Worldview Glasses

Can We See Things As They Are?

If we don’t understand worldview, we won’t understand why people act as they do. And that’s true in New York, Cairo, or anywhere else. Stay tuned to BreakPoint.

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John Stonestreet

The biggest news coming out of New York’s recent Fashion Week had nothing to do with the clothes the models were wearing. Instead, the buzz was all about their glasses: Google’s “augmented reality” eyewear.

It’s called “augmented reality” because when you look through them you’re not seeing the world as it actually is, but instead, how certain programmers interpret it. You’re seeing what the software mandates that you see.

Apart from supermodels and Google employees, virtually no one else is wearing Google’s $1,500 interpretation of reality glasses.

Now that doesn’t mean just because you’re not wearing the glasses that you’re seeing the world as it truly is. Quite the contrary. Everyone has a worldview, and worldviews function as Google’s project does, only without the supermodels.

An ongoing example is the fallout from the 2011 Arab Spring. In the wake of anti-government protests and revolts, western governments, including our own, offered encouragement and sometimes even aid to those pushing for democracy in countries like Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya. The hope was that dictators would be replaced by democratic governments.

Well, that’s what their Western secular worldviews led them to believe. Reality, as we have learned the hard way, has proven to be very different. The choices are not limited to tyrants and would-be Thomas Jeffersons. As we have seen in places like Egypt, Libya and Syria, Islamists are ready, willing, and able to take advantage of the instability created by the collapse of the old order.

Yet judging by their reactions, world leaders, including many of our own, seem to be genuinely surprised at this turn of events. As Secretary Clinton, referring to the attack that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens, said, “How could this happen in a country we helped liberate, in a city we helped save from destruction?”

Where that question comes from is the blind spot in the modern Western worldview. That blind spot sees religion as, at best, a private matter, and at worst, something societies outgrow on their way to full “maturity,” which of course, means “like us.”

This worldview denies—in fact cannot even see—the role that Christianity played in the development and shaping of the Western ideas of freedom, human rights, and, especially in the U.S., democracy itself. It shouldn’t surprise us, then, that they don’t understand why you can’t simply export Western democratic values to places like Egypt and Libya and expect them to work in anything resembling the manner that they do here.

Nor can they understand why Islamic societies, to whom the Western idea of separating religion from politics is literally foreign, might support Islamist parties like the Muslim Brotherhood. For them, religion isn’t a private matter, and it certainly isn’t something you outgrow on the way to aping the West.

The blind spot is not limited to foreign affairs. I remember in the wake of the Columbine shootings there was no shortage of “explanations” for why the shooters did what they did. With one exception, virtually every possible theory was thrown against the wall to see if it stuck.

The exception was the shooters’ often-professed and well-documented nihilism. The pundits for the most part ruled out this possibility that what the shooters believed actually affected what they did. Not because of the evidence but because, like the software for the Google eyewear, the pundits’ worldview wouldn’t let them see it.

Folks, as Chuck Colson said over and over again, worldview matters. And it affects how we see all of reality: from New York to Cairo and back again.

And to deepen your worldview, join me this weekend on BreakPoint This Week. I’ll be speaking with Dr. Glenn Sunshine and Jim Garlow about Pulpit Freedom Sunday. If you can’t tune in, just come to BreakPoint.org and click on the “This Week” tab.


Further Reading and Information

After attacks in Egypt and Libya, USA asks: Why?
Sarah Lynch, Oren Dorell and David Jackson | USA Today | September 13, 2012

Why the Arab Spring has failed: Watchdog claims people have no more freedom than under the tyrants they deposed
Daily Mail | September 18, 2012

Libya Attack: U.S. Consulate Violence Was 'Terrorist Attack,' Says Counterterrorism Official
Reuters | Huffington Post | September 19, 2012

France to close embassies in fear of cartoon backlash
France24.com | September 20, 2012


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Thanks Lobanz! I think there are ideals that are universally accessible, but some cultures (these mentioned being case-in-point) are laden with ideals that give them blinders. Appreciate the feedback...
Excellent article!

I have often heard people say "Democracy won't work in Muslim countries, so we should try to force our system on them." And others fire back with "Democracy can work anywhere! Freedom is for everyone!" But you make a very important point that it is the principles of a Christian worldview -- one that sees the world accurately and acknowledges "the laws of nature and nature's God" -- that enabled our Founders to design a government that would flourish even in this fallen world.

So freedom may not work for Muslims or Atheists -- they are building their house on the sand.

Great article!
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