Cognitive and cultural dissonance (CCD) can be defined as the anxiety felt when experiencing something that does not fit with your worldview:
- Cognitive dissonance is that uncomfortable feeling you get when holding to “conflicting ideas simultaneously” – for example, holding on the tension of the here and not yet, or God’s sovereignty and human’s free will.
- Cultural dissonance is the uncomfortable feeling caused when your cultural environment is changed, challenged, or thrown into disarray. An example would be someone from the United States going overseas have to pay a bathroom attendant for toilet paper. Or, in bring it close to home, a group of Jesus followers having church week after week inside a bar….
Drawing from Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman in John 4 (which, BTW, is the longest recorded conversation Jesus had with ANYONE); Ken Wilson showed how following Jesus would cause us, His followers, to have a bad case of CCDs. In fact, it is only those groups that want a nice and tidy religion that abhors cognitive and cultural dissonance.
Those of use who really want to follow Jesus have better get used to living in the tension of CCD.
The twelve disciples had too – which is why they had problems with Jesus talking to the Samaritan women. This act broke so MANY cultural and social ‘rules’ it was crazy!! Here are just a few:
- Religious – Jews and Samaritans worshiped at different places, some may even say different ‘gods’
- Political – Samaritans where the half-breeds left over from when Babylon destroyed the temple years before…they were NOT to be trusted by any good Jew, let allow a respected Rabbi.
- Gender – Men did NOT talk to women alone in those days, unless it was to…umm…buy certain services.
- Moral Status – Come on, she was at the well alone in the heat of the day, it wasn’t like she was the most holy person in town that day…
Yet God cared about Photina, the lady’s name according to the Eastern Orthodox Church tradition. He loved her and wanted to let her know that He was there to redeem her and her life. Mercy was about to triumph over judgment!
In fact, mercy overflowed so much so that Jesus stayed in the town for two days sharing and eating with the Samaritans. And boy where the disciples confused and messed up! I can just see them standing around with blank looks on their face not quite sure what to think of their Rabbi…
They had a case of the CCDs. A bad, bad case.
So what’s the bottom line? Here are four points for us a followers of Jesus as outlined by Ken:
- Jesus will lead local leaders into the local harvest (ie. the Samaritan women into the Samaritan town)
- Don’t be surprised if Jesus gives you a bad case of the CCDs
- Only go where Jesus sends you (an important point that requires you to LISTEN to God everyday)
- Let’s cut each other some slack as we listen and obey Jesus the best we can (just because you don’t like want someone else is doing doesn’t mean that Jesus isn’t in it)
In ending we must remember that a church avoiding cognitive and cultural dissonance is a church that is avoiding Jesus. Embrace it; be willing to have our mind blown and your worldview enlarged.
Follow the Wild Goose.