Wednesday, April 20, 2011
What's Your Worldview?
I’ve been thinking lately about worldviews, what the Germans called weltenshauung in the 19th century (in fact, “worldview” comes from the translation of the German word.). Its approximate meaning is how one views the world, or even the universe, and humanity’s relation to it.
Ideally, a worldview would emerge after careful study, instruction, guidance, inference and understanding. I don’t know if any worldview, or any specific person’s worldview, actually happens that way. These days, to watch what passes for governance in our national and state capitals, the only worldview that seems to matter is power and who has it at the moment. One might even argue that many of us have a worldview, and we see and interpret everything to justify what we believe, whether it does or not. And perhaps especially when it does not.
However a person develops a worldview, it’s clear that we all have one, even if we’re unconscious of it. It could be a religious worldview – Christian, Muslim, Hindu, secular. It could be political – Democrat, Republican, Socialist, communist, progressive, liberal, conservative. It might be economic – wealthy, poor, middle class. It could be based on education. It might be some combination of all of these and others (and usually is). And we all have one.
Worldviews tend to filter things out and in. If a congressman proposes a tax, like an increase in income taxes, worldviews automatically determine how it will be received, explained and understood. I’ll give you two names, and your response to each will tell me a lot – probably everything – about your worldview. The first name: Sarah Palin. The second name: Barack Obama.
(The media play a role in this, too, of course, and the media have their own particular worldview, one that usually starts with denial of having one. Journalists always seem so shocked to be accused of bias.)
The times we live in seem to require that worldviews scream at each other. Every worldview presupposes that anything conflicting with it must be destroyed, or at a minimum contained and neutralized. We live in shrill times, and shrill times require reasonable people to be marginalized.
This is not an argument for coexistence, like the bumper sticker reads. But it might be an argument, perhaps a plea, for civility.
In chapter five of Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis puts his finger on this issue of worldview:
“…Christianity tells people to repent and promises them forgiveness. It therefore has nothing (as far as I know) to say to people who do not know they have done anything to repent of and who do not feel that they need any forgiveness. It is after you have realized that there is a real Moral Law, and a Power behind that law, and that you have broken that law and put yourself wrong with that Power – it is after all this, and not a moment sooner, that Christianity begins to talk.”
In fact, until we all have understood there is a Moral Law, and a Power behind it, and how we have all failed to obey that Law, then the spectacles of worldviews screaming at each other will continue.
And end badly.
This post is part of the book discussion hosted by Sarah Salter and Jason Stasyszen on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. To see other posts, please visit Sarah Salter at Living Between the Lines.