We’re all just talking past each other
Courtney Phelan | Wednesday, November 2, 2016
This summer, I took a theology course at Notre Dame. It was an introduction to Christian theology and started with the very basics: what is theology, what is God, how do we study theology, etc. One of the first things we learned is also one of the things that’s stuck with me the most.
Our professor taught us about the different frames of mind a person can have regarding theology, in particular, pantheism, deism and the Christian Sacramental Worldview. Someone who frames the world with a pantheist perspective believes in a God or gods and that everything is that God: humans, animals, grass, trees, oceans, the solar system, bugs, rats, e. coli bacteria. God reveals Himself (or herself or itself) through all things. The world we live in and the world of the gods are completely the same.
Someone who frames the world with a deist perspective, on the other hand, believes in a God or gods but that God’s world is separate from ours. One example of this is the watchmaker analogy: God created the world and tuned it perfectly, but has since taken His hands off and let it run its course. God does not reveal himself. Ever. Thus, the world of God and the world of us humans are completely distinct from each other and will never cross.
Then there’s the Christian Sacramental Worldview: God is distinct from the world but also active, and our world and God’s world overlap and interlock in specific ways.
The reason we started with these basic, non-denominational mind frames was because we had to understand our own mind frame and how that lined up with the mind frame of most Christians.
See, if a Christian is talking to a deist and says that God became a man in Jesus Christ, the deist will disregard that. God is so separate from the world we live in, and could never, ever become a human. We don’t need salvation or reconciliation, because it’s impossible and even God probably doesn’t want it — He’s off making more watches or enjoying some poolside cocktails and totally ignoring humans — and thus it never happened. People who hold atheistic or agnostic mind frames don’t accept any kind of God, even a watchmaker one, and thus, salvation through Christ could have never happened and did never happened.
If you are trying to have a discussion with someone of a different mind frame and don’t know it, you’ll probably end up frustrated. The things they are saying are impossible to you, and any results of what they say are completely moot.
It doesn’t matter that Jesus told us to help people, because he wasn’t divine, so you don’t really have to help people. You don’t have to pray five times a day because Mohammed said to, because he was just a random guy. It’s fine to litter, because climate change is all a hoax. Trump’s comments about women aren’t that bad, because Clinton is a lizard-person hell-bent on feeding us to the aliens when they invade.
It’s unlikely that every person who holds a view — personal or political — I disagree with is truly evil. They just view things very differently, and in their different view of the world, their opinion is right and ethical, while mine is wrong.
My opinion, to them, is literally incomprehensible. If you know, deep down in your heart, that Hillary Clinton is a lizard-person and frame your whole word based on her lizardity, you will completely disregard any attempts at proving her humanity or capacity to govern. People who say she is not a lizard are just ridiculous — you’ll laugh at them, you’ll make memes of them and you’ll disregard everything else they say.
We all just want the best for everyone, especially our families, and are trying to do what’s best based on our worldview. If you strongly believe that Mexican immigrants are destroying this wonderful country for everyone in it, then building a giant wall will help everyone.
So next time you immediately disregard someone’s opinion — and then post a meme of it on Facebook — ask yourself if it’s really saying anything, engaging in a dialogue that makes people understand and moving them toward your — ethically right, of course — mind frame. Try to consider how someone who deeply believes something totally different than you would respond to it. Try to consider how this person thinks their mind frame will help people. Think, really think about all factors before you speak ill of someone. Right now, we are all speaking right past each other, repeating only our opinions and our opinion of how much we hate the other side. We are yelling and tweeting into the void, only accepting our own opinion in return.
And that is helping no one.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.