Cultural Encounters: A Journal For The Theology Of Culture Volume 11 Number 1 (Winter 2015) - Page 40

THE PREEMINENCE OF CHRIST IN US - Cleveland more impact those memberships will have on the individual’s sense of self and, by extension, self-esteem. Maintaining high self-esteem is a primary motivation. Abraham Maslow, an early and important motivation theorist, even went so far as to suggest that high self-esteem is a basic need that is equal to food and water. Further, a great deal of scientific evidence suggests that self-esteem is immensely important and that humans go to great lengths to protect it.37 Research on social identity theory has shown that individuals often use group membership to maintain positive self-esteem. First, individuals tend to gravitate toward and form groups with similar others. Second, once the group is formed, group members engage in group-serving biases that defend the group’s positive identity. Third, group members disparage outgroups in an effort to elevate ingroup status. With respect to self-esteem, group identity is one of the first lines of defense. Therefore, individuals tend to choose groups carefully. In addition to pursuing membership in a high status group, individuals attempt to surround themselves with people who will confirm their ideology, thus affirming their own identity and protecting their self-esteem. Groups that affirm an individual’s identity can help to defend against the assaults with which they are already dealing. It is logical to infer that this is the case with many Christians who become rooted in communities that wholeheartedly support their cultural and Christian worldviews. In an effort to protect their identity and self-esteem, they join and remain in groups that promise to do just that. Once a group is formed, group members will often engage in group-serving biases that help them to naturally interpret the world in ways that maintain positive group perceptions.38 By doing so, they preserve their own sense of Connectionist Model,” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 25, no. 7 (1999): 873–882. 37. Mark R. Leary and Roy F. Baumeister, “The Nature and Function of SelfEsteem: Sociometer Theory,” in Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, ed. Mark P. Zanna, vol. 32 (San Diego: Academic Press, 2000), 1–62; Eddie HarmonJones et al., “Terror Management Theory and Self-Esteem: Evidence That Increased Self-Esteem Reduces Mortality Salience Effects,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 72, no. 1 (1997): 24–36. 38. John C. Turner, “Towards a Cognitive Redefinition of the Social Group,” in Social Identity and Intergroup Relations, ed. Henri Tajfel (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), 15–40. 39