Disconnect between belief and practice


I've been reading some Michael Foucault (or trying to!) and his perspective on how our actions are formed by forces that lie beneath/below the surface of our beliefs. For Foucault we can have conscious beliefs we espouse yet they fail to inform our actions.

Some would say it's because we have other beliefs that are deeper, less conscious that we really live out of, but writers like Foucault suggest that something else is going on. Our real beliefs are abstracted and disconnected from the world of action*.

For example, ask most christians if care for the poor and social justice are part of the Gospel and most will say yes. But ask the same group of people if and how often they engage in activities that support that belief, the figure will certainly be much lower.

If we were in a shop and were faced with buying a product knowing who made it, for so little in heart breaking situations of economic slavery, most of us wouldn't do so. Even though we know of the likelihood of someone 'paying the price' through aweful working conditions to bring us our cheap goods, we are still able to buy them without thinking about their production context, whilst at the same time condemning such conditions as wrong.

And in terms of church life, we affirm major doctrines as the most important, the trinity, the divinity of Jesus, yet it often seem that the smaller doctrines for example ordination of women, cause us to do something (anger in favour or against) and to take action far more than the major beliefs we hold.

There is a disconnect between belief and practice at the heart of our consumer culture, that a problem for our church life be it traditional or emerging. It's why I can describe myself as missional, believe in missional/emerging church, yet still not really ever engage in giving time, energy and money to real mission.

So often we try to get the correct beliefs, theology and meaning to counter culture, and all that happens is that our beliefs and convictions are re-consumed, and left inacted. It's this issue that is at the heart of my ongoing research. Why do we persist in trying to move from theory to practice (or undertake practice without thinking, something we are equally good/bad at), when our culture disables us from action around our new convictions, and what if anything can we do about it?

*If you want a good introduction to this topic see Vincent Miller, Consuming Religion.