Thursday, September 03, 2009

Pomo V

Last time we established the golden trilogy of popular postmodernism: authenticity, community and justice.

Like Christianity, postmodernism challenged the dangerous arrogance of the modernist worldview in imagining that human reason was supreme (the authority of the mind). Instead of authority, the ideal of authenticity should be pursued. It is the pursuit of identity and the search for self. It is life lived authentically to who you really are. According to Michael Jensen, people "want to live according to the truth of themselves as beings. This longing is partly in response to a sense that cultural conditions - technology, urbanisation, mass immigration - have made discovery of authenticity in life much harder, because our freedom has been so restricted."

It is in the respect that pomo can be described as relativist. What is authentic for me may be totally divergent to what is authentic for you, but that is OK in postmodernism as long as we're being 'true to ourselves.' There are issues with this (which I'll come back to later), but it is a response to so much in modern life that is manufactured and carefully spun (think of our politicians or the advertising industry). You'll find this value reflected in many new social mediums, particularly YouTube. The success in YouTube is that the content is real; the videos are not manufactured. Via YouTube I can show the authentic me to the whole world.

The ideal of authenticity is something that the church must come to terms with so that it can go forward in it's life and mission. What is up for grabs is the question of identity. Whilst postmodernism has raised this question, it doesn't provide easy answers. Michael Jensen has in fact observed several paradoxes in postmodern identity amongst 'Gen Y': biology vs dignity (am I just another animal, or do I have a special place as a human); narcissism vs self-loathing; self-discovery vs self-disappearance (the Internet allows us to disappear, to be anonymous); individualism vs. loneliness (the desire to be on or own can be seen in the growth of one bedroom flats. But it also comes at a time when people are more disconnected than ever before); consumption vs labour (Gen Y is relatively prosperous, and buys what it wants when they want to. They are also working longer hours than ever before); freedom vs intolerance (of moral choices); choice vs change anxiety; tradition vs. novelty (old is cool, sometimes. But so is the latest product from Apple); and global vs local.

With these tensions, pomo is still trying to answer the question 'Who am I?'. The church has exciting opportunity to articulate that my identity is found in Christ. The quest to find 'self' is achieved in denying ourselves and following Jesus: "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it." He is the authentic human and what he offers to those who would come after him is human life that is recovered (from evil and sin) and renewed. What he offers his disciples is the only way to know thy self.

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