• Dr. Timothy X. Merritt

Leadership for the Days of the Lord - Part 2


Figure 2. Development and Envelopment Continuum


Disaster Relief as Preparation for the Parousia

The human responses to naturally occurring disasters may either lead to development and relief from suffering; or to chaos, corruption, and conflict that make the effects of the natural disaster even worse. In the extreme complexity of natural disaster situations, no single relief effort is ever wholly effective. So the human responses can be seen to fall within a range of outcomes. In Figure 2, Miller (2012) illustrates the continuum that spans from successful development, through unsuccessful efforts that overwhelm (or envelops) disaster victims.

Influence of Worldviews

Using the themes from the Envelopment / Development Continuum, it is now possible to illustrate the second half of the CLD. This side exposes the consequences of the human responses to natural disasters. Pless, Maak & Stahl (2011) correctly articulate an emerging expectation for responsible global leadership is to take “a more active role…in the fight against some of the most pressing problems in the world, such as poverty, environmental degradation, human rights protection, and pandemic diseases” (p. 238). All leaders are ultimately guided by their individual worldviews, which Miller (2012) describes as "a set of assumptions held consciously or unconsciously in faith about the basic makeup of the world and how the world works" (p. 38). Therefore, while considering the human response to natural disasters, it makes sense to try to understand those responses in terms of the dominant worldview of the society experiencing the localized event. Figure 3 expands the CLD and demonstrates the centrality of the influence of worldviews.


Figure 3. Base CLD Showing Development and Envelopment


Different Types of Worldviews

Natural disasters occur all over the earth; they have no regard for national, ethnic, or cultural boundaries. So the subject of disaster relief necessarily involves work in a multi-national and multi-cultural setting, with practitioners regularly encountering people holding a vast range of differing worldviews. Fortunately, there are useful approaches for understanding different (and often competing) worldviews in a global environment. According to Sire (2009), all worldviews must answer seven fundamental questions (p.22):

  1. What is the prime reality – what is really real?

  2. What is the nature of external reality, that is, the world around us?

  3. What is a human being?

  4. What happens to a person at death?

  5. Why is it possible to know anything at all?

  6. How do we know what is right and wrong?

  7. What is the meaning of human history?

The answers to these questions result in the worldviews such as; Theism, Deism, Naturalism, Nihilism, Existentialism, Eastern Pantheistic Monism, New-Age Spirituality, Postmodernism, and Islamic Theism. Political and military leaders, civilians, and disaster relief workers come together from all over the world in response to catastrophe. While each person brings with them their personal worldview, the collective response to natural disasters is best understood as operating against the backdrop of the dominant worldview of the society experiencing the event. Worldviews have consequences, and therefore disaster relief operations will be dramatically different in Bangladesh, or the United States, or in Africa.


Categorizing Worldviews

Does it seem frivolous to ponder deep existential questions in the middle of ongoing disaster relief operations? Recognizing the difficulties inherent in working in a complex and rapidly evolving international and multi-cultural environment, Figure 4 provides a simplified model for quickly categorizing worldviews. Based on an axis that describes the “First Cause” in terms of a single power or multiple powers, and as either an impersonal universe or a personal being, nearly all worldviews can be grouped into larger categories of Monotheism, Monism, Secularism, and Polytheism.

Figure 4. Spectrum of Worldview Categories


Armed with an understanding of the influence that worldviews have on disaster relief operations, as well as with a quick-reference guide to determining the dominant worldview of the local event, Miller (2012) asks a very provocative question; “Does any story (worldview) encourage human development?” (p. 23). His answer is equally provocative. In his view, there is a single worldview that consistently leads to development rather than to devastating envelopment; that worldview is Christian Theism. Miller (2012) explains, “It is the thesis of this book that there is a story that can transform poverty to bounty; there is a set of principles, a development ethic, that creates a fertile soil for development” (p. 25). Miller’s assertion flies in the face of cultural relativism, and for the Christian futurist working in the area of disaster relief while preparing for the Parousia, his ideas are worthy of further consideration.


Continue to Leadership for the Days of the Lord - Part 3

Go back to Leadership for the Days of the Lord - Part 1

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