Avoiding ideological imprisonment

Chris Nye
7 min readNov 20, 2020

*NOTE: If in reading this article you think I’m ignoring the possibility that Christianity itself is an ideological prison, please read my two part series, “Christianity is Not an Idea” (Part 1 and Part 2).

As a brief aside in an otherwise pedestrian virtual conference panel discussing the recent protests and national election, I heard John Mark Comer, the Portland-area pastor, lament something I had not fully considered. When asked about the most difficult aspect of ministry right now, Comer said he was grieving over just how many people he’s known who have fallen captive to different ideologies—even people he has known for decades.

Suddenly, my mind awoke to a very similar notion — a lament in my own right — of all those who I have known who have slid down a cliff into some pre-packaged set of catch-phrases and simplistic beliefs curated for them by algorithms or cable television (or both) and all presented by uneducated performers who parrot some of the more predictable and uninteresting (not to mention, factually incorrect) ideas about reality. Then I got sad, too.

I’m sorry to report that I have no way of knowing if the previously described person is you. I pray its not, but simple math would tell me that some of you reading this have tumbled down the ravine into what Comer called “ideological captivity” (and yes, I am fully aware of this mixed metaphor and am loving it). What do we mean by this?

The prison of belief (“ideological captivity”) exists in between the poles of QAnon adherents all the way to violent Antifa conspirators, but also exists on the dangerous spectrum in between such radical beliefs, not just the end points. Don’t get me wrong, the extremes are real, but more insidious than radical thinking is the step before it: where we repost videos or articles that match our emotional temperament without fact-checking, or where we demand our followers to “do their research” (an absolutely asinine request of something they cannot do and you, as you post, have actually not fully done), or the lazy regurgitation of rhetoric from accounts we follow with no nuanced comment from us, no hesitation about what we may be ingesting, no context. We blame tech companies for censoring too much or not censoring enough, failing to admit that “Big Tech” is not the internet’s worst enemy—we are.

Chris Nye

Living in Portland, Oregon with my wife and son. Doctoral candidate at Duke University. Author of a few books: chrisnye.co/books