Why should you stand against the ecumenical monoculture? Part 2

The Ecumenical Monoculture is Exclusive Part 1
I am currently doing a research paper on how a given culture communicates affects that cultures worldview. In the process of researching this topic, I have read many secular articles on worldviews, languages, philosophy, and intercultural communication. One of the articles illustrates several important points about the ecumenical monoculture and I wanted to share it with you so we can see the monoculture through the eyes of its advocates. (At the end of today’s post is a further explanation of my research topic.)

Shanafelt begins his article by quoting another article that, at the start, makes a very important point. “If we believe in any revealed religion and, for instance, we have to admit that Christ is the son of God, then he is not the Messiah still awaiting in Jerusalem. And if Mohammed is the prophet of Allah, then it is mistaken to offer sacrifices to the Plumed Serpent. If we follow the most enlightened and indulgent of deisms, prepared to believe at once in the Communion of Saints and the Great Wheel of the Tao, then we will reject, as fruit of error, the massacre of infidels and heretics. If we are worshipers of Satan, we will consider puerile the Sermon on the Mount. If we are radical atheists, every faith will be nothing but misunderstanding. Therefore, given that in the course of history many have acted on beliefs in which many others did not believe, we must perforce admit that for each, to a different degree, history has been largely the Theater of an Illusion (1).” He starts by pointing out that when religions make exclusive claims they cannot all be true. The only two logical conclusions to conflicting exclusive worldviews are as follows: one view is correct and all the others are false or they are all false. Two conflicting exclusive worldviews cannot both be true. This is the point at which the latter part of his statement fails miserably. He states that to a degree all worldviews over the course of history have been wrong. They cannot be wrong to a degree because truth, by nature, cannot contradict other truths. They are either right or wrong; there are no degrees of truth. It never ceases to amaze me how the proponents of the monoculture can make such logical statements and then conclude them with pure folly (self-contradiction is a reoccurring event throughout the quoted article).

Again, he makes a similar statement admitting the inherent flaw within ecumenism. “When evaluating a belief-system, the analyst should consider the different domains of truth. (2)” In my previous post I made mention of situated knowledge, which this writer refers to as “domains of truth.” He is asking us to consider how the absolute and exclusive truth claims of differing worldviews are situated within the group, or individual, who (whom) constructed it. The writer goes on to admit that, “This being said, one should expect that contradictions will emerge when domains are crossed (3).” He begins with the assertion that one should consider the domains of truth and concludes by stating that the truths within these domains are going to be contradictory. Truth that makes a universal claim, which all exclusive and absolute truth claims make, cannot exist only within the group, or individual, who (whom) constructed it. According to this logic one could suppose that 2+2 is only equal to four if you are a mathematician and the rest of humanity is left to construct their own conclusion. When the logic of situated knowledge is applied to other areas of life its claims are absurdly incredulous. (Please read “Why should you stand against the ecumenical monoculture? Part 1” for further explanation of why truth is not “situated” within domains of truth.)

The following quote illustrates the most basic motivation and flaws of ecumenism. “First, I will discuss the difficulty of maintaining a position of epistemological relativism when others challenge your premises. Even for those who want to be most tolerant, relativism turns out to be a political and methodological solution to the problem of systemic conflicts in values – one effective in temporarily minimizing conflict, but one with unresolved paradoxes. As he put it in his essay on ‘anti anti-relativism’, he is not opposed to rejecting certain beliefs as false. What he does object to is the reduction of ethnography to a kind of ‘condescending provincialism’ in which ‘it can think of nothing better to do with other ways of going at life than make them look worse than our own’(4).” He makes several key confessions regarding relativism/postmodernism/ecumenicalism (I grouped them together to avoid confusion over terminology). First, relativism is difficult to defend when challenged. This is because the assertions of relativism are illogical and inconsistent. Second, relativism is a political solution to conflict aimed at diffusing the situation while the real issue of truth is avoided. Third, ecumenism is temporary and only minimizes conflict instead of resolving it. Fourth, relativism suffers from unresolved paradoxes, in other words relativism is inherently self-contradictory. Finally, the true motivation of ecumenism is avoiding “condescending provincialism.” Ecumenism is pride cloaked in humility, which carefully avoids any narrow definition of truth that excludes others. Ecumenism is not concerned with the nature of or discovery of truth; its purpose and motive is the inclusion of every view regardless of its validity. (This topic will be further discussed in a coming post entitled “The Ecumenical Monoculture is Anti-truth.”)

Finally, I will conclude with the most astonishingly honest, albeit contradictory, section of the entire article. “Scientifically informed discourse is in competition with, and needs to be defended against, those who assert a locally derived narrative truth as a universal truth without regard to contradictory evidence. When faiths collide with material evidence (as in the evolution debate) the faith may be said to be better served if it is modified. Yet, having personal faith in a narrative truth that is not in accord with empirical evidence is not problematic as such. It is only when that faith is asserted as a superior form of truth beyond all others that others must object. In other words, the limit of tolerance is intolerance (5).” He mentions the evolution debate and academia fervently champions atheistic evolution in a position superior to all faiths. His implication, when noting the collision with evidence, is that faith in anything contrary to evolution is inferior and in need of modification. Also note that it is the faiths colliding with material evidence, and not evolution colliding with material evidence. In that statement it is clear that he presupposes the validity of evolution and the invalidity of every faith that conflicts with evolution. Also at this point he contradicts he previous statement regarding domains of truth. If truth is situated within domains, as he previously claimed, then evolution is only true for the scientists who constructed it. This statement, regarding evolution, is immediately followed, and contradicted, by a statement claiming that intolerance is intolerable. He is intolerant of faiths that collide with evolution and goes so far as to state that they are in need of modification. Finally, an advocate of the ecumenical monoculture gives honest insight to the intolerant tolerance that it promotes. Within the monoculture all faiths, all truth claims, and all gods are equally viable so long as they do not claim superiority over another faith, truth claim, or god. Do not be fooled by the false tolerance and false inclusivism offered by the ecumenical monoculture. Postmodernism is an exclusive truth claim that is not only in direct conflict with every other exclusive truth claim but itself as well. (This topic will be further discussed in a coming post entitled “The Ecumenical Monoculture is Exclusive Part 2”)

My Research Topic (How Language Affects Worldview)

I would like to briefly explain how language affects worldview and how this can aid you in intercultural communication. This theory is commonly known as “linguistic determinism” or “linguistic relativism,” depending upon the degree of influence that language is said to assert, and simply states that the worldview a given culture holds to is shaped and reflected by the language(s) spoken within that culture. Clearly many worldviews cross cultural boundaries therefore this is not a universal assertion. As an individual, you think in your native language, you interpret and describe life in your native language, and inevitably, your worldview is defined in your native language. The morphological, syntactical, and semantic rules, which govern languages, vary between languages, therefore resulting in distinct differences in the thought processes of different cultures. Here is an example of how this works. In matters of identity, individuals in most western cultures identity with the individual and expands to include the community, within these cultures there is heavy emphasis on individuality and individual needs. In many Asian cultures, however, the opposite is true. Japanese, for example, has no pronoun equivalent to “I” and uses words based on location, age, or gender; the Japanese identity is derived from a community while the American identity is derived within the individual. Thus, many Asian worldviews are founded upon societal characteristics, hence the Hindu caste system and American worldviews are founded upon individual desires, and postmodernism is a reflection of this. While one’s worldview is certainly not determined by their language the two do affect each other, to whatever degree that may be. In addition, an understanding of language and culture is helpful when trying to impact a given culture, which is why I have placed this here.

(1) Eco, U. (1988) ‘The Force of Falsity’, in Serendipities: Language and Lunacy, pp. 1–21. New York: Columbia Press.
(2) Shanafelt, R. (2002). Idols of Our Tribes? Relativism, Truth and Falsity in Ethnographic Fieldwork and Cross-cultural Interaction. Critique of Anthropology, Volume 22, Issue 1, 7-29.
(3) Ibid.
(4) Ibid.
(5) Ibid.

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2 thoughts on “Why should you stand against the ecumenical monoculture? Part 2

  1. Question: A little late, but I was just informed of this blog. I hope you get this comment.

    Does the language form the worldview or does the worldview form the language?

  2. I think they both affect each other. But there are also other things that have an affect on language and worldview, like culture. It is just an interesting theory and examining the things that influence our worldview can help us guard against unbiblical influences.

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