We’re in the season when social media gets hot and heavy with opinions – sometimes blisteringly delivered – from people who passionately advocate for their political points of view.
Or social points of view. Or religious points of view. Pull it all together, and it’s your worldview.
I’ve always considered it a fallacy to embrace the old saw, “discuss anything but religion and politics,” because this implies a very truncated and unrealistic view of human nature.
We all have a worldview. And, it’s showing.
Some believe President Obama is something akin to a savior; others see him as the devil incarnate. Sprinkle in a wide range of viewpoints in between. Same person being discussed – but we each see through our own set of glasses. Same thing happened with Presidents Bush, Clinton, Reagan, and on and on.
I believe that everything having to do with the lives of Hollywood types is utterly valueless. Others spend hours per week devouring magazines and TV shows on the subject. We have very different worldviews about where value is found. I’ll tell you right now that I don’t get it, and that I think it’s a waste of time – but if I then write you off as a sub-human being, I’ve crossed a line of disrespect. Even if I firmly believe you’re “wrong” and can argue a really strong case for it!
You may turn out a light bulb because, by that small action, you feel like you are helping to save an endangered planet. There is an entire narrative of beliefs feeding that sensibility. Whereas, another person may turn off a light bulb simply to save a few pennies, while quite convinced that there is sufficient energy for the world’s needs and no real danger is posed by the consumption of those watts.
Same action. Very different worldviews. Very different core beliefs.
Our opinions are shaped by our worldview – how we see and feel about the world, its origin and destiny, its occupants, and the laws by which it operates. How we assess “right”ness and “wrong”ness. And undergirding our worldview are our (consciously or unconsciously held) core beliefs – our first principles. Our intuitive moral framework. What are religion and politics and social causes if not expressions of worldview?
Face it, folks – by and large, we don’t believe because we see. We see because we believe. That goes for naturalists and supernaturalists, of every stripe. <—-(this statement is an expression of one of my core first principles of belief. Don’t share it? Fine. Happy to talk. Respectfully.)
If someone shares our worldview, we feel an affinity. But what if, in the body politic of our society, we encounter others who have a very different set of assumptions, whose embraced narrative about reality differs from ours? What then?
Unlike those who think that religion and politics should be “off the table” as subjects, I advocate for an honest and consistent worldview, embraced with appropriate measures of both passion and humility. If Tim Tebow believes that Jesus has helped him, let him say so in any way that he prefers. No laws are broken. On the other hand, if a gold-medal winner wants to say, “All praise to Allah for my performance,” and another athlete wishes to say, “I did this all myself through my hard work,” and another says, “I didn’t build that – it was my parents and society and government,” and another says, “the stars were in alignment for me today” – whatever. Own your beliefs. Don’t be shy about your worldview.
And respect the fact that other people don’t share it. I’m not going to shut up about how I see the world because someone says, “Dude, I disagree with you,” or, “that belief system offends me.” If I say to you, “I believe that the world was created through random processes of mutations and unsupervised evolution (or, alternatively, it was created by a Supernatural Being),” then you are free to disagree and to state your beliefs (and vice-versa). And I’m perfectly free to express my worldview in a blog post, a book, TV interview, or a banner trailing behind an airplane. We live in a land of first amendment rights. However, if in a dialogue together, I say, “I understand where you’re coming from, but I find this particular aspect of your belief system to be distasteful and don’t want to discuss it further” – then the correct thing to do is to move onto other subjects. That’s being respectful in our differences.
Suppression of the expressed beliefs (even publicly!) of others isn’t the goal. Mutual respect is.
But here’s the other danger we face – denigrating stereotypes. All Muslims must be terrorists – or all Bible-believing Christians are dumb rubes – or all liberals are elitist communists – or all conservatives are greedy haters. The possibilities are endless. And if I’m associated with one or more of these labels, you might be tempted to lump me into a group of straw men that you can conveniently flail and then write off. Pretty disrespectful.
Because, ultimately, no matter which hot-button topics you try to avoid publicly, through your many words and actions and associations and tweets and status updates, your worldview is showing anyway. So put on big enough panties to express yourself clearly, debate others intelligently and forthrightly, learn about the glasses others wear, and make friends with those who may not share your first principles.
We all might learn a few things that way. Even while agreeing to disagree.
We don’t live in a theocracy. Or an atheocracy. This is America, where we can have possess our worldviews and speak of them freely. Thank God for that (or, don’t, if you prefer!).