It goes without saying that debate is polarized today. The left is convinced they are right. The right know they have the truth. Going beyond both into underlying worldviews might create understanding and help alleviate the conflict.
Currently there are three predominant worldviews at work in our society: traditional, modern, and postmodern. Each has its own strengths and pathologies. A fourth approach, integralism, takes the best from those three and lets go of the negative stuff.
People in the traditionalist worldview hold positive values like fairness, honesty, duty, honour, patriotism, making sacrifices for the greater good, and traditional religion. These are the good people who voted for Donald Trump, not because they liked him personally but because he spoke their language about tradition. He was going to restore things to the way they used to be, and “make America great again.” They felt it would be hard to bring this about and so they needed a tough guy like Trump to make it happen.
The pathology of this worldview is that it tends to be ethnocentric. It focuses on “our group” being totally right and everyone else being wrong. It is an “us versus them” mentality. This can result in racism, homophobia, and xenophobia, that is, fear of strangers or anyone different than us. So, it is not surprising that it is against having a never-ending influx of immigrants. People here can get stuck in rigid law and order.
The second worldview, the modern, also has many positive values, mainly about independent thought and empowerment of the individual. The modern worldview is in favour of science, rationality, freedom, democracy, capitalism and global markets.
The shadow side of modernism has been an insensitivity to minorities and those who through no fault of their own cannot keep up with the competition. It is marked by over-consumption of the world’s resources and resulting environmental degradation. And as the individual triumphs, there is no sense of community and the greater good.
The postmodern worldview began around 1968 according to Richard Rohr, Ken Wilber, and others. On the positive side, postmodernism is obsessed with human rights and the absolute equality of all people, particularly women, blacks, indigenous people, people of colour, LGBTQ and the handicapped. It is sensitive to minorities and the marginalized. People who hold this worldview tend to be world-centric not ethnocentric. They want to include all groups, including the natural world, and so are extremely environmentally conscious. People who believe in progressive religion would fit in here.
The pathology of this approach lies in the tendency of every new level of development to be overly-critical of the worldview that preceded it. So, postmodernism tends to be anti-modern. It is anti-capitalism, ignoring all the good things capitalism has brought us. It is wary of all hierarchies that could create inequality and believes there are no absolute, objective truths. In a post-truth world, people can get stuck in chaotic relativism and disorder.
Those who hold the integral worldview try to live by Wilber’s dictum of “transcend and include.” This means that you keep developing, constantly working on transcending your previous worldviews, but also try to include all the positive things from each earlier stage of development.
Integralists try to escape rigid order and chaotic disorder and bring about a healthy reordering of things. There are many people who are trying to do this such as Jeff Salzman with his podcast, The Daily Evolver,and Steve McIntosh with his book Developmental Politics. In religion, besides Rohr, there is Catholic bishop Robert Barron with his Word on Fire podcast, Brian McLaren, a major Protestant thinker with books like A New Kind of Christianity and Pope Francis with his “integral ecology” outlined in his 2015 encyclical “On Care for Our Common Home.”
What the world needs now is to respect and include the positive values behind others’ worldviews, let go of the negatives and learn to work together to bring about a new post-pandemic reordering of society and life.
Bruce Tallman is a spiritual director and religious educator of adults. http://www.brucetallman.com