The Tragedy and Optimism of Postmodernism.

We spent hundreds of years as a Church and society building this structure called Modernism. Modernism was great because it gave us the mind to develop new technologies. It allowed us to study, develop and discover new breakthrough’s in medicine. We logistically made a whole new world that could reproduce itself into bigger and better things quickly. It gave us very absolute and logical answers. Then Hitler arrived. He searched and gathered Jews and slayed them in camps. After this, the world that was built on the optimism that the world was going to continue to become a better world had stopped. Our once perfectly structured answers didn’t seem so perfect. It began a whole new identity crisis and paved a way to singularity and nothingness.  People like Jacque Derrida and Michel Foucault deconstructed our whole way of living and we were left with what seems a hallow shell (probably for the best). We thus began what is now known as Postmodernism.

One of the worst things that happened to the Postmodern culture was that nothing was truly knowable (understandable when everything has been stripped bare). My generation and to some extent the generation before me believes that everything we know, will be surpassed quickly by bigger and better technology and information. When this happens, nothing is truly knowable because it will only be engulfed by the bigger and better awaiting us. This began the terrible fall of the belief systems known as Nihilism and Relativism. Nihilism reveals that nothing really matters and nothing is really true. Relativism teaches that everything is equally true but it really only matters based upon the truth of the individual.

Nihilism and Relativism has left this culture and my generation with a complete singular focus, me. It really only matters what I feel and what I think because it will all be passed up. The problem with a me generation is that it will do any and everything to protect the me. We have bought into thoughts like “What does this do for me?” “How does this benefit me?” “How does that raise me up or bring others down?”. This type of thinking only tears others down and doesn’t help me mature. This is why we have traded substance for noise. Political candidates are building campaigns built on slandering other candidates rather than trying to actually solve something. Terry Jones and Westboro Baptist are household names because of their ability to be loud. We have built a life on being loud because we have not found the better.

What is the better? The better is when we are able to escape the me, and find the we. The thing that is other than me. The most immature Christians I know are the ones who always think God is on their side (and they have the Bible to support them). Yet, God is so Holy Other than me that he is so much bigger and beyond me that he is not me. Therefore, the me must turn into a we, because, if we don’t find the we, we will never find the thing that binds us together to reconstruct the thing that has been so heavily deconstructed. Good Theological Answers must be found in community because while the mind is what seeks the Truth, the mind is also what believes the lies. We need others to help us to work through the voices we hear. This is what the great theologians of the last century have taught us (Bonhoeffer, Barth and Moltmann). This is why counseling is so effective. We need a we, to help us discern the me. And, we need more than me to fix the problems of we. This is why a viewpoint is a view from a point. We need more than one view to get the point that helps sustain and hold us down.

As I see it, this is the hope of Postmodernism. If we can begin to find the we, we will have accumulated all of the knowledge and technology of Modernism but we will have gained the wisdom into the mystery of life, the world and God to help serve us into the next transition. It will build stronger communities, stronger discernment, stronger questions and deeper answers.

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One thought on “The Tragedy and Optimism of Postmodernism.

  1. Tim says:

    Excellent post Mike. Incredible that you only used the few words you did too. I wish more understood postmodernity from this perspective, especially in the Boomer generation and even more specific, my fellow conservative evangelical pastors/leaders (I’m a Gen’Xer though. And perhaps being the bridge between Millennials and Boomers is why postmodernism makes a great deal of sense to me).

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