Monday, April 10, 2006

How Worldviews Change

On Douglas Wilson's Blog, he has an excellent post on the The Centrality of Peripherals . It is worth reading. In this post I want to add to Wilson's points by suggested an additional reason why peripherals are important.

One’s worldview is like a giant onion. The outside layer of onion (the skin) are the peripheries of the worldview. So in the Christian worldview, these peripheries might be something like the fact that it is wrong to swear, or that black eye-liner on men is wrong or things fairly unimportant like that. But as you penetrate deeper into the onion, each successive layer represents more foundational doctrines of the worldview. By the time you reach the centre of the onion, these are the doctrines that are the most basic and foundational to your worldview, such as belief in Jesus or commitment to moral purity.

The way one’s worldview normally changes is not through an initial assault on the core, but through successive assaults on the outside layers. The outside layer is the peripheries that are, in themselves, comparatively unimportant to you - these are the things you let go without a fight. But once the outside layer of peripheries is dismantled, the next layer then becomes the periphery even though it wasn’t before. This means that the new outside layer now becomes what is unimportant to you and the layer that you will let go without a fight. Of course, it’s not hard to see where this process eventually leads. If unchecked, the core beliefs eventually become the outside layer that you let go without a fight.

This means that we should guard the outside of our worldview just as tenaciously as we would defend the centre of our worldview because in guarding the outside we are guarding the inside.
The other analogy would be a block of ice. Ice melts from the outside. When our worldview begins to melt, it will be the things on the edges (the unimportant things furthest away from the foundation) that melt first, exposing then a whole new set of unimportant edges. Progressively, we begin to consider things unimportant that are coming closer and closer to the centre.

How to the edges give way in the first place? When they concern standards – the things you say no to – the pattern is usually always the same. These standards go in direct proportion to our becoming desensitised or used to the thing we once objected to. When one is saturated in worldly culture, this happens by default unless we actively strive against it. Desensitization happens when a person is inundated with a flood of offensive material presented in the least offensive fashion possible, so that it seems almost laughable to make a problem out of it. This is the exact strategy that the gay lobby has used to try to orient Western consciousness in favour of homosexuality. Kirk and Madsen (themselves influential exponents of the gay-rights movement) used the following tactics (as summarized by Rondeau):
Desensitisation is described as inundating the public in a "continuous flood of gay-related advertising, presented in the least offensive fashion possible. If straights can't shut off the shower, they may at least eventually get used to being wet." But, the activists did not mean advertising in the usual marketing context but, rather, quite a different approach: "The main thing is to talk about gayness until the issue becomes thoroughly tiresome." They add, "[S]eek desensitisation and nothing more. … If you can get [straights] to think [homosexuality] is just another thing – meriting no more than a shrug of the shoulders – then your battle for legal and social rights is virtually won." This planned hegemony is a variant of the type that Michael Warren describes in "Seeing Through the Media" where it "is not raw overt coercion; it is one group's covert orchestration of compliance by another group through structuring the consciousness of the second group."
"Worldliness, as we have seen, is that set of practices in a society, its values and ways of looking at life, that make sin look normal and righteousness look strange." David Wells, God in the Wasteland (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1994), p. 86.
"There's nothing so absurd but if you repeat it often enough people will believe it." Williams James.
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