Reading the World

One of the critical moments for me, one of those “woke” moments, facilitating my journey out of funda-gelicalism (FG), was realizing how modern FG was.  It was the opposite side of the same coin of modernity with all its either/or concrete dichotomies.

I began to realize that the young-earth-creationist arguing with the atheist/philosophical naturalist, were really the same person in more ways than either would care to admit.  They were just opposite sides of the same coin.  They came to different conclusions but they both started from the same place.  And that place, was a supposed view from nowhere.  Better, it was a “reading” from nowhere, or, a reading as if one were reading a dictionary or encyclopedia in a dispassionate, neutral, manner.

If I am reading the same dictionary or encyclopedia entry as a person in Boston, or Kenya, who I am, or who the person in Boston is, or the person in Kenya, does not matter.  We are reading the same entry.  Therefore (we imagined), we are impartial and our “reading” is from nowhere.  It’s not from my location (more about location below), Boston’s, or Kenya’s.

Implicit in the ethos of modernity is the notion of unrelated, distinct, objects bound purely by the laws of physics and nothing more.  Relatedly, then, we are impartial observers with a pure gaze.  We map, we categorize, we cut up the world into discrete objects, (like conducting an autopsy) we then are able to control.  If I can name you, locate you, map you, and categorize you, I can control you.  Control may be the operating logic of modernity.  But my location (understood as geography, culture, family, education, language, life experience, etc.) is supposedly unimportant or neutral.

In a way, we encyclopedia(ize) the world.  We place the book on our shelf and look up whatever information we need; we read the information, put the book back, and think we “know” or have knowledge of that area.  We “master” subjects (objects) this way.  We do this online too.  We “Wikipedia(ize)” the world.

We begin to “read” the world this way, which includes people, everything.  And we delude ourselves into thinking this gaze, this reading, is impartial—that we are just consuming “facts” from nowhere.  There is nothing in our way, there is nothing that obstructs our view, it is a direct, one-to-one correspondence between my gaze and the object.

What this does however is condition us to “read” in only one way: Literally.  There is only surface and no depth (just the facts…).  More importantly, it is a reduction.  Everything is reduced to its physical properties—because such is only what we can “see,” which in this case means what we can map, locate, weigh, measure, name, and categorize.

And the FG world followed along.  They read the world exactly the way they read their Bibles (or visa-versa?): literally.  And secular fundamentalists do the same thing—they simply do their reading from a Bible called “science” or, more accurately, a philosophy: naturalism/materialism.  Two sides of the same coin.  For so long, I was on one side of that coin.  When I became suspicious of the coin itself, it was like deciding to flip it in the air one more time.  As the coin tossed in the air, I decided to walk away and not wait to see which side it landed on.  I didn’t care anymore.  I was more excited by the notion we lived in a both/and world rather than an either/or world.  And that meant “reading” the world differently.

You can read more about this here.