeling that with the current social changes, what seems to be a bright future for some, seems to me more like a glooming tomorrow. You said, “As more and more social theorist push for society to be more accepting and less repressive, then it may lead down a new dimension that is unpredicted and catastrophic.” Your comment makes me wonder, what challenges will our children face when we are gone? What will the world they inherit be like? I can only think of the biblical warning of the increasing social decay paving the way for the end of times. Yet, humanistic social theorists do not know that. They are like a driver heading towards a broken bridge—they are heading the wrong way, they just don’t know it. So, as you start the new pastoral ministry in Texas, I pray the Lord will use you mightily to bring more people from darkness into the Kingdom of Light. Thank God for our Lord Jesus, who has given us a living hope!

    • Jason K says:

      Pablo, the world has changed. For some Christians, they stick their heads in the sand and ignore it. For others, they create doctrine (the earth will get better and better) to avoid it. However, I think that our society will come in opposition to our Christian values with more and more hostility. I think my kids and yours will experience a time of persecution. Maybe it will not be physical, but they will be persecuted for their beliefs if it has not already happened. As a pastor, I must prepare my people and teach my people the word of God, so they are not shifting sand in tumultuous times. What are you doing? Let’s do lunch soon.
      J

  2. mm Rose Anding says:

    Thanks Jason for sharing, “my house, and my rule”.
    I giggle when I read those words; because it sounded like something I might say to my children. You must understand, that is the way things were…older people, mostly think that society’s value are deteriorating, because they’re used to how it used to be, back in the day, everyone definition of value is differs. As the author stated, “Historically, the structures, accords, and patterns of life associated with ‘the modern’ are utterly different from each and every social form that came before and, it seems, different too from what is coming after as a new millennium comes into its surprising own”.

    We can view a few examples, some people believe slavery still, so now that we frown upon that, it must be society‘s problem. Take homosexuality is in the same situation. Once society understand something, it softens it and makes it easier to go along with. An obvious example of changing value would be the issue of sex before marriage. Abstinence until marriage used to be fairly popular, but it isn’t practiced by many anymore. Why? All social theory is trouble? Thanks, it is blog and I enjoyed reading it, as always.
    Rose Maria

    • Jason K says:

      Rose….I think the reason that things have shifted in culture dramatically (ie…abstinence) is because the church has accepted its role as being non-confrontational. The church allowed itself to be shoehorned in society. However, we are to be salt and light, and our values never change. Therefore, we must continue to relay God’s truth in society. While I do understand what you mean, I do disagree. Just because we understand something does not mean it is morally righteous. This is the deception. In society, every vice gets personalized. It is intentional. If I know my neighbor and like my neighbor who is sleeping with his girlfriend, then its hard to call it a sin. I think the greatest problem for the church anymore is we refer to sin as a problem or a hurt or a nasty habit. We must continue to call sin a sin even if that means society pushes us aside. I would rather be John the Baptist in the wilderness than Herod. Thanks Rose!

  3. Aaron Cole says:

    Jason,

    I love your opening story with your dad, I laughed out loud! You stated: “if you are going to live in society, then you must abide by the rules of society. ” How do we live counter cultural to the world and according to Scripture? What is an example of how this works in church?

    Aaron

    • Jason K says:

      I agree with your assessment. We have tension as Christians. Right now, our world is rather weird. I do not think when we feel our Christian ideals are under attack, then our allegiance shifts to our first citizenship and that is heaven. Make sense. I think we always strive towards love in all we do, but there may be a time where we will not be able to function in society freely because we cannot agree to the rules of society. Hope Israel is good for you.
      J

  4. Jason

    I laughed out loud at your story and the tension that being a teenager back at home (at 40) can cause. (good thing your parents don’t have a basement!!!)

    As I started to read your blog, my mind jumped to the thing that you pointed out about China making a change on their child policy. Interesting that social theories have to conform to social practices that over ride them.

    Why do you think that in each of these books that we have read they completely leave out moral guidance or spiritual guidelines?

    Kevin

    • Jason Kennedy says:

      Kevin, before the enlightenment and the industrial revolution, the academics were primarily theologians. Today, the academic world view Christians as unscientific morons. They believe faith has no role or nothing to offer. It is a problem with post modernism I think. We (present society) can’t imagine someone from previous generation (especially fishermen dressed in robes) can offer anything of value.
      Faith is minimalized, so it is no longer tolerated in a “tolerant society.”

  5. Great introduction, Jason! Your words grabbed my attention from the very beginning and entered me into your world. I can empathize with your struggle. It’s difficult with live in a society that differs from your own. I am blessed to have wonderful friends and parents, but when your societal norms differ from your neighborhood, you have two options – loneliness or lowliness. There is a beautiful humility that occurs from entering into someone else’s norm. You stated, “If you are going to live in society, then you must abide by the rules of society.” Your statement made me think of my own society and how I must formulate my plans around my audience.

    Elliott suggested that social theory is understanding society and responding in praxis. This occurs through assessment before action. Elliott states, “Part of the argument of this book is that the influence of social theory – certainly contemporary, but also classical – is practical as much as conceptual” (Elliott, 19). Last night, I looked through potential speakers and musicians for the young adult conference that I’m putting together. As I perused through the pictures and read through the bios, I realized how much of my own bias was intertwined in the selection. I had to step back and understand my audience. I love Christian punk rock. This generation loves Christian folk. As much as I’d love to hear Family Force 5, I need to assess the society that I’m trying to reach and work from their perspective so that we’re speaking the same language. In what ways have you found this to be true in your transition from Alabama to Texas? Have you had to understand the social norms of a new culture in order to reach them with the same gospel?

    • Jason Kennedy says:

      Great question. Texas (Dallas) is very different. The culture is faster obviously. The Gospel does not change, but in my are of Dallas, people are less emotional and certainly more interested in a reasonable explanation. So, i cannot give quick emotionally charged answers. Thanks.

  6. Jason Kennedy says:

    Great question. Texas (Dallas) is very different. The culture is faster obviously. The Gospel does not change, but in my are of Dallas, people are less emotional and certainly more interested in a reasonable explanation. So, i cannot give quick emotionally charged answers. Thanks.

  7. mm Phil Goldsberry says:

    Jason:

    Convicting blog….”Social theory does seem to have a giant flaw. They value the created thing above the creator. What they may view as repressive for them may indeed be sinful, but it may not matter as long as the creation is happy, whole and well adjusted.”

    How do we, as ministers of the Gospel and representatives of the Almighty God, create a social power to be dealt with? Why do radical views from Nazism to post-modernity to feminism seem to gain traction over the Gospel?

    By the way…..be nice to your Dad. You may be in the same place someday with your kids!!!

    Phil

  8. Love the opening story as well!
    Next time your dad asks you that question, simply turn around and call him a Marxist.
    I love how you start with the illustration of your dad being repressive and end with a sentence about society and repression.

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