- Dr. Timothy X. Merritt
Leadership for the Days of the Lord - Part 3
Figure 5. The Kingship Triangle
The Christian Worldview
According to Miller (2012), “The basic elements of the story include a King, His Kingdom, His Stewards, and a task” (p. 23). Figure 5 represents the critical relationships in the Christian Theistic worldview.
Miller argues that the universe is ultimately relational; "Human beings cannot be understood apart from their kinship with God, others, and themselves. Man's primary relationship is towards the living God" (p. 90). Miller's argument is certainly clear, but it is also dangerous in the sense that it asserts the superiority of Christian Theism over all other worldviews. This position may prove unwelcome to indigenous people suffering in the thralls of a disaster and lead to conflict that would exacerbate the problems rather than lead to relief. No one wants to be forced to sit through a sermon just to get a bowl of soup when they are starving.
Paradigms and Worldviews
However, just because an idea might appear dangerous does not mean that it is wrong. Kelly, Dowling, & Millar (2018) explain that in 1962, Thomas Kuhn “developed the concept of a 'paradigm,' which is a way for scientists to make sense of their worlds and realities” (p. 9). They went on to explain that the word Kuhn frequently viewed the concept of ‘paradigm’ from many different perspectives, including ‘paradigm’ as equivalent to ‘worldview.’ It is useful, therefore, to consider how the scientific community develops an ever-evolving consensus about what is true through a process of recurring ‘paradigm shifts.’ If the Kuhnian-cycle of shifting paradigms offered a reliable model for shifting worldviews, then practitioners might have a means of affecting disaster relief outcomes through a process of applying appropriate leverage at the critical position represented on the CLD.
How are Worldviews Adopted?
Figure 6 compares the Kuhn Paradigm Cycle against a qualitative analysis of video testimonials from a large data-set of individuals who recently underwent the adoption of a radically different worldview. The #Walk Away movement was begun in 2018 by Brandon Straka in response to perceived corruption by officials of the Democratic Party. Since then, by some estimates, the movement has grown to well over 300,000 individuals and received widespread international attention. A hallmark of the web-based campaign are the thousands of personal video testimonials in which formerly 'hardcore' left-leaning individuals explain their reasons for walking away from the Democratic Party and voting for Donald Trump.
Figure 6. Worldview Adoption Process
There are consistent themes that emerge from the testimonials. Even though they do not always occur in the same sequence, in general, they begin with a preamble explaining their initial worldview in terms of identity. This is followed by details that caused them cognitive dissonance, ultimately leading to a crisis. Almost universally, they described the transformation of their worldview in terms of great personal loss of friendships, ostracism of family members, and even verbal and physical threats to their safety. A frequent term used was "I did my research,” followed by an explanation of the personal benefits they received from adopting the new worldview. Typically their concluding messages were delivered in rather bold terms of support for the transformation.
According to Schlitz, Vieten, & Erickson-Freeman (2011), "A transformation in worldview begins long before most people are aware that anything is changing. Peak experiences, numinous or mystical moments, life-transitions, all these primers, even if not directly experienced as transformative, lay the groundwork for what is to come.” (p. 227).
Paradigms and Worldviews Must be Replaced
A critical aspect of the Kuhn Paradigm Cycle with practical applications for Christian disaster relief practitioners is that an obsolete paradigm may not simply be discarded. They must always be replaced by a new paradigm that explains reality more effectively. As Kuhn (2012) explains, "The decision to reject one paradigm is always simultaneously the decision to accept another, and the judgment leading to that decision involves the comparison of both paradigms with nature and with each other" (p. 78). This explanation points to the appropriate role of the Christian during times of crisis.
Rather than engaging in any evangelical attempt to “sell” the idea of Christian Theism to indigenous populations during times of vulnerability, the duty of the Christian disaster relief practitioner is first to move toward the area of crisis, and willingly enter into the "Day of the Lord" occurring as a localized event. In an international and multi-cultural setting, the simple act of alleviating suffering will automatically lead to interactions with those holding different worldviews. The final duty of the practitioner will be simply to stand firm in "the full armor of God" (Eph. 6:11, NIV) and be prepared to accurately represent the critical Christian Theistic relationships represented by the Kingship Triangle to those who may find themselves confronting anomalies or struggling with crises brought on by worldviews that are collapsing in the face of disaster. This is a morally correct approach because value is not calculated in terms of "how many souls have been brought to the Lord," instead, value is measured by the steadfastness of the Christian responding to adversity while serving others.