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Egocentricity And Sociocentricity In The Church - Examples of Egocentric and Sociocentric Thinking
"Our tendency to think with ourselves at the center of the world" and "our tendency to think within the confines of our social groups" are the definitions for egocentricity and sociocentricity as defined by Richard Paul in his keynote address at the 27th Annual International Conference on Critical Thinking (1).
"The school, the home, the media, and social life in general tend to praise thinking that is self-serving, egocentric, and sociocentric" (2). Our native egocentristic thoughts are "nourished" and our sociocentristic beliefs are "conditioned" by the society around us through school, the home, the media, work, religion, and laws (3). We cannot escape the attempts of our society to mold us into a selfish, individualistic adherent to societal norms; however, we can train ourselves to examine what society is trying to nourish and condition in us and accept only that which will make us who we desire to be. A critical thinker does not allow himself to be caught in the wave of culture that is trying to just push them along.
Let us examine one of the key instruments of egocentric and/or sociocentric influence in our culture: Churches. Most evangelical churches focus on Jesus being our personal savior and the church member's goal is a healthy individual walk that leads to an individual salvation. I once went to a church where the minister would have everyone bow their heads at the end of the sermon and if anyone wanted to become a Christian, they would only have to raise their hand. In these sort of churches, tolerance is the key and attendance is all that matters. This is an example of pure egocentrism.
Compare that to a church where a person walks forward, makes a shared profession of faith and the group welcomes them as a family member. In this church, the minister encourages the people to vote a certain way, to dress a certain way, and to always act a certain way. This is an example of effective sociocentrism.
Being part of a church should be something greater than just a shared confession or a personal relationship with Jesus. It needs to become a living and breathing part of a community of believers. Then it might just soar above the confines of egocentrism and sociocentrism. Many churches throughout history have been ruled by sociocentric principles. Lately, more churches are being fueled by nourishing egocentrism. I propose that critical thinking and the church do not have to be enemies. A healthy religion would be one that encourages its followers to be critical thinkers. If the religion is true, then it should have nothing to fear with critical thinking. If it is false, then it will not stand the test. All for the better.
Works Cited 1 Richard Paul, Critical Thinking in Every Domain of Knowledge and Belief, International Conference on Critical Thinking, July 23, 2007, http://www.criticalthinking.org/page.cfm?PageID=698&CategoryID=68. 2 Linda Elder and Richard Paul, The Critical Mind is A Questioning Mind, The Critical Thinking Community, http://www.criticalthinking.org/page.cfm?PageID=481&CategoryID=71. 3 Linda Elder and Richard Paul, Developing as Rational Persons: Viewing Our Development in Stages, The Critical Thinking Community, http://www.criticalthinking.org/page.cfm?PageID=518&CategoryID=61.