The Sin of -centric Thinking

I used to teach History. I remember the first time I was cautioned about Eurocentric thinking. I bristled at the thought because I myself had been taught from a largely Eurocentric point of view – that is, pretty much all the history worth knowing was from Europe and the USA, and that’s that. Once I learned how much history happened outside of Europe and how it was downplayed by Europeans because it didn’t happen in Europe, my thinking changed.

There’s also the idea of “American Exceptionalism” that postulates America is a special place, and that automatically makes it a better place and its national interest better interests. That’s another type of -centric thinking that comes out of a biased point of view. It’s propaganda for a theory of superiority of one people relative to another – the beginnings of nationalism and racism.

The Book of Mormon takes both of those ideas out to the dustbin of history. The success of America in its revolt against the British came not because of any inherent goodness of the Americans or specialness from their geographic blessings: the Book of Mormon laconically states that God willed it, and so it happened. While other authors of the day sang the praises of the mettle and determination of the Founding Fathers, the Book of Mormon passes over it all as a matter of God’s will, nothing more and nothing less. The USA is not a special, gifted place because it is the USA, in so many words. It is a nation made up of people who can choose to ruin it as surely as they can choose to make it better.

As for other -centrisms, 2 Nephi 29 comes down very hard on the people who think they have it all, and who forget that all humanity is a family. It talks about the Gentiles rejecting additional words of God because they already have a collection of God’s words to people in Palestine. There’s a deeper issue in that, “Do they remember the travails, and the labors, and the pains of the Jews, and their diligence unto me, in bringing forth salvation unto the Gentiles?”

It would seem that the Gentiles have forgotten whose shoulders they stand upon. The next verse is even more severe: “O ye Gentiles, have ye remembered the Jews, mine ancient covenant people? Nay; but ye have cursed them, and have hated them, and have not sought to recover them. But behold, I will return all these things upon your own heads; for I the Lord have not forgotten my people.”

The antisemitism that accompanied much of Western Civilization’s thinking – and which remains with us to this day – is clearly condemned in this passage.

Later in the chapter, God speaks of drawing Israel, his covenant people, from all the world. Essentially, we cannot say that only one people is blessed above all others. Rather, the seed of Abraham is in all nations, and we have to live according to that knowledge. Should we, in a bout of some kind of -centric thinking, deny equality to another, we may very well be making war against Israel, and, by extension, war against God Himself.

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