What is a worldview?
And why is it important?
It is not a Google Earth Image of the earth, although those are cool. Nor is the first the photograph of the Blue Marble, taken by Apollo 17 astronauts in 1972.
A worldview is how we understand the world around us. It is derived from our experiences, education and outside influences such as culture, family, upbringing, geo-political and socioeconomic positions. And it is the most important thing to understand about ourselves and about others.
For most people their worldview is subconscious and they could hardly even articulate it. They understand the world around them through a set of filters and they believe most people use the same or similar set of filters. But when you start to ask the tough questions about existence, then their worldviews begin to peek out. Right now in America we are asking tough questions and many people are starting to see worldviews clashing. Why?
Let's start with an example of a major shift in the worldviews which happened a few years ago. This shift was slow in coming but profoundly changed the course of the world. For a thousand years leading up to the 17th century everyone believed that lords and kings were God's appointed rulers. Everyone in the lands were subject to the king. That is, the king could tell you where to live, who to marry, where to work, and what to do with your free times. All you, as a subject, could do was obey and pray that the king God appointed over you was a good one. This is a drastic oversimplification of a 1,000 years of Western history, but it holds true.
Slowly a new idea, a new worldview started to creep into Western Thought. Actually as a middle class developed, due to a rising Merchant class, and through the advent of secular universities, an old idea was rediscovered and reissued as a new idea. The idea was that people were equal. All people were created in the image of God and therefore anyone could rise to the ruling class. God didn't anoint a special line of people to be kings and rulers.
This revolutionary idea culminated in the following words:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
-Declaration of Independence
This revolutionary idea sparked the birth of a nation. We are not beholden to a king, nor to a state. This was an unheard of worldview shift. It was not just replacing the king with "the state."
Are we subject to the State? Can the State tell us where to live, who to marry, where to work? No. We are citizens in the State electing people to tell us where to work, who to marry… just joking! We are free peoples. We make our own choices. We tell the State what we want from it. At least in theory. Power rests in the hands of the people, not the government.
That is a major, major worldview shift. Some people could not wrap their minds around that shift. Even today some people claim kings are divinely elected to rule. Not all worldview shifts are this dramatic. Not all worldviews are this profound.
There are macro worldviews, which most people in a region hold to in whole or in part. And there are micro worldviews which only hold sway over small groups or even just individuals. A dominate culture will have a dominate worldview with some slight variance at the micro levels. A macro worldview might be: if you work hard you will succeed. A micro worldview might be: all my hard work has not gained me anything, the system is rigged against me.
When a dominate worldview comes up against another worldview which does not hold to the same values then tensions can arise. If the conflict is at the macro level then the two sides can come to conflict until they learn to live with each other or one side wins out. If it is a micro vs. macro worldview, the micro worldview will be minimized and the people holding to it will be ostracized.
Here is an example of worldviews which are at odds with each other.
WASP verses POC
A WASP is a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant. The term, in a more general usage, refers to White Christians in North America. They have strong beliefs in America and American Christianity. Often they hold to the idea of Manifest Destiny, that God has chosen America and blesses it uniquely. They hold to a duality of hard work and divine blessing. If you are well off, then you are blessed by God, and/or you put in the hard work and deserve the riches. They support the military as essential for America to rule the world, by divine right. And they support the police as the keepers of law and order. They find foreigners as an oddity and people of other religions as suspicious. They believe everyone also holds to this worldview and that it is the only factually true representation of the world.
Not all white people hold to all these tenets, but they typically hold to some of them. Many white people have developed their own micro worldviews due to their rubbing against other micro worldviews. This is often seen as a threat to the WASP way of life who then blame higher education and a liberal agenda for corrupting the youth.
A POC is a Person of Color. Often they are first or second generation American, but some of them have been here since before the beginning of the nation. A POC could be Latino, Asian, Black, or Native American. It is a very diverse population. And to lump them all into one group does them a disservice. They have a variety of worldviews because they come from a wide range of experiences, religions, education and backgrounds. The only thing they have in common, living in America, is that they stand in juxtaposition against the dominate WASP worldview. They are a collection of micro worldviews brushing up against the macro American worldview of the WASP.
Let's take one sample from the POC group: a black, male in this mid-twenties. College graduate and working a full time job. He is most likely to be overlooked for promotions at work and he is more likely to be pulled over by the police on his way to and from work. How does this shape his worldview? His education and hard work don't amount to much. He is often met with skepticism and suspicion. He is seen as a criminal, repeatedly year after year by the police. What is he to think about the world he lives in? What message does he pass along to his children and, eventually, grandchildren? What is the worldview they will develop due to the course of actions against this POC just because of his skin color?
This is a real example, lived out by millions of POCs all over the nation. Their worldview runs along the line of: The police are not their friends and do not protect them. The police protect the system which only serves to keep them in their place. They are not free to live or work where they want. They do not have the power or entitlement to force the government to bend to their will. They have to fight for everything.
The micro worldviews of POC are beginning to be noticed and are rubbing against the WASP worldview. Things are changing. This clash of worldviews is seen in movements such as Black Lives Matter/All Lives Matter. Until both sides can sit down and listen to each other, to understand the underlying worldviews and find ways to move past them, the conflict will continue to escalate. The macro worldview cannot hold out against the plethora of micro POC worldviews which are beginning to merge into a single diverse unit, forced together by the WASP way of looking at things.
A dominate worldview which cannot make room for diversity of ideas will either fight tooth and nail to keep the status quo or it will slowly crumble. Some of the dominate worldviews tenets are powerful and worthwhile, some need to be dropped and other worldview ideas should be adopted.
A worldview should be a fluid and dynamic way of understanding the world around us.
It may be time to reflect upon your own worldview and see if it is just and life affirming. Maybe it is time for other influences to come into your life to help you shift your worldview and to educate your children and grandchildren about different ways to understand the process the world around them.