Is the “social imaginary” of 21st century philosopher Charles Taylor the same thing as 20th century philosopher J. H. Bavinck’s “Worldvision?” These both in turn would have been what Glen Martin was talking about when he wrote about “Eclectic and Conglomerate thinkers.”
In all of these the idea is that people move in terms of a worldview that they do not self-consciously recognize as such. In other words in all these cases the individuals under consideration have not arrived at the way they are leaning into the world by being epistemologically self-conscious about the ideas that are forming the foundation for why they lean into life the way they lean into life. Instead, to use a metaphor, they are flowing with the cultural rivers current or whatever sitz-em-lieben they are in living in.
The way I have have often put it is with the analogy of a Hollywood film set. People, exceptions notwithstanding, are chameleons and they will blend into any film set that the culture gives them. So, if the culture is the equivalent of a Pirate film those who are not espistemologically self conscious about their belief system will dress in pirate hats, wear eye patches, and go around saying; “Arrrgh, Matey.” If, in their lifetime the cultural film set switches to a Western these same people will suddenly begin to wear ten gallon hats and speak with a Texas drawl.
Most people intuit “truth” and do not intuit it very well. In the words of Michael Polanyi they use “tacit knowledge” to ascertain what it will take to surf the zeitgeist and will accordingly adopt whatever it takes to fit into the “social imaginary,” (Charles Taylor) the prevailing “Worldvision,” (J. H. Bavinck) thus demonstrating themselves to be eclectic and conglomerate thinkers (Martin).
Still, like it or not the substratum underneath of all this is the handful of people who both play with and popularize and implement ideas which in turn eventually gets into the blood stream of a culture so that the social imaginary/worldvision can begin to gain traction so as to explain why the overwhelming majority of people lean into the times and so live the way they live.
To slightly change a quote from John Maynard Keynes;
“Practical men who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct ideologue/theologian. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back”
The long and short of this is that the largest percentage people don’t live the way they live or believe what they believe because they have thought through matters. They have not spent their lives examining the whys and wherefores of life. They were born, so to speak, on ice and having been born on ice they just put on their ice skates and took off without a thought that just maybe that wasn’t ice after all. Most people live the way they live and believe what they believe because they have caught all their “convictions and lifestyle” the same way they catch a flu virus.
This means it is those who are the idea people who are the most dangerous people as combined with those who promote the ideas which they more often than not don’t even understand. These are the creators, producers and manufacturers of culture (Hollywood, Publishing Houses, Media, Universities, etc.). More often than not in their role as “cultural gatekeepers” they are even more instrumental for creating the cultural film background set by which most people live by than those whose ideas they are (often unwittingly) pushing.
So, to make this practical, if we as Christians are to be have a plan of attack for returning to something that approximates Christendom what needs to be done is as follows;
1.) Negatively we must give a deadly virus to this current cultural context so that the social imaginary/worldvision can no longer be sustained by the average person in the culture. As Biblical Christians we have to find a way to make what was once considered “odd behavior” to be odd behavior again. That likely won’t be done by just chanting over and over again “that’s odd.” Instead it will be done perhaps by being able to mock the odd. Right now using the absurd to illustrate the absurd may be one of our best friends.
For example … We could run an ad campaign where someone tries to run their appliance by plugging in a male cord into another male cord and then run a tag line … “Gay lately?”
Look, Elijah mocked the hades out of his and God’s enemies. I think it is time for Christians to start clever mocking.
2.) Positively we have to have some people who are idea people who are casting Biblical Christianity in such a way that the current pagan theology of the self (as one example) is challenged and some other people who can promote those ideas into pop culture.