Wednesday, January 25, 2006

You behave that way because...

What is a "worldview"?

That word is being bandied around these days in just about any journal or book that tries to make sense of what is happening in the world around us. I challenge you to find a recently published Christian book without the term. It is being used as polemic, as an apologetic, and when they just don't know what to do about people they don't understand - that is their "worldview." But do any of these people really know what they are describing?

It is hard to argue against the observation that some people do things differently than other people, and maybe there are reasonable statements that possibly describe what is going on. Try out this exercise, curious reader: write your own definition of "worldview." Do it on a sheet of paper before reading on. Ask a friend to write their own definition without looking at yours or looking at someone else's definition.

If I had to guess, your definition probably included something that happened mentally. The process probably looked something like this: you know through observation that people behave differently. Your definition tried to say that people who think alike behave in similar fashion. Most definitions fit this pattern. But can we really do that?

Is it possible to describe the mental constructs that are associated with behaviors of groups? We do not know what is going on in the mind of a single individual, much less an entire community. For example, try to acurately tell me the process that happens in your head when you make a decision. Pretty tough, huh? Now try to describe what was going on in your mind when you did something that you knew you probably shouldn't. Now try to tell me the mental picture, or lense, or construct, that was the determining factor for the people that showed up for church last Sunday, just the ones in your church. Every single one of them, for that reason? I don't show up at church every Sunday for the exact same reason, and there are times when I am not really sure why I am doing what I am doing at any particular moment.

Look at Wikipedia at the definition and then the following discussion to see how different people try to categorize how we think. This is important because there are conflicts in this world, on many different levels. When a group or individual categorizes another group as fitting into a certain "worldview" that negatively impacts their own, expect a power struggle.

A great example of this is the upcoming event when SoulForce visits Abilene Christian University. The following is a quote from the President of ACU about the event:

"A religious activist organization called SoulForce will send 30 to 35 young adults on a seven-week bus tour this spring to confront selected religious or military colleges and universities about their perspectives on homosexuality. The bus tour, called Equality Ride, will visit institutions where, according to SoulForce, “bans on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender enrollment force students into closets of fear and self-hate.” The group plans to visit 19 institutions and one national higher education event. Thirteen of the 19 schools are members of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, including Abilene Christian University. The Equality Ride has chosen to stop at ACU March 27 as the group travels through Texas. Prior to the Abilene stop, the group will be at Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee, Okla. From Abilene, they are going to Texas A&M University in College Station. ACU will be the seventh school visited on the bus tour. The Web site for this group states their intentions: “Through dialogue with administrators and discussions with students, the young activists of the Equality Ride will make clear the harmful effects of the false notion that homosexuality is a ‘sickness and a sin,’ and ‘a threat to the nation and the military.’ ” "

Two institutions have categorized "worldviews" and will have a resultant clash. The clash is not necessarily one of physical force, but concerns the power to dictate behavior.

If you cannot judge what is going on in a group's mentality, or someone else's head, but only observe behavior, how would this affect your participation in this event? If we can only make judgments based on behavior, how can you affect change in other people when we think it is merited? In ourselves?

Through second-hand sources, I heard that President Royce Money announced the SoulForce's visit in ACU's chapel. When he said that we could have the group arrested, some in the student body cheered. I find that behavior appalling (despite whatever was going on in their heads). He then went on to say, "but we will greet them with love and respect." Fortunately, there was some cheering for that as well.

I look forward to your comments...

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Pelagius said...

Hey Vaught!

Thanks for this excellent post. I'm glad to hear both that the Equality Ride will be making a stop in Abilene and that the administration will greet them with "love and respect," rather than have them arrested. I think that SoulForce's mission (based on your description) is an important one, if for no other reason than to make people aware that there are other Christian perspectives on the topic of homosexuality. I know that ACU does not cope well (if it copes at all...) with the fact that some of the school's students are gay, and that this poses huge difficulties for these students. I truly do wish that ACU could take steps to help these students understand that God loves them, regardless of their sexual orientation. Once the students have been comforted by the fact of God's love and grace, the school could then help them understand what the Bible says about homosexuality (although my idea about that might differ significantly from the administration...) and how God wants them to live, given their orientation.

Shayna Willis said...

As per usual, I agree with my esteemed small group member on this point and with the illustrious John Vaught. It astounds me that people are afraid of seeing movies like "Brokeback Mountain" because it makes gay people sympathetic. I would hate to personally have homosexuality as the thing I struggle with and we should try and understand what that's like. Imagine what it would be like to love someone and not be able to be with that person because you have a higher calling. If we did become more sympathetic, then maybe we'd be less likely to attach the sin to the exclusion of someone from God's love. In my opinion, that is the worldview.

I am also appalled at people cheering at the thought of having these people arrested, but having been in the church of Christ for a total of 4 years, it is unfortunately not surprising.

Shayna Willis said...

I wonder if I'm more sympathetic to homosexuals just because I grew up around them, have gay friends and family members, and have been exposed to it all my life. That's my worldview. :-)

buckeyeboy said...

Hey, Johnny!! It's great to see your blog up and running with some actual blog entries!! Maybe I'll even comment sometime on your musings....

Mike Miller said...

I can't wait to see how this shakes out. Hopefully, the love of Christ will win out over all views, biases, and stereotypes. Thanks John, for bringing this to light.

vaught_family said...

Thanks for the comments! I certainly believe that our behavior as we deal with these kind of situations will say far more than our words.