On a recent business trip, I completed a great book that I highly recommend: Hidden Worldviews: Eight Cultural Stories That Shape Our Lives, by Wilkens and Sanford.
The key idea is that at the central core of each person is a story that they use to explain the world around them (their “worldview”). It is a great book, well worth reading and reflection.
But I want to take their hypothesis a step further, because all great stories follow the same basic pattern. All great stories essentially undergo a Creation-Fall-Redemption kind of story arc (being, as they are, shadows of the True Story that God told us).
So I want to look at each of these eight stories and see how they view who we are, how we fall, and how we are saved/redeemed from the fall.
Which of these stories fits your life?
1. Individualism – “I am a unique individual and should pursue my joy and freedom.”
Creation: The story of individualism tells us that we are each evolved or created with a uniqueness that is valuable to the world. We are born with a set of skills and joys that, if properly pursued, will lead to infinite happiness and joy and satisfaction.
Fall: The story continues that, for our own benefits we choose to band together in societies; however,
Redemption: Redemption, in the story of Individualism, happens when we refuse to conform to the expectations of society; we refuse to be “another brick in the wall.” We take the road less traveled, and it makes all the difference. We pursue our own happiness and joy at all costs, bucking off any tradition or expectation or—if necessary—even laws. When we do not care what other people think, but instead pursue our own happiness and joy, we will find the life we were meant to live.
2. Consumerism - “This is a world of competition and markets, and happiness comes in what we consume, own, and experience.”
Creation: The story of Consumerism says that man was created/evolved in a natural state of competition. We all must consume in order to survive—food, shelter, water, clothing. We have since formed civilizations but the basic reality of competition over resources has always been the case, from the wells of ancient cities to stock markets of today.
Fall: As mankind began to form cities and industries to maximize the generation of wealth and security, governments began to forcibly take wealth away from those who had earned it, in order to give it to those who did not have any. Communism and socialism have infected even democratic states, resulting in the stealing of security from those who earned it.
Redemption: Carpe diem—seize the day. Redemption arises in the story of Consumerism through a commitment to getting the most out of life. To use one’s skills to generate wealth, power, experiences, and accomplishments…this is what gives us happiness. Success is when one navigates our competitive markets well, climbing Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to self-fulfillment in whatever area we are involved, whether it be finances, possessions, grades, or life experiences.
3. Nationalism – “I am a member of God’s chosen country, a people blessed by the Almighty.”
Creation: The story of Nationalism says that our country (whichever one that is) was set aside by God or the gods to have a special role in the history of the world. The constitution or declaration contains eternal principles and rights, and God has given special blessings for the country, often to be a “city on a hill” for the rest of the world to aspire to achieve its greatness.
Fall: In Nationalism, a Fall has occurred as the nation blessed by God has abandoned its original principles. It has become weak due to its sins against the ideals imbued into the original country. The specifics differ country to country; in America it is seen as an abandonment of the “Founding Fathers’ intent”; in 1930s Germany it was seen as a weak mixing of their race with “lesser” foreign races.
Redemption: Redemption in nationalism occurs with a renewed commitment to the patriotism and principles of the country in question. Only the most unending loyalty to the motherland will result in the success of achieving God’s vision for the country. Patriotism, bravery, and a fierce protectionism of our way of life is how one achieves redemption.
4. Moral Relativism – “The world is not governed by absolute moral laws, but only by what we, together, agree is right.”
Creation: Moral relativism says that we live in a universe in which there are no absolute truths. Truth is what we make of it, and we all inherently seek our own truths. It is universally understood by humans that ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ but such is the case of all things which are not absolutely factual. We were each born with certain genetics and raised in certain environments, and it is through these prisms that we seek our own truths.
Fall: Throughout history, politicians, con artists, and religious authorities have noted that when onemakes claims of universal moral truth and imposes it on others, they can increase their own power by gaining followers who see their relative truths as part of a universal whole. This leads to judgmentalism, tribalism, and war.
Redemption: Redemption for the Moral Relativist comes when we relentlessly free ourselves from the judgmentalism of others. We cannot allow ourselves to be limited by the legalistic moralities of other people, and should ourselves avoid imposing even our most closely-held beliefs on those who are different from us.
5. Scientific Naturalism – “There is nothing real beyond what can be measured and understood scientifically.”
Creation: The story of Naturalism says that we are not here for a purpose other than mutual species survival. Rather, we evolved randomly by a series of mutations in primitive creatures. Our major evolutionary advantage over other creatures is our ability to abstractly reason, plan, learn, and remember. Through this pursuit of knowledge about our world, we have learned how to change our environment and protect ourselves from predators.
Fall: Our brainpower to observe and react grew faster than our ability to scientifically comprehend the universe. Fearing what they could not explain, our ancestors developed convenient lies, mythologies and religions to provide comfort. As time went on, however, some clung to those lies and myths. This ignorance is our downfall and leads to war, hatred, and oppression.
Redemption: Redemption in the story of Naturalism comes when we throw off ignorance and embrace STEM (science, tech, engineering, and mathematics) to save our future. Through this we will extend lifespans and protect against ecological disasters, eventually moving off-world, under the oceans, or perhaps even achieving immortality through nanotech or uploading our brains. It is through a commitment to science and reason as a force to destroy the walls of superstition and mysticism that we can secure our future as individuals and a species.
6. New Agism – “The world is mystical and there is much power in us, if we can only tap into the divinity with us all.”
Creation: As taught in ancient times in the Far East, the universe is in perfect harmony; all is one, we are all god and god is all of us. We are all drops in the ocean of divinity. Within each of us is untold potential which is far beyond anything you can imagine. We are all connected to the ultimate truth of Nature.
Fall: Consumerist culture, power-hungry leaders, and short-sighted scientists have greatly limited our knowledge. They stunt our growth and limit our access to our true power, by following a strictly Western philosophy (whether that be Western religion or Western science, both are along the same pathway). As a result, we are constantly held back from achieving our true inner divinity by our culture.
Redemption: Redemption for the New Agist comes when we liberate our divine self inside by overcoming the false teachings of our consumerist, dualistic world. Our brains and internal positive energies have unending power if we can merely tap into it, and to tap into it simply requires finding which path among many (tarot, yoga, contemplative meditation, Zen, regression therapy, Wicca, ecofeminism, etc.) unleashes your inner god or goddess.
7. Tribalism – “My tribal history (socio-economic/racial/sexual/etc) has a worldview story that shapes my reality.”
Creation: We are each born into certain tribes (white/black, male/female, rich/poor, American/Asian/African), and our tribes engender us with a natural identity, value, and inherent worth and culture. Celebration of our tribes and achieving maximum power within the tribe is the highest form of self-satisfaction (e.g., feminism/”girl power”, black power, etc.)
Fall: In history, however, some tribes have grasped power above all others and executed that power in such a way as to keep other tribes in suffering. For example, the White American tribes stole the heritage of the Native American lands and routinely have appropriated black culture throughout history. Likewise, much of society historically has been patriarchal in nature, robbing women of the appropriate power of their culture.
Redemption: Salvation can be a painful process but it comes when we overcome—radically if needed, peacefully if possible—the oppression from the dominant tribes of our time (patriarchy, white upper class, etc.). We must secure power for my tribe to even the playing field, which requires securing power in forms of wealth, education, and job market from those tribes who currently possess the power today. Movements such as civil rights and feminism, as well as showing the manners in which one has been victimized, are the primary routes by which we can redeem our proper tribal identities.
8. Psychological Therapism – “A good life can be had by overcoming psychological barriers that are holding me back from happiness.”
Creation: We are all born as tabula rasa—blank slates—capable of achieving whatever we want. When raised in the proper manners and proper environments, we achieve our hi
Fall: The environments in which we are raised, as well as some genetic factors, often create psychological traumas and conditions which rob us of our freedom for mental health and happiness. We suffer anxieties, mental disorders, and psychological problems which can manifest in our own unhappiness or even in a sociopathy or psychopathy which results in the harm of others. The situation historically was worse, because it wasn't until about the last 100 years that psychology came around; before then, it was religious leaders who, imperfectly, fulfilled that role.
Redemption: Suffering and unhappiness can be eliminated when we, through therapies and application of sociological/psychological principles, overcome the internal traumas imposed upon us by our environment. Learning through therapy to deal with these triggering situations and root out the psychological damages caused us by situations and authority figures, we can through psychoanalysis find true peace and happiness. Psychoanalysis can do what religions promised, and failed to deliver on.
These are the primary eight central worldviews of our time. Chances are that you held (or hold) one of these as your key internal worldview. All contain some things which are attractive to us, and the more enamored you are with one worldview, the more it forms your identity.
The problem is that the more “core” of your heart is taken up by one of these worldviews, the strong your identity comes from them. And your identity is the root of your view of ethical and moral behaviors. And how you view yourself and morality, to a large extent, drives your actual behaviors.
There is one more worldview, one which supplants all of the above. “Faith” (pistis) in Christian terms means above all, loyalty to the Christian worldview. It is more than just intellectual acceptance; it is allowing God’s Story to supplant whichever of the above stories is in your heart. From there, your identity is rooted in Christ; therefore your morality is one of the Christian faith; and eventually your behaviors follow.
9. The Way of Yeshua (aka, the Gospel or Good News) – “The Creator-God redeems us from our sins because of His unending mercy.”
Creation: The Gospel’s Story claims that there is one Creator-God, and everything that was made (spiritual and physical) came from Him. He created all things and made mankind in the Image Deo, the image of Himself. He assigned us the role to be rulers over creation, in harmony with both nature and Him.
Fall: However, mankind from the very first has not been happy to be second place. We have wanted not just to be sons of God, but to become God Himself. We did not want to be governors, but kings. So we all attempt a coup of God’s authority, denying Him in our hearts and seeking after our own pleasures. We replace His story within us, and choose another worldview instead, seeking to save ourselves through one of these false paths of redemption. In so doing, we have broken nature and our relationships with each other, leading to suffering and pain.
Redemption: God’s love is unending, however, and His mercy knows no bounds. Our sins were so egregious that a debt of death needed to be paid, so He sent His innocent son to pay the price on our behalf. All that is needed for redemption is to admit our own folly, and keep His Story at the center of our hearts, allowing it to be the center of gravity of our daily acts. In the end, He will set right all that we have broken, fixing the world into an eternity without suffering, a new creation to which we will be co-heirs and return to our roles as governors of nature.
Jesus once spoke to a rich young man, a man whose central story was that of Consumerism. He claimed that he wanted to follow Jesus, but when Jesus challenged him to give up consumerism and embrace the Way of Yeshua, he refused. Jesus commented that one cannot serve both God and mammon (wealth).
In the same way, you cannot serve both God and someone else. The central place of your heart has room for only one of the above worldviews.
The choice is yours…which shall it be?