If you read my first post in this Round Table series, you know I’m responding to a cultural stick of dynamite reverberating through every form of media. Nefarious practices within the Planned Parenthood organization landed in a hot spotlight, and everybody’s talking about it. Rightfully so, don’t you think? I believe we—the citizens of this nation who financially support the industry through tax dollars and the larger global community receiving “care” through the organization—should be aware of the real mission, procedures, and practices. (For that reason alone, I am thankful the ugliness has come to light.)
The flurry of media activity surrounding the release of each undercover video has created a big, loud conversation near-impossible to ignore. I mentioned there are many voices seated at the Round Table. Today I’m looking at two general, competing views identified as Pro-life and Pro-choice.
Clash in the Culture
The passion in this emotionally-charged conversation runs deep. Imagine something like a fast, powerful river cutting to bedrock. Each point of view generally flows in a single, unstoppable direction. (I wouldn’t expect anything different, would you?) It would be one thing if each perspective existed in its own space. “Birds of a feather flock together,” so they often do. But when the owners of these two views sit at the table, they can take aim at each other with passion, intentionality, and sometimes hostility.
So, what is the core issue at stake between these two intense groups? The foundational concern is life. For both. Don’t be surprised. No matter what anyone says, both groups are dedicated to core values and beliefs that are all about life. (Now, before anyone backs out of this blog permanently, hang on just a second!) It’s what each group believes about life that matters critically!
Most of the Pro-life group recognizes the pre-born life as intrinsically valuable. While they hold the life of the mother equally precious, this group refuses to dismiss the tiny, unseen life in the womb for light or selfish motives. I won’t discuss the deeply-held beliefs which typically undergird the worldview right now. Can we agree this group’s passion is fueled by non-negotiable values and beliefs?
The Pro-choice group now recognizes the pre-born life. Older arguments were once constructed with inaccurate terms designed to paint the child in utero with “inhuman” language, but that is less and less the case. A few voices perpetuate earlier talking points, but today’s culture has no problem accepting more biologically accurate verbiage. Comparing the value of the two lives, the mother’s quality of life is typically of greater importance. The life decision is hers alone, whatever the logic or reasoning behind it. (This touches on a whole other topic: freedom. I’ll address that down the road.) The “choice” part of this whole thing is obviously in favor of one party (the mother) to the exclusion of the other (the child).
What Makes a Worldview?
The clash is really about something deeper than perspective; it’s about worldview. Our worldview is the lens through which we see and process everything, and it differs depending upon the foundational core beliefs and values. Let’s explore some life worldview-shaping ideas together.
Suppose you believed the following to be true:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1 HCSB
So God created man in His own image;
He created him in the image of God;
He created them male and female. Genesis 1:27
God saw all that He had made, and it was very good. Genesis 1:31a
How would your perspective on life be impacted based on these three verses alone? If Scripture genuinely informs and transforms those who hold to it, then an all-powerful Being (God) existed before anything else and created everything that was made (also see John 1:1-3). In all of creation there is one final pièce de résistance: man. Verse 1:31a emphasizes the significance, completeness, and goodness when man is added to the existing creation. For the first time, all of creation is “very good.” ¹
Add unwavering belief and conviction to the above, and passion is a given. It should be. The miracle of the universe, existence, and life (Shucks, just taking a single breath!) becomes an amazing gift and the most humbling experience.
But, suppose your worldview is informed otherwise…
If the lens through which you read and process everything omits or is opposed to an intelligent Designer, certain pieces of information are filled in some other way. Typically, time and chance are expected to fill the gaps. Can we agree that, under those conditions, something like the following script wouldn’t be surprising?
“Lucy” is one of the most complete skeletons found to date from the early hominids that flourished between 4 and 2 million years ago. The skeleton consists of bones from a single individual, presumably female, who stood well under 4 feet tall.
Discovered by scientists in 1974, the 3.18-million-year-old Lucy was named after the Beatles song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” which the researchers listened to as they celebrated their remarkable find. (www.amnh.org. August 2015.) ²
If you believed random chance and an extraordinary length of time created all we see, then perhaps life is still remarkable. (Actually, life evolving from nothing would be incredible, but I digress.) Add single-minded belief and whole-hearted conviction to the worldview informed in this manner. What happens when this perspective bumps up against the first one I mentioned? They are diametrically opposed, aren’t they? Passion might begin to describe it.
Wait! Isn’t this Oversimplified?
Yes, it’s more complex than that. So no one feels left out, I’ll give the obligatory nod to the crowd. Theism, Polytheism, Atheism, and Agnosticism are some general worldview categories. The truth is, there is either one God, many gods, or none at all, so the first three perspectives cannot all be true at the same time. The Agnostic is openly and honestly uncertain and needs to inform his worldview. More problematic is the “theological chemist” mixing elements from more than one category. This worldview is also uninformed, since any two categories are ultimately incompatible. (I would love a discussion about the problematic “flexible” positions one day.) I’m sure I just disappointed someone with another too-simplistic overview, but what can I do? My point is to highlight the fact that beliefs and values will conflict. (Don’t believe someone will take their core beliefs to the grave? Think about Christian martyrs and Isis members.) How we handle core beliefs and passionate expression of them is another matter entirely.
The Verbal Volley
So, what happens when deeply held beliefs come in conflict? The best case scenario is discussion leading to considerate, robust debate. That means both sides listen to the other’s perspective and feel free to maintain their values and beliefs without fear of retaliation. A worse scenario is an agenda-driven debate that becomes ugly and self-defeating. There’s a difference between engaging in conversation with spirited debate and lobbing verbal hand grenades.
I know this simplified piece of writing will never plumb the depths of the worldview clash, but I felt the need to begin to take a look at it. If nothing else, this very basic discussion could create healthy, spirited dialogue or some introspection.
Worldviews Compete. Now what?
What’s the point of knowing there’s a worldview war going on? Call me Captain Obvious, but this is nothing new. While we don’t always call it what it is, we see the fractures in culture from it. Pick a hot topic in the media—abortion, faith, freedoms, racial tensions, Second Amendment rights, treaties and sanctions, wars in any part of the world, political-anything—it won’t matter. Each of these topics is filtered through a worldview. People are fighting for something, and it’s something they believe is worth fighting for! They are fighting for their life on some level.
So, what do we do when we take a seat at the Round Table?
- We have to be who we authentically are!
This means a couple of different things. At the Round Table authenticity is critical. How can we have a real conversation with a chameleon or a shape-shifter? That said, the definition of “who you are” is sourced from somewhere. Identify that and know where it comes from. (Church, I’m talking to you and me: your character and identity are sourced from Scripture, the Spirit, and the One who died for you. Be THAT!)
- We have to seek to understand.
This is tough for most of us. This somewhat narcissistic culture over-communicates as a rule. We seek to be heard before seeking to understand. Our core beliefs, values, and perspective trump the importance of others’ sometimes. We might interrupt others for that reason. Or, we’re perfectly happy with rapid-fire status updates, tweets, or whole screens of rhetoric rooted in our opinions. (I’m not perfect on this one. Words can hit the page or escape my lips in person before I listen.) Try pausing or making a temporary vow of silence to see if this is a problem. The Christian is called to die to self, and that generally means pride, feelings, and agenda are secondary or possibly sacrificed.
- We simply must learn to communicate with gentleness and respect!
This is a tough one. When passion overrides common sense, it’s too easy to let emotion drive the agenda toward perceived victory. We forget our listener has perspective, experience, and equal value. (Ugh! I’ve seen this mess up close and personal.) Speak out of something deeper and more meaningful than Emily Post’s rules for polite company, but start there if necessary. (I suggest some reading below.)
- Know when to let it die.
What is it? Our pride. Our sacred cows. Feeble core values and beliefs in light of stronger, biblical ones. The conversation altogether. Any or all of these things may need to die. We may need to walk away temporarily or for an extended period of time in order to think clearly, evaluate, reflect, or diffuse tension. Be willing to graciously slow down or step away from heated or confused debate.
When seats at the Round Table are filled, a humble, others-focused mindset is critically important. Spirited conversation is constructive if the parties at the table are gentle and respectful. The same gentleness and respect does not take in, embrace, or own others’ perspectives without thought. It’s perfectly acceptable for everyone to leave the table with their very same worldviews in place if they wish. No one leaves maimed or obliterated. Simple as that. Civil debate takes place. Thoughts, emotions, and core values and beliefs are exchanged over the table without destructive discourse. (Can worldviews crumble under the pressure of debate? Yes, but the conversation can be loving rather than doused in bloodlust.)
If you’ve read this far, I love that you’ve hung in with me this long. Thank you! You’ve blessed me with your time and thoughtfulness. I’d love to hear your thoughts. How do you witness this clash in our culture in your experience? What is your place in it within your circle of influence?
Questions to Think About…
- Do you see how your worldview was formed and gradually informed?
- Regardless of your position in a discussion, is it generally easy or hard to communicate with others in a respectful way? What makes it easy? What makes it hard?
- Awareness is a tool. Who could help you take a look at your worldview (to sort it out) or your typical conversational style (passion levels, interrupting tendencies, blatant indifference to others, personal agenda-driven talking points, etc.)?
- If you inform your worldview through Scripture, how might your conversation be transformed by the following verses: 2 Corinthians 10:1; Galatians 5:22-23; Ephesians 4:2; 1 Timothy 6:11; Titus 3:2; James 3:13; 1 Peter 3:15-16?
- In light of Colossians 4:6, how should these robust debates look to an outsider?
¹ See for yourself—God speaks of the individual elements of the universe in Genesis 1, calling them “good,” and while the meaning is far beyond our casual understanding of the term, emphasis is clearly stated and understood.
² I choose not to address any issues with the “evidence” for Lucy here, since my time or space won’t do the topic justice. (There are problems with the evidence.)
Images sourced from http://www.morguefile.com or where otherwise noted. I have edited images within the the specified guidelines.