June 28, 2018
I have noticed something about parochialism.
It is usually the other guy.
We travel to some part of the country or go back our childhood home. We come back with a comment, “they are sure parochial there“. We also might say it about another organization or church. “They are just so parochial.”
“They are parochial, but of course I am not”, is the implication. We know more. We are more sophisticated, urbane, educated and aware. How do we think the term “flyover country” originated, if not from reverse parochialism?
“Parochial” used to relate to church parishes, but the use has expanded.
Parochial implies a self focus. It implies that where we are and what we do is better than other places and activities.
I remember a long time ago in Southeast Idaho, when we lived in Pocatello. A young family moved over from Boise, Idaho. The big city, of course. It did not take them long to start disrespecting and despising their new town. They made it embarrassingly obvious. I remember him talking about it with a determined scowl at one of our church softball games. It was not surprising to see them gone back to Boise within months. Us peons never had a chance. This even though none of us built the place.
Parochialism carries the idea that what I know about and what I have been experiencing is better than other things. I don’t need to be exposed to anything else. Or, if I am exposed in such a way, I tend to brush it off or diminish it as not as good as what I already know. What I am already used to experiencing can’t be topped.
What is funny about this is that usually the virtues and beauties about wherever we are, we did not create. We did not make the beauty that we see around us. We did not create the goodness that we enjoy. We just happen to live where we live.
I think this is also evidenced by our fanatical devotion to sports teams. Of course it’s natural to be a fan of a certain team. It is natural to have preferences. I have a couple of favorites. These are based on how I followed the same teams when I was a kid growing up. But I think the statement “we won“ is ridiculous on its face.
No, we did not win. The sweaty behemoths on the court or on the field won. We sat around and dissed everything that does not apply to that particular team. Sometimes we find it very difficult to recognize the abilities and talents of someone that is not wearing the correct uniform.
This parochial attitude assumes that God did better work in some places than in others. It assumes that He dropped the ball in certain places. There’s nothing wrong with having preferences; we all do. But to say that because I like it, it’s better, is mistaken. God has done his work of beauty in 1000 different ways, and each way can be appreciated.
Yes, I believe it is almost guaranteed you have some parochialism in your life. Thinking your way is better, or your chosen place to live is better, or how you view things is better. This may be cutting you off from a lot of joy that could be available to you on this planet.
We brag on where we live, and disrespect where someone else lives. It’s like we think we made our place what it is, and those parochial folks messed up their part of creation. We just happen to live here or there. God made it all. How do we have the authority to decide where He just plain messed up?
I am pretty certain this partly explains the multiplicity of church denominations. “Our way is best“. Your way is beneath our consideration. I have seen plenty of “looking-down-the-nose” at other groups, in church circles. This often seems to be stimulated by the awareness of a group that is doing very well, which makes us feel inferior.
Next time you want to start talking about how some people or groups are parochial, it might be good to take a look at yourself to see why you are saying that. Your assessment might be coming from your own parochialism.
Look at all the splinter tribalism we have going on in our country now. This is a manifestation of parochialism. “Our way is best; your way stinks.”
We had absolutely nothing to do with the existence of many things about which we brag . Fords are better than Chevys. Okay, have your preference and enjoy it. But have you ever built a Ford or Chevy? If not, on what basis do you take personal credit for their relative merits?
My guess is that some of the most sophisticated, urbane, educated people we have are leading the way in parochialism. They “have the answers” and can easily look down on the plebes. If that is not narrow, what is? Parochialism is related to pride and identity, by my observation.
Parochialism can turn into vigilantism. I think we don’t need that.