Monday, October 02, 2006

Postmodernity and its discontents

Of course, there is no one 'postmodern philosophy' or movement which people subscribe to. In fact the defining factor of our age is exactly that, we live in a society which contains a patchwork of belief, practice, understanding. When we consider what it is to say we live in a 'postmodern' (from now on i will say pm instead of typing 'postmodern' frequently!) world we are simply trying to examine the cultural situation, reflect on a changing world and put some shape to the results of that process.

In 'who's afraid of postmodernism' there is a very good broad summary of the main thrusts of pm thinking as (to paraphrase the subtitle) - Foucalt, Derrida and Lyotard are taken to church (!). The three aspects are: suspicion of power & rejection of any attempt to proclaim one single unifying truth (metanarrative), examination of langauge and its power to oppress and imprison and an assertion that meaning and truth are relative and fragmented - therefore one can 'enjoy the surface'.

This is, i think, a very good way of starting any thinking about our contemporary western culture. We live in a 'pick and mix' society where people (consciously or unconsciously) find meaning where they want - choosing from a wealth of spiritual traditions, consumerism, fashion and networks of friends both in the 'real world' and online which don't relate (as in previous generations) to geographical position. On the whole people don't want to belong to 'institutions' but to choose their alliegances by shared interest. There is desire for meaning, but one which is true 'for me' rather than 'true' in an objective or imposed sense.

Into this comes the Church, an institution, offering meaning but seen to be imposing a whole scheme of ideas and proclaiming 'this is the truth' - telling people (it seems) to accept the whole package or be excluded. So, it seems, the church is more often than not rejected.

Many people these days want to share the story, learn about the traditions of church and the christian faith, but don't want to feel 'bound' by the past or forced to accept certain wasy of being and thinking. Where we as the church face the greatest challenge is how we respond to this. If there is a suspicion of 'truth' how do we proclaim what we believe to be true? As Moog said in his comment to my last post - do we offer a 'fundamentalist' approach and say 'this is it, take it or leave it' - which offers comfort for those adrift on a sea of relativity, but (so i think the statistics show) having drawn people in, often fails to keep them in the church? Do we make everything relative and water down our understanding of the demands of christian faith? Or do we learn to tell and live our story a different way?

More in my next post, i'm sure that i've said enough. Again if there is anything you disagree with or want to say more about, or can say things in a clearer or better way than me, the comments box is always open...

1 comment:

Tom said...

I think, especially now when logical proofs fail to move the masses, we need to show that not only is what we offer True, but applicable to individual people. And I think the best way to make that offer is by doing what Christ did. He showed the goal, showed what he wanted us to be, and then had the brilliance to say that even though we're not there, he loves us anyway.

Someone can argue all day whether or not the Ten Commandments really apply in this modern (post modern) world, but you won't find many arguments agains the statement, "I love you." Sure, you can add, "what you're doing, the way you're living, is hurting you and those around you," but we need to start with a simple statement of love.

That came out muddled. Oh well. Anyway, good post.