Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Myth of the Post Modern

I am a skeptic.

Last Saturday at the Peacemaker conference I sat in on a class titled Post-Modernism and The Local Church (Why Do They Want an iPod Church?). At ninety minutes, it was much too short, more of an introduction than any sort of in-depth study.

Just for a bit of credibility, I am a former philosophy major that saw more job security in pursuing poli sci. Not to mislead anyone, I've no degree; instead I've turned my energies increasingly toward my family, and to God (unfortunately in that order, though in recent years I've desired to seek to keep God above the idols scattered around me).

I've some grasp of Modern vs Post-Modern as generally discussed in the class, but was surprised when the instructor divided the class, basically into two groups: the Boomers (less post-modern) and Gen X, Y, etc (more post-modern). Holding tightly to post-modern as defined by today's twenty-somethings, he suggested that this new generation, the post-modern generation, approached life with a worldview so contrary to anything the boomers held dear it constituted more than a difference in outlooks between generations.

Given the term post-modern has been in use for over a hundred years and has had it's fair share of critics since it was first proposed, to suggest that technology has added to the schism that just happens to land at a major generation crux, is lacking.

Words have force. As a definition, a label, limits the thing described, it also focuses it's strength. To refuse to label, define, something, may expand it's reach, but it is weakened, more akin to a breeze than the crushing blow of a thing defined.

Today's post-modernists (they're right to reject this definition, as it somewhat contrary to their worldview) may oppose labels for themselves and most definitions in general, but, socially minded, many are strong advocates for the oppressed, the poor, the underprivileged. An incredible thing, this sense of social justice, that too many Christians have wrongly sacrificed on the alter of patriotism, of America.

The world is changing. Who knows where technology (or the economy, or politics) will land us in ten, twenty, or even fifty years, but this generation, which embraces all that technology offers, is no reaction to modernism. It is the continuing cycle of rejection of the previous generations values, ideals. It is even a rejection, in part, of the benefits of the technology it embraces. As the boomers grow older, tempering their values against the rough edges of experience and self-preservation, they become legitimate targets of this idealistic youth. As the boomers, though tempered, continue to worship self and not the creator, this new generation passionately seeks to push hedonism to previously uncharted territory.

All their values align too well with the values we held in high school (we were going to change the world, you know), just as they aligned with each previous generation, especially here in the US. The youth have always been more socially minded. Maybe this generation does have a greater sense of community that reaches across racial and social/economic divides, but after catching a snip-it of My Sweet Sixteen on MTV, it doesn't appear so (don't watch it - it's trash); no more than previous waves of youths over the history of the world. I'm more inclined to agree with the words of the Preacher:

Is there a thing of which it is said,
“See, this is new”?
It has been already
in the ages before us.

Ecclesiastes 1:10