June 20, 2006

It's All About Worldview

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 9:22 pm

I’ve been away from blogging for quite awhile. I’m sure my feed has been removed from all of your blog readers, and that you’ve pretty much given up on me. So it must be a shock to see that I’m still around.

So why the long absence?

At the end of last year, I had a growing sense that 1) everything I set out to say when I began blogging had been said, either by me or by others far more persuasive than I, and 2) if anyone was not convinced by what had already been said, then there was nothing that I could say to change their minds. After all that had been written and said by the likes of Jim Wallis, Jimmy Carter, Bill Press, Bill Moyer, John Danforth, Robin Meyers and so many of my fellow bloggers, it was hard to believe the entire Christian right hadn’t switched sides, and since they hadn’t, it must be futile to even try.

I kept myself entertained blogging on health care for awhile, but eventually CrossLeft seemed to go radio silent, so finally it just seemed that blogging was a somewhat futile exercise.

So, why am I back?

I’ve been trying to figure out this conundrum, this apparent futility of persuading Christian Americans to embrace a more compassionate Christianity, mainly by not thinking about it too hard. And after months of mentally sneaking up on the problem when it wasn’t looking, it seems to me that the answer is one word: worldview.

Or is it two? Or hyphenated? Whatever.

For many of us, worldview is a bad word, associated with the Worldview Weekend and Tom Delay’s statement that

[God] has been walking me through an incredible journey, and it all comes down to worldview…He is using me, all the time, everywhere, to stand up for biblical worldview in everything that I do and everywhere I am.

But I’ve come to believe that it really is about worldview.

If the scientific evidence for evolution (not to mention statements by mainline Protestant and Roman Catholic leaders that evolution is entirely compatible with the Christian faith) fails to convince someone of its truth, then there is something bigger at play than logical reasoning.

If a Christian can read Matthew 25 and still believe that universal healthcare is a bad thing, then this is no longer a discussion about politics.

If anyone can listen to Ann Coulter for ten seconds without subsequently assuming her book “Godless” must be an autobiography, then no amount of well-marshalled arguments will convince them otherwise.

It’s bigger than mere political beliefs and allegiances. It’s about worldview.

So I want to spend some time blogging my thoughts about competing Christian worldviews — a Christian worldview based on compassion, love and caring versus a (supposedly) Christian worldview based on judgement, punishment and isolation.

So I’m back, at least for now, and have found that perhaps not everything has already been said.


  1. I understand where your frustration is coming from — it happened to me several times during my Progressive Protestant days. 🙂 However…

    If the scientific evidence for evolution (not to mention statements by mainline Protestant and Roman Catholic leaders that evolution is entirely compatible with the Christian faith) fails to convince someone of its truth, then there is something bigger at play than logical reasoning.

    I don’t think anyone who hasn’t done significant academic work in biology really understands the scientific evidence supporting evolution as a way of understanding human origins. What it comes down to — and you underline this by your reference to religious leaders — is what authority one accepts on faith. Mainliners tend to accept the authority of scientists, opponents of evolution do not. Logic or reason don’t really have anything to do with it, and I think it’s wrong-headed to attack evangelicals over it, because many folks doing the attacking couldn’t mount a serious scientific defense of evolution to save their lives.

    In any case, I will say that transformation is definitely possible. We are seeing a sea change in opinion about homosexuality, and I think it’s going to be over in ten or fifteen years. Though of course there will still be some folks who still oppose inclusion. I’m not sure what role blogs can play, but I think I’ve seen transformation happen here, too.

    But it doesn’t happen much through overt confrontation. It happens most through telling stories and bringing everyone into closer contact with one another. I read an Episcopalian recently who wrote that it would be best for the conservatives to just go their own way — this is really not good. We’re going to move further and further toward 100% polarization if we aren’t willing to remain in community with conservatives, love them, and take them into our lives.

    Sorry, that got pretty long. And I don’t pretend to always practice what I preach. 🙂 But I really emphatically believe transformation will come mostly through community and further closeness with conservatives, not through argument.

    (Incidentally, on the resemblance of popular science — the beliefs held by non-specialists — to religion and the danger of scientism, check out philosopher Mary Midgley’s Evolution as a Religion.)

    Comment by Chris T. — June 21, 2006 @ 1:28 am

  2. It’s good to see you back, Bob!

    I agree that blogging about worldviews would be a good thing.

    Comment by Jarred — June 21, 2006 @ 6:52 am

  3. Well, it’s about time! Glad to see you back, Bob. 🙂

    And, I love the comment about Anne Coulter! Sad, but true.

    Comment by Angel — June 21, 2006 @ 7:29 am

  4. Wow, nice to know I was missed! Thanks.

    Chris – all good thoughts. In particular:

    But it doesn’t happen much through overt confrontation. It happens most through telling stories and bringing everyone into closer contact with one another.

    It’s funny — I’ve been thinking that we don’t need more logic, we need more rhetoric. Meaning that we need story-telling, dialogue, and, shall I say, parables, rather than theological proofs. And more listening, which can be hardest of all.

    Comment by Bob — June 21, 2006 @ 9:48 am

  5. KUDOS on an excellent post.
    IT really is ALL about worldview,…but different worldviews even hear/mean the actual word differently. 😉

    Our nonprofit youth org isn’t getting all the Christian radio/”right” press that the folks over @ WorldView Weekend get,…and our network of youthleaders, ministry leaders, and supporters come from a very different gene pool, it seems.

    Stephen Colbert said it best just the other night, when he made a great distinction between those that SAY the words Jesus would SAY, and those that also DO the things Jesus would DO.

    A Christian worldview is LIVED (“heart, soul, mind and strength”), is unafraid of the “grey”, and just wants to play “follow The Leader” (rather than “follow my out-of-context, personal favorite Scripture rules”),…ALL the time.

    I’ll be reading more of your blog soon, and would love to chat sometime…

    Comment by Todd Henry — June 21, 2006 @ 12:27 pm

  6. Hey, welcome back!

    You raise some good points about worldviews. I would just add two things:

    1) We are all products of our respective environments, for good or ill. Those environments are as varied as human beings are, and they affect how we interact with the rest of the world. Our background informs our worldview, and I don’t expect anybody would be able to adopt a different worldview as a result of an intellectual argument. Still, worldviews can be changed — I’ve certainly changed mine over the years.

    2) It’s not as simple, either, as having a “liberal” or “compassionate” worldview versus a “conservative” or “judgmental” worldview. I think it is important to recognize the variety within each of these umbrella terms, and to recognize that these two polar opposites do not reflect the only options as far as worldviews are concerned. The sooner we move away from simplistic dichotomies as a framework, the sooner we may be able to lay a foundation for genuine change.

    Comment by BruceA — June 22, 2006 @ 7:53 am

  7. Surfin’ The Net

    I am kind of bored today and don’t really have anything that I want to blog about. So instead of just not blogging … I decided that I would highlight what I have been reading instead. That way you can…

    Trackback by The Rogue Angel — June 24, 2006 @ 9:50 am

  8. If a Christian can read Matthew 25 and still believe that universal healthcare is a bad thing, then this is no longer a discussion about politics.

    Isn’t this the real problem here, that both sides make statements like this?

    Presumably, Christians can all agree that feeding the hungry (for example) is a good thing, while disagreeing on the role of government vs the individual, or on the relative priority of working against poverty vs working for salvation (if that choice must even be made).

    Doesn’t this come down to an issue of respect? If we were to all accept that the other is trying his best to live for Christ in his own way, we might be able to move forward on this issue without constantly attacking each others’ salvation.

    Comment by JasonB — June 24, 2006 @ 2:37 pm

  9. Curious; society, part and whole, denies Elohim’s Kingship and Right to Rule. Thus, they deny creation. You can find a remnant of scientists, if you need that kind of ‘proof’, a small handful, some publicly publishing and on tv/web, who tell the truth – scientifically supported by all the facts that are available (and acknowledged, accepted as individual facts by evols without admitting the truth overall).
    evols have changed their stories more and more frequently as uncovered evidence makes their previous story not just unlikely but totally impossible. google google google read read read test test test (if you love truth and want to know, otherwise, nothing matters)

    Comment by jeff e. — June 24, 2006 @ 3:23 pm

  10. So glad to see you back. Glad also to see the “inclusive” phrasing to allow for heart
    to heart discussions with conservatives. It’s been so easy for me to forget that allowing
    my conservative brothers and sisters under the “big tent” is important and not to see them
    as “them”.
    Please keep blogging – you provide me with food for thought that I appreciate.

    Comment by Kirby — June 27, 2006 @ 7:25 am

  11. “But how could any citizens of the wealthiest, most free country on earth in the history of mankind consider themselves oppressed?”

    We are in the age of perception. Truth is no longer a matter a conclusion drawn from evidence. Truth is now a matter of perceived or generated evidence. For conservative Christians truth is truth because the Bible (God) said it. Liberal Christians tend to challenge and dismiss some stories in the Bible. Conservative Christians believe Genesis 1 happened exactly the way it is recorded. Liberals might conclude that Genesis 1 is a myth created to explain the inexplicable. Specially in a pre-scientific world. For this liberal, faith is generated when one discovers the truth within the myth: God created, creation is an act of redemption, and God liked what God created… God likes us; all of us!

    So if truth is a matter of perception, then it is very easy for conservatives to project themselves as victims and oppressed. And it starts at the top. GWB is constantly projecting himself as the victim of the media. Poor George, he can’t get anything done because the New York Times keeps picking on him. That way people have more sympathy for “Poor George” and don’t have to see the truth that 50,000 civilians and almost 3000 American lives have been killed in Iraq!

    So if the wealthiest of our politicians can use victimization to avoid truth, then why should we be surprised that Christian conservatives do the same? The truth is that conservative ideology, religious or political, is in conflict with the Gospel imperatives. And as long as conservatives can scream long and loudly about homosexuals destroying family values, they don’t have to address the fact that divorce is the true destroyer of family values. Create a perception and deny a reality.

    After thought: What would happen if someone introduced a bill outlawing divorce and called it the “Preserving our Families Bill”?

    Comment by Tony — June 27, 2006 @ 10:40 am

  12. A Canadian perspective, for what it’s worth:

    Americans polarize important issues like revelation, authority, and tradition along “liberal” and “conservative” lines that aren’t really meaningful in anywhere except in America. While I love you guys, you sometimes are unaware of your own American-centrism, which is why a lot of us have a tough time listening to *either* side of the debate. Things are far more complicated than American politics would have them, for instance. I mean, what about Christian socialists, Christian anarchists, Christian fascists, Christian corporatists, Christian distributists, Christian ecologists, and so on? By boiling the debate down to the level of whether one supports John Kerry or George Bush (most of us outside the United States see them as basically the same) misses the point entirely. For instance, maybe Christians shouldn’t be involved in state politics at all, as the Anabaptist tradition would have it. Yet this viewpoint is almost never discussed in the culture wars of the United States. Rather, it takes a whole lot of assumptions (many of which are of dubious biblical basis) and take the argument from there.

    Anyway, I don’t mean to rag on anyone. There is a lot of good America has brought and continues to bring to the world. At the same time, you belong to the most powerful nation ever known and history tells us that all great empires invariably a produce a kind of tunnel vision. So all I’m saying is maybe the answers lie outside of American political discourse.

    Peace and good will.

    Comment by Michael — June 30, 2006 @ 5:34 am

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