Misrepresenting Others

confuciusThis post is inspired by Bin Song’s Huffington post article criticizing Christian misrepresentation of Confucianism. It is fun to hear a believer point out how their beliefs are misrepresented by nonbelievers.  Mind you, I am not a Huffington post advocate, but I often try to read out of my comfort zone, as you will see below.

I was raised in America’s midWest by a Lutheran family that was not really religious except in a cultural sense. I deconverted from this cultural-Christianity at 14 years-old but then at 17 years-old reconverted to a Bible-believing, Baptist-like Evangelicalism form of Christianity. Soon I added in some “The Jesus Movement” charismatic theology and later attended one of the premier Evangelical Christian colleges: Wheaton College.

During these newly refreshed Christian years, I also read about other religions. But for sources, I only read summaries of these religions by critical (damning) Evangelical authors. So I had dogmatic Christians digesting the other religions for me, misrepresenting them to me and helping me to know what to think about them — how to see their errors. I read in an echo chamber.

Later I went to India. I experienced India raw and began to see the problems with getting knowledge of another system without reading primary sources. (see “Hinduism was my Undoing“)

Then over decades that followed, I saw this same phenomena between Marxists and Capitalists, between Republicans and Democrats, between Men and Women, between Atheists and Theists and between Alternative Medicine and “Western” medicine. The patterns were similar. Seeing our blindness over so many different areas of knowledge has help breed healthy distrust of both myself and others.

So my recommendation: for broad understanding read the critiques of both sides and the primary sources of both sides.

But most of us don’t have the time for so much reading. Instead, we tend to read within our echo-chambers. Solutions:

  • Read “the enemy” consistently for a month or so, stop reading your normal stuff.  Soon, Lord forbid, you may incorporate your enemy a bit.
  • Try to read skeptically — but tough to do without conflicting views

You may not be interested in Confucianism, but if you read Bin Song’s critique of Christian misrepresenting Confucianism, it may strengthen your skepticism. So enjoy.



Filed under Philosophy & Religion

4 responses to “Misrepresenting Others

  1. rautakyy

    The example about how the misunderstanding about Confucianism was formed is exellent, as it shows how understandable it is that the missionaries should come to misunderstand the Chinese concepts. That their misrepresentation was not so much deliberate.

    When I was a kid, my dad – an atheist like his father before him – put me on religion class in the school, even though the law would have given me freedom of those classes. He told me, that he wanted me to understand the view of the religious people too. I was seven. I am now over fourty, having read some relgion studies in the universtity, but I do not even yet think I really understand the views of the religious people. Their various beliefs in what they call the supernatural remain somewhat alien worldviews to me. But I seek to understand them as I seek to understand the views and motives of past generations in my research of history. I do not see religions, or religious people as my enemies, but as my brothers and sisters who have a different view on some things. On some of those issues, I am rather convinced they are wrong, but still mostly sincere in their views.

  2. Thanks for sharing, rautakyy. Glad you enjoyed the article.

  3. Thanks for your personal story and background. Sounds multi-faceted, to say the least!

    I liked your “So my recommendation: for broad understanding read the critiques of both sides and the primary sources of both sides”.

    I spent most of my former decades in a “bubble” of dogma reading and believing in first the Catholic, Christian, then New Age, Yoga meditation traditions.

    It’s not easy to read both critiques and sources of both sides. But it does seem necessary, least we fall into the same trap we are critical of.

  4. @ SM,
    Thank you for sharing.

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