Postmodernism Sets Us Free   2 comments

There was a time (and not that long ago) when American culture was almost universally regarded as based on Christianity. I am not saying that everyone in the country was Christian in the Antioch sense of the word. I seriously doubt if even a wide plurality of Americans have ever been Antioch Christians, which was a spiritual condition that motivated a missionary movement I’m saying that our culture was widely viewed as based on Christian ethics. Americans are not, as a nation, a New Testament Christian nation. However, most American leaders prior to the early 1960s not only accepted that American culture was based on a Christian cultural foundation, but they almost universally firmly agreed that things out to be that way.

Education especially exemplified this understanding. Even in state-run schools, the speeches of university presidents could often have passed for Christian sermons. Chaplains delivered prayers before the student bodies that were noticeably Christian prayers addressed to the Savior-God. Yes, sometimes these prayers were met by some individuals with skepticism, boredom or even resentment, but the cultural prerogative of Christianity was generally accepted.

Wow, have times changed!

The majority of secular universities no longer have a chaplaincy. The few that still do are chaired by men and women who would never mention the name of Jesus Christ in a public prayer, but might work in some Taoism or Islam or invoke “the Goddess”. Christians ideas and motivations have few public expressions these days.

Today, the Christian is often viewed as big, bad bullies who must be punished for past misdeeds. Postmodernism holds an irrational dislike of all things Christian.

There is very little Christians can do about that right now. Pitching fits, manipulating the political process, whining — these behaviors only work against the cause of Christianity in the larger culture. We need to recognize it and be prepared to stand in the midst of that icy-cold stream. It might help if we realized that it’s really not all that bad.

Pluralism teaches that individuals have a right to be who they are, so long as what they are does not cause harm to others. In a pluralistic society, social and/or political force may not be used to suppress the freedom of thought and expression of any citizen, or even the practice that flows from it, insofar as that practice is not morally wrong. It does not mean that everyone can do whatever they want. It does not mean we must agree with the views or adopt the practices of those of other persuasions. It does not mean we must like those views or practices. It does not mean we cannot appropriately express our disagreement or dislike for other viewpoints.

In AD 49, the early Christian Church, not more than 15 years old, gathered to settle their first big question on how to be in the world, but not of the world. The first Christians were all Jews. Even Jesus was a Jew. There were Gentiles who became believers, but most were what were known as God-fearers – Gentiles who had adopted Judaism — and then they became believers and continued as Jewish flavored Christians. Paul and Barnabas and the missionary project out of the church at Antioch changed all that. Now hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Gentiles were becoming Christians and most of them did not want to be circumcised.

Imagine that! Adults didn’t want to submit to that in order to be “true” Christians. If every guy reading this doesn’t say “Oh, yeah!” I’d be puzzled. It’s a simple procedure for a baby, but it’s not something an adult male wants to go through.

The Jerusalem Council decided that pluralism was a good arrangement for the Christian churches.  Gentiles could become Christians without joining Jewish culture and Jews who become Christians were not required to remain cultural Jews (Scripture doesn’t record that part in Acts, but Paul’s writing in Galatians suggests that was part of the decision). Being a Jew didn’t make one a Christian. We all come to Christ by faith. Our culture has zip to do with that. The Jerusalem decision in a nutshell.

The Christian gospel does not require cultural privilege or even social recognition to flourish. History shows that God’s work is most definitely NOT disadvantaged by persecution or death, so how could it be damaged by a mere philosophy? The God Who holds Christians in His hands will not be diminished by mere human folly.

Modernism taught that Christians should shut up because we are either stupid or delusional if we believe there is any reality outside of what science says there is. We could argue against it, but it was hard to maintain credibility arguing against the seers of the Modern Age. Postmodernism sets us free from that prison. Pluralism in American society means that the Christian has just as much right to be an out-of-the-closet follower of Jesus or a Christian cultural traditionalist as any non-Christian has a right to be what they are. We need to claim that.

Current cultural metanarrative teaches that non-Christians were victims of past Christian domination of the social order. This empowers non-Christians to insist that they may be assertive in ways that Christians cannot. Christians are “fair game” for attacks and abuse that would quickly be branded discriminatory  if directed toward other groups. It’s tempting to feel sorry for ourselves as a group and allow that to become our focus.

Don’t do it!

Scripture teaches that the metanarrative of the 21st century is far from accurate. Jesus treated women with respect. Paul wrote that God didn’t distinguish between racial groups. Human beings acting like the “bent” people that we are didn’t always follow Scripture, but that does not invalidate the teaching. We need to own up to what people did in God’s name and move on to what WE want to do in Jesus’ name.

This doesn’t mean that the world won’t hate us or say wrong things about us. Jesus warned us that those who followed Him would be hated by the world because the world hated Him before it hated us. Why do we act surprised that things aren’t easy now? Weren’t we listening when we read the Gospel of John? Yes, Christians in many venues have legal recourse against discrimination and I am not saying they shouldn’t use it. We live in a pluralistic society, after all, and we are one of the many groups that have a right to exist.

Pluralism secures a social context in which full and free interchange of different views on life and reality can be conducted to the greatest advantage of all. Thin-skinned and narrow-minded people may not enjoy a pluralistic society, but their discomfort is vastly outweighed by the benefits of open and free exchange of information and ideas.

Christians in the 21st century, far from being wrapped and gagged in cultural chains, have a powerful opportunity to speak into our culture with love and respect about the actual foundation of reality … if we will do it.

Posted September 14, 2013 by aurorawatcherak in Christianity

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2 responses to “Postmodernism Sets Us Free

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  1. Very interesting view on how postmodernism can help bring the beaten Christian turtles out of their shells. The expansion of civil liberties and rights is crossing a boundary in the military as well. At least some activists would like it to. Freedom for all things for all people is beginning to strip some people (Christians) of some things (religious liberties ).


    • The problem for Christians is to take ownership of our liberty while being true to Christ’s teachings. Christians did it in the 1st century. In the 21st century, we whine and complain and say it’s not fair. Jesus never promised us fair. In the 1st through the 3rd centuries, Christians died for their beliefs. Christianity started with about 100 people in AD 30-something and swept most of Europe, all of the Middle East, North Africa, and part of India while under horrible persecution. There are still Christians dying for their beliefs in China, Burma and the Middle East today. The Chinese underground churches report mass conversations. In the United States, our culture mocks us on Saturday Night Live and we clam up and hide in our churches like they were throwing stones or something.

      We need to get over that!


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