My WEIRD Perspective


My WEIRD Perspective

Understanding Scripture can be a bit tricky...
I mean, it was written very long ago in a language most of us do not know, about a people we do not understand, in the midst of cultures and world views that totally baffle us.  Add to that our own penchant to make everything about us... and so miss the major part of the story.

It does not help that we treat Scripture as if it were God's private communique to us... and that we read it all from a WEIRD perspective....

Okay, before you get all offended at me... Yes, I called you WEIRD... but it's not what you think.  WEIRD is an acronym that stands for Western,  Educated,  Industrial,  Rich,  and Democratic.  These are some of the major descriptors that describe you and me...  (You may debate the label Rich, but when held next to the vast majority of the world... you and I are undeniably rich.  You and I are among the top 95 percentile of the world's wealth.)

The acronym comes from psychologist Joseph Heinrich who noted that most research (that is usually labelled as or used to make global assertions) is based on research that is limited to study participants drawn from our North American culture... one that is easily defined as WEIRD.   And therefore, our fundamental understandings of the world are... well, weird.  Slanted and biased.

This same idea has been picked up by numerous literary critics and linguistic professors.  And a brilliant book was written describing this phenomenon Biblically, "Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus" by Lois Tverberg.  Her main point is that we are a bit too quick to slip into our old, WEIRD habits and bend scripture to meet out expectations.  But, if we are willing to risk stepping out of our comfort zones, and if we are able to do some hard work of learning and listening... well, we might just encounter something revolutionary!  Perhaps we're not all there is!

This becomes particularly important when we start making sweeping decisions and generalizations about what the Bible means...  Are we a little too proud and quick to rely upon our western, educated opinion informed by our materialistic and democratic society?  Do we see everything in terms of process and cause and effect?

When we find ourselves standing in opposition against 3/4 of the world's Christians, defying history, tradition, and numerous cultures...  perhaps we should take a moment to consider that maybe we might be acting a little WEIRD.  Maybe those people who are not Western, not Industrialized, not Democratic... with different education and less riches...  Maybe they are a bit closer to the authors of Scripture than we are?  Maybe they have something incredibly important for us to hear...

Today I want to challenge you.  When you turn to read the Bible... pause and consider what it is that you bring to the text.  You are shaped by a Western mindset...  What does that mean?  You are educated... shaped by our methods of thought, and filled with assumptions and beliefs.  You are a product of the Industrial revolution... we see ourselves within a mechanistic worldview... cogs in the wheel of society.  We see our value in what we perform...  Cause and effect...  The vast majority of us do not have to worry about what we will eat or wear, or whether we will have enough for next week.  We worry about wants, not needs.  And we live exclusively in a society where the majority voice is given power to choose and rule.  Where we have the right to express our dissent and be be heard...

I challenge you to intentionally set that aside as you encounter the Bible.  Struggle to approach those sacred words with new eyes... eyes that are willing to see beyond our expectations and mindsets.  Perhaps there is a fresh words for you today.  Perhaps there is a fresh challenge for you today?

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