Philosophy

We’re Seeing a Clash of Worldviews, Not an Inevitable Force of Progress

Author Amy K. Hall Published on 08/26/2016

In his analysis of David Gushee’s recent article exhorting Christians to not be “left behind” by all of the other American people and institutions on the issue of homosexuality and same-sex marriage, Jake Meador calls attention to (and argues against) the idea that this revolutionary change in our society is the result of some kind of inevitable force:

To read Gushee is to be told that we aren’t seeing a fight between two fundamentally different visions of reality with competing claims about the nature of human beings, sexuality, and family life. We’re simply seeing a fight between the inevitable forces of progress objectively understood and those backwards people who would oppose it.

The trouble here is that this completely misrepresents what is actually happening. What we are witnessing is the triumph of one understanding of reality over another. As I noted last week, market-enabled, government-backed individualism is ascendant; Christianity is in decline...

And here’s the thing: If we’re honest about the fact of the conflict playing out in front of us, we can be honest about the stakes of the debate, which are enormous: Either we are completely autonomous, self-defining human individuals and the government has an obligation to protect our right to self-definition or we enter into a world given to us in a certain condition, shaped by certain factors outside our control, and filled with norms, rules, and laws we are powerless to change and can only submit to. Gushee’s attempts to obscure this fact do nothing to change it...

The fact that a huge number of people, including Gushee and his friends, absolutely refuse to see this point doesn’t change the facts of the debate. We either have a right to define our own concept of existence—in which case we should just be done with Christianity altogether—or we do not. There can be no attempt to pretend that our current social revolution is simply the natural progression of history happily moving toward climax as those awful, backwards bigots die off in its wake. Such claims are not only dishonest; they are cowardly.

Meador explains how distorting the conflict in this way damages our society:

Here’s the truly awful thing about all this: This sort of framing makes both real debate and real pluralism impossible. If we recognize the radical nature of our dispute, we might also be able to recognize ways of living together peaceably in the midst of those differences. Consider the many examples of close friends who are fierce ideological opposites. But as long as we insist on this absurd idea that one side is simply going along with history and the other is bitterly clinging to their bigoted religious beliefs, there can be no understanding of the other. And where there is no understanding, there can be no functioning polis.

Meador’s whole piece is worth reading. I’ve been pointing for a while to the fact that this societal conflict comes down to our opposing views on what it means to be human (see here, here, and here). This is yet another reminder that, as Christians, we need to be rock solid on basic worldview issues. The existence of the Christian God, the Creator of reality, affects our understanding of every aspect of that reality, so think deeply and carefully about the implications of being created by and for our good God. Otherwise, our secular culture will be happy to do your thinking for you.