Thursday, April 11, 2013

Understanding Your Worldview: Do We See? Can We Hear?

In The Transforming Vision, Walsh and Middleton state:

"Worldviews are best understood as we see them incarnated, fleshed out in actual ways of life. They are not systems of thought, like theologies or philosophies. Rather, worldviews are perceptual frameworks. They are ways of seeing. If we want to understand what people see, or how well people see, we need to watch how they walk. If they bump into certain objects or stumble over them, then we can assume that they are blind to them. Conversely, their eyes may not only see, but dwell on certain other objects."

Call to mind many of Jesus' statements to the disciples about the crowds not being able "to see" and being unable "to hear" (Matthew 13:11-17). Also, note that the religious rulers of Jesus' day asked Jesus if He thought they were "blind" (John 9:40). Because they were vested in their ideological worldview, and did not want to repent, this prevented the crowds and religious rulers from seeing what Jesus was saying and, consequently, it affected how they responded to Him--from some walking away (John 6), to some having Him scapegoated and executed at the hands of the state (Matt. 26--27). 

Are there parts of our worldview that we do not "see" and cannot "hear?" Do we only listen and and agree with those who agree with us and condemn all who disagree? Paul said this behavior is not wise:

"We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise" (2 Cor. 10:12).

Worldviews change. And it is imperative that we understand our own history as Americans, and especially as Christians, in order to compare our national and cultural worldview to the Biblical worldview of Jesus, Peter and Paul. Notice, for example, how one particular aspect of the American worldview changed within just a few years concerning the bombing of civilians in war:

In Resident Aliens: A Provocative Assessment of Culture and Ministry for People Who Know That Something is Wrong, Hauerwas & Willimon write:

"Liberal theology [of the 19 & early 20th century, sp] had spent decades reassuring us that we did not have to take the Jewishness of Jesus seriously. The particulars of this faith, the limiting, historically contingent, narrative specifics of the faith, such as the Jewishness of Jesus or his messianic eschatology, were impediments for the credibility of modern people and could therefore be removed so that we could get down to the real substance of Christianity. Jesus was not really a Jew, he was the pinnacle of the brightest and best in humanity, the teacher of noble ideals, civilization’s very best. It was a short step from the liberal Christ-the-highest-in-humanity to the Nazi Superman...."

"It might have all been explained away by asserting that Hitler was a maniac and the German people were infected with some sort of mass hysteria. Then we North American Christians could say that, although the compromised German church failed, at least ours did not. Unfortunately, the ethical results of our inadequate theology had global implications."

"On August 6, 1945, the first atomic bomb was dropped on a Japanese city. Turning to a group of sailors with him on the battle cruiser Augusta, President Truman said, “This is the greatest thing in history.” Truman, once described as “an outstanding Baptist layman,” was supported by the majority of American Christians, who expressed few misgivings about the bomb. The bomb, however, was the sign of our moral incapacitation, an open admission that we had lost the will and the resources to resist vast evil."

"The American church had come a long way to stand beside Harry Truman in 1945. Just a few years earlier, in 1937, when Franco’s forces bombed the Spanish town of Guernica, killing many civilians, the civilized world was shocked. That same year, when the Japanese bombed the city of Nanking, the world felt it was now dealing with particularly insidious forces which had little intention of obeying historical prohibitions against killing civilians."

"President Roosevelt issued an urgent appeal to all governments, at the beginning of World War II, saying, “The bombing of helpless and unprotected civilians is a strategy which has aroused the horror of all mankind. I recall with pride that the United States consistently has taken the lead in urging that this inhuman practice be prohibited. ”

"Yet only several years later, in 1942, Churchill spoke of “beating the life out of Germany” through routine bombing of German cities (after the bombing of London by the Germans). What had begun as the acts of ruthless Fascist dictators had become the accepted practice of democratic nations. Few Christians probably even remember that there was a time when the church was the voice of condemnation for such wantonly immoral acts...."

"Obliteration bombing of civilian populations had come to be seen as a military necessity. A terrible evil had been defended as a way to a greater good. After the bomb, all sorts of moral compromises were easier—nearly easier—nearly two million abortions a year seemed a mere matter of freedom of choice, and the plight of the poor in the world’s richest nation was a matter of economic necessity."

"The project, begun at the time of Constantine, to enable Christians to share power without being a problem for the powerful, had reached its most impressive fruition. If Caesar can get embrace the bomb, there is no limit to what we will not do for the modern world. Alas, in leaning over to speak to the modern world, we had fallen in. We had lost the theological resources to resist, lost the resources even to see that there was something worth resisting...."

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