Skip to comments.The Postmodern Crackup: From soccer moms to college campuses, signs of the end
Posted on 12/10/2003 3:16:24 PM PST by rhema
Is postmodernismthe philosophy that claims there is no transcendent truthon life support? It may be premature to sign the death certificate, but there are signs postmodernism is losing strength:
I spoke at my alma mater, Brown University, in June, arguing that without acknowledging moral truth, it's impossible for colleges to teach ethics. I've been saying this since the late 1980s, all over America, and I've yet to be successfully contradicted. Whenever someone claims his alma mater teaches ethics, I ask him to send me the curriculum, which invariably turns out to be pure pragmatism, utilitarianism, or social issues like diversity and the environmentgood things, but not ethics. At Brownone of the most liberal campuses in the countryI was shocked when the professor who introduced me acknowledged that he could no longer teach ethics, adding: "Chuck Colson will explain why."
In Red Wing, Minnesotaa town Al Gore carried in 2000the majority of high school students consider themselves prolife. As one sophomore put it, "I think it would be better to overturn Roe v. Wade."
According to The New York Times, kids aren't inheriting these attitudes from their prochoice (and horrified) parents. But they are reflecting national trends. Among the young, support for legalized abortion dropped from 48 percent in 1993 to 39 percent today. Clearly, this generation, witnessing the dreadful legacy of abortion, isn't buying prochoice claims.
In recent years, Americans have become increasingly tolerant of homosexual rights. But in the wake of the Supreme Court's Lawrence decision, which many believe paves the way for gay marriage, support for gay causes dropped sharply. Why? Because while it was fashionable to consider ourselves tolerant, Lawrence jolted us back to realityback to an understanding of how destructive it would be if we overturned the definition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman.
Soccer momsa constituency that worried about abortion rights, good schools, and civil liberties, are now called security moms because these days they worry primarily about their kids' safety. Time magazine recently quoted one mother who said she normally chooses political candidates who strongly support welfare and abortion. But since September 11, she said, "All I want in a President is a person who is strong."
September 11, theologian Michael Novak says, was the beginning of the end for postmodern preeminence. People are beginning to realize postmodern presuppositions simply don't work.
And what are those presuppositions? Postmodernists claim we can have no "grand metanarrative" that makes sense of reality. Since there's no such thing as truth, all principles are merely personal preferences. As professor Ed Veith explains, the postmodernist claims that all you can do is try to impose your preferences on others before they impose theirs on you.
But then came September 11, the day terrorists imposed their preferences, murdering 3,000 innocent Americans. If one's worldview is true, it has to conform to realityto our real-life experiences. Post9/11, few Americans could continue believing that there's no such thing as moral truth, no such thing as good and evil.
These encouraging signsthat Americans are recognizing the flimsiness of postmodernism's presuppositionsafford a great opportunity. I believe people today can be attracted to a belief system that is rational and defensible. The question is, Who or what will fill the vacuum if postmodernism collapses?
Christianity offers a belief system that is, as Paul tells Festus, "true and reasonable." I can't think of a more critical time for pastors, scholars, and laypeople to be grounded in a biblical worldview and to defend it clearly to those hungering for truth.
But are we prepared for such a challenge? George Barna recently completed a tour of American churches and came back with a dismaying report that most church and lay leaders90 percent, according to one surveyhave no understanding of worldview. How are we going to contend with competing philosophies if we're not even rooted in our own truth system?
Ironically, just as there seem to be encouraging signs in the culture, there are also signs that the church is dumbing down, moving from a Word-driven message to an image- and emotion-driven message (note how many Christian radio stations have recently converted from talk and preaching to all music).
It would be the supreme ironyand a terrible tragedyif we found ourselves slipping into postmodernity just when the broader culture has figured out it's a dead end.
Post-modernism is absurd, it was meant to be absurd. Still it is effective in describing what we see. Advocating for it is another thing, altogether. We *are* a society without a controlling "meta-story", to use the strange phrases of the academy.
Post-modernism began as an offshoot of the History of Art as a way to describe certain buildings belonging to no discreet style or period. It "jumped" into literature, philosophy and eventually everywhere else.
The real challenge to Christian ethics is most certainly *not* from post modernists, but from the (dreaded!) secular humanists. The Humanist movement did try to construct a secular ethical system without a supreme law giver. I would say their attempt was somewhat successful.
Colson says, as do many Christians: "you can't have ethics without God" but that is simply a declaration of their belief, not a fact, or even a well reasoned argument. I think this would make a great topic for a high school debate. Chuck doesn't really seem up to arguing his side though.
Yes. But it appears as though these same set of assumptions never apply to postmodernism itself. After all, if there are *only* personal preferences and no truth, one cannot maintain that postmodern assumptions are true. They are merely another set of "preferences" with no relation to reality.
And as far as "metanarratives" go, postmodernism appears to be one.