What is Postmodernity?

Often times those interested in Postmodernism are so interested in the topic that they sometimes struggle to talk about it in a way that is concrete and accessible to folks not already interested.  In this video I try to explain my understanding of postmodernity in a way that folks can get at without needing a degree.  As a result of the simplicity I'm leaving lots out and cutting corners, but the hope is that it is worth it. One of the things I hit on in the vid is my problem with calling the whole shebang "post"modern, when, in fact, modern thinking is hardly past. I think its very name sets it up hurdle to understanding… Has anyone out there also been bothered by this? Invariably, when Christianity and Postmodernism cross paths, the issue of relativism and absolute subjectivism pops up.  I have unabashedly skipped this issue all together. It certainly does require consideration and IS A PROBLEM that some folks with sloppy thinking do  run into. I run into it too, so don't think I'm unaware…  I'm not planning to dodge it forever. Its just that I'm currently writing a paper on the topic and trying to sort through my own thoughts. Eventually I'll address it. In the meantime though, I'd be curious to know what others think:

  1. How would you describe postmodernism to someone who doesn't quite know what it is?
  2. What are the benefits of postmodernism to a life of faith?

Oh, and Wess Daniels, mentioned in the vid, is online here: Gathering in The Light

13 Responses

  1. “I’m not suggesting that everyone gets messed up and gets kind of all in everyone else’s business; that’s what you should do. I’m saying that is what is happening.”

    Brilliant explanation. I typically get asked to explain the postmodern “rejection of truth.” Most often, I try to point out that postmodernism doesn’t doubt truth, it doubts objectivity, and particularly the objective “Enlightened-I” of the modern era.

    I like the way you apply this philosophy to Christianity. It all comes down to humility and “generous orthodoxy” within a slightly evolved sort of postmodernism. In fact, I think the Christian faith effectively embraces (maybe one would use the word “redeems”) postmodernism from what McLaren calls “antimodernism” (meaning the utterly nihilistic, absolutely relativistic thoughts of the earliest forms of postmodernism à la Nietzsche, et al.) As far as the resources I like to refer to concerning such conversations:

    Intuitive Leadership by Tim Keel>
    Keel explains the differences between modern thought and postmodernism throughout to make his case for a more organic, more narrative and community driven form of leadership (before “organic” was too much a buzzword).

    Adventures in Missing the Point by Tony Campolo and Brian McLaren
    McLaren’s chapter on postmodernism is awesome, accessible, and brilliant.

    The Justice Project by Brian McLaren, Elisa Padilla, and Ashley Bunting Seeeber, et al.
    Tony J’s chapter is an excellent intro to deconstruction that manages to not get too heady. I know you’ve linked to it already on this blog, but one can read Tony’s chapter

  2. Callid,
    I especially liked the phrase you used “daring to transgress” when speaking of Jesus’ approach to listening. It seems that Christ’s constant willingness to break the mold, the bring the conversation to a higher level, beyond the “either/or” to the “both/and” is increasingly more relevant and attuned to postmodern culture. This idea of “transgressing” or “stepping across” is usually associated in a negative context, with some sense of violation of law or a legally set boundary. Here we see it as a freeing expression, the “daring” merely expressing the courage of “crossing the line” as your model showed.

    Thanks for the post.

  3. Thanks for that wonderful model! I have a feeling I might be whipping this video out at Thanksgiving because I’ve already had one phone call to my parents where I unsuccessfully tried to describe post-modernism. I really appreciate your down-to-earth approach!

  4. @Blake Thanks for the compliments and the encouragement.

    @Matt Thanks for the info. I may very well make use of ye olde librario to get at some of those fine monographs.

    @Lindsey Oh man. The mom and dad oh no pomo convo. Tough stuff. If I’m being at all successful in my attempt here then it should accomplish something… Let me know how it goes. And thanks for the down-to-earth comment. I try to be that way. I find that not taking myself or my work too seriously helps. I love to play.

  5. @Greg Missed you up there… I talk about “daring to transgress” a bunch. I come at much of this work thinking like an artist and poet, and I find that transgression is necessary to forward though, or, to get away from the “marching always forward” metaphor, transgression is necessary to engage the mystery, calling it out. I may very well talk about this art/transgression/mystery thing next. I’m a fan.

  6. Are referring to postmodernity or postmodernism? Perhaps both, but I presume the later? I could be wrong. You do use both terms, but to my understanding they are not interchangeable. I may have misunderstood…sorry. I did not watch the video yet, my computer is weak.

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