Theological Matrix: Worldviews Exposed

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Posted on May 21st, 2013 | Filed under Academic, Challenges, Community, Interfaith, Philosophy, Social Issues, Theology
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Ghana, West Africa: no slave that passed through this door as a slave ever returned. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED @tdbuchanan

Welcome...

What is "the matrix?"

The matrix is the space that we as humans develop culturally. We are all human social beings, we are born into community, a world that exists beyond us, yet we influence it as we choose. The matrix is inescapable. To exist in isolation biologically the human would die off. To exist in isolation psychologically the human would go insane. Consider for instance that the harshest punishment that the United States judicial system utilizes next to the death penalty is solitary confinement. If you want to get just a glimpse of the effects and trauma that solitary confinement has for the human being, watch the National Geographic documentary "Solitary Confinement." To exist in isolation socially makes the human socially dysfunctional. Thus, we cannot escape community and continue to exist or maintain any level of health, therefore it becomes paramount to consider who we are culturally as we practice "faith." The matrix is our culture, we are bound to it, can be bound by it and from second by second we think from our cultural "lens."

Every morning no matter where we are on the planet we each get up and even when we have 20/20 vision we each put on our cultural eyeglasses. The matrix is our cultural thinking that then directs our actions. The matrix is our mind and the "eyes" that we culturally see the world through.

Vision Of Eyechart With Glasses

(Utilized with permission: See www.SeniorLiving.org )

Culture is composed of a variety of things, including the foods we eat, style of dress, language, norms, values and most importantly our way of thinking. Our sociocultural thinking is termed "worldview systems." Worldviews are our cultural "philosophies" or theories of existence. They are the lenses we use to make sense of the everyday world.

So let's pretend. Pretend we go back to antiquity and we are philosophers sitting on a mountain and we are considering our connection to the stars, contemplating what is "truth", how to explain the unseen, and ultimately we consider how we should interact with each other on a day-to-day basis. These thoughts and ideas all overlap and they must reinforce each other or the entire cultural philosophy makes no sense. This pretending is the "thinking" of worldview systems and every minute of every second we take for granted that what we know, believe, and think is cultural; not universal as we all forget until we typically come into contact with someone who culturally thinks differently than us.

We need to dig deeper, continuing to ask more fully "what is culture?" and "what are worldviews?"

What you should understand is that the "African worldview" does not mean every person born on the continent of Africa believes and thinks this way, rather it is the agreed-upon dominant historical interpretations that African Studies and Black Studies have collectively presented as an historical ethos that weaves through modern day African cultures. The most amazing thing about cultural thinking is that it is NOT dictated by race, gender, sexual orientation, political position, social status, or geographic location. So, you could be born in America, Africa, Peru, Europe or Asia and think colonial or African or somewhere in between. Most world cultures follow dimensions of the African worldview, while the Colonial worldview is clearly the dominant way of thinking nationally and internationally. Who is free in their mind? Worldviews weave through and construct our everyday thoughts, interactions, perceptions of truth and reality and how we should treat "others." Therefore, this matters very much when it comes to theological interpretations of ethics.

What is theology?

Theology: theos + logos = God talk

>language or reasoning about God
>thinking, speaking and writing about God
>discourse about God, the Christian life and human life in the Church
>Disciplined reflection and interpretation of all reality in light of the main beliefs, values and symbols of the Christian community

To think theologically is to think critically utilizing a religious paradigm in making a social analysis or critique of human, thought or behavior. Therefore, in order to really do any adequate exegesis one must be awakened to their own cultural worldview as these shape and direct human thought and behavior and are the lens with which we interpret theology. In order to "be" theological one is attempting to understand the "mind of God." In order to understand the mind of God we must first understand the mind we've taken in from the world as this impacts how we interpret and ultimately see God.

How to do theological reflection?

Theological reflection is characterized by being rooted in sacred canon and Spirit centered, as well it takes on a cyclical nature of read/reflect; listen/reflect; dialog/reflect; research/reflect; write/reflect. Worldview systems impact what we see, hear, say, understand and argue. Thus, to do theological reflection one must understand the history of their own cultural thinking. More than that, we can clearly see that the Colonial worldview does not view the universe as composed of Spirit only measurable matter that originates from an explosion that mathematically aligned our solar system. Therefore, if one is operating from a colonial worldview where the structure of the universe is inherently divided and in conflict where only the fittest survive, and truth has to be measured while our day-to-day interactions suggest isolation from "other" is life-- this clearly impacts Biblical interpretion. The Bible which is itself in clear contrast to all of these colonial positions and with the cyclical nature of theological reflection undoubtably then the exegetical summary would look quite different from an African worldview. The African worldview has often been dubbed "backward" "uncivilized" "not modern" when in reality it is the starkest polarity to colonialism where all other cultures fall onto the spectrum between the poles. Thus culture in the form of our thinking expressed through our worldview lenses on a daily basis shape and impact our theological reflections and this is "the matrix."

Ethical implications of cultural thinking?

I recently completed an ethics course and I went into the course asking the question, “What does it mean to be a Christian ethically?” I spent the entire semester pondering, analyzing and creating a response. I conclude that “to be” a Christian ethically is to love and seek justice.

Love and justice are social creations and products of our cultural worldview systems. Again, if we pretend we are on that mountain as philosophers from another time and we are creating what it means "to love" and "do justice" first as a thought, a perception shaped by our position cosmologically, epistemologically, ontologically and axiologically then perhaps we get out of the mindset "that's just the way it is." We humans decide what and how to love and do justice, some seek religious interpretations in order to consider how God views love and justice ethically. I have been lecturing and teaching at the university level on worldviews since 2005, thus as I created this analysis I was operating from an African worldview, yet I never state it; however once you can "see" the matrix it becomes clear.

Here is my analysis and argument in its entirety.

The ethical implications of cultural thinking is that if we have been successfully colonized and this shapes, shades and overshadows interpretations of what it means “to be” a Christian ethically, then are we Christian? This question of identity is tantamount to future social change. We are operating on a mass scale in the roles of oppressor and oppressed; our daily society of gun violence, domestic violence, terrorism and bullying in America exemplify what we think culturally and ethically. My own father is in his late 60's and the Civil Rights Act did not pass until he was 19 years old. My grandmother, who was my babysitter and closest friend until I was 14 years old worked her entire life in rural Mississippi as a sharecropper on Mr. Griffin's farm making $19/bail with NO medical or retirement for a life of hard labor. She passed the test to become a school teacher even with never having completed more than elementary education, yet because she could not buy the books for her classroom and students she could not teach and she worked the farm until 1964 when she snuck away in the night with her children to Chicago. My father went to all segregated schools his entire life, he worked as a sharecropper beginning when he was six years old and then started plowing when he was nine and during crop season none of the children could attend school. All of my grandmothers children have been diagnosed with forms of lung cancer, lung disease and pneumonia that has been traced to the pesticides in the fields that they had to work as children. My father is a part of the largest generation in American history, the Baby Boom generation. By all American standards my brilliant, powerful father has the "American Dream" and as the first generation of my family off the plantation, I see that many structures from this same generation are operating in a mindset that can no longer be hidden. This is "the matrix."

Christians need to minimally be asking if we think like Christ, talk like Christ, behave like Christ and ethically live in community like Christ. Our faith commands us to transcend and take off culture to take on the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:15-16). I argue this is an ethic of love and justice that transcends the matrix of cultural worldviews that substantiates and gives voice to my family and others oppressed by social reality.

Are you colonized? Do you live in a simulated reality? No matter what is hidden; I see your thoughts, I see the history of your thoughts, do you?

This is the Theological Matrix: Worldviews Exposed.

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Tiffany is a Master of Divinity student at McCormick Theological Seminary. She has a Master of Arts degree in Sociology specializing in Organizations and Institutions and Social Psychology. She founded and is the Executive Director of a non-profit Education Outreach firm, Love Learning Empowerment. She is an aspiring author and poet. You can follow her @ twitter.com/Radiant_Blossom


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