Tag Archives: modern

Our evangelism nightmare: Hypermodern voices take over the airwaves

I heard Dwight Schrute, I mean, Rainn Wilson, on NPR as I was driving around somewhere. What he said is stuck in my head. He is known for being an outspoken follower of the Ba’hai faith — it is the “outspoken” part that is stuck. At one point he said that people “threw up in their mouth a little” when he started talking about his life with God at parties. So it is not easy for him to talk about what he believes. He does it, but it is not easy.

Wilson’s claim to fame, The Office, began in 2005, about when we moved into our South Broad location. It makes me wonder if that TV show was riding the zeitgeist of dodging people who make you “throw up in your mouth a little” — like White Goodman (above) and Dwight Schrute. Christians (and I guess the followers of the Bab) started getting on the list of people who make you vurp — at least the ones who talk about their faith as if they actually believe it.

Old evangelism stories are out of date

I was telling old stories to Aaron the other day about talking to people as if you actually believe that Jesus will raise you from the dead, and such things of faith. At one point he looked a little uncomfortable. I don’t think he was vurping, but he reminded me that things have changed a bit since I was his age. Some of my stories seem out of date when I start talking about the Jesus movement, which might as well be the French Revolution as far as twentysomethings remember it. We are experiencing more of an evangelistic nightmare than easygoing chats about Jesus.

Twentysomethings were born into a profound philosophical discussion. Their churches, for the most part, were holding on to a Christianity that was conformed to philosophical paradigms from modernity like rationality and hierarchy. In the late twentieth century, postmodern thinkers came to the fore and staged a short-lived rebellion. They taught everyone to consider their “values” and argued that values have the meaning we assign them, but no meanings that last; we cannot discern truth but we can play with the nonsense. They wanted to emerge from modernity with its faith in progress and empowering the individual. We had “emerging churches” for a hot minute to match that movement.

The dialogue out there is all hypermodern

You can Google all this, of course. But you might not bother because you have become what many call “hypermodern.” Modernity and postmodernity are both the the past for you. They are, essentially, irrelevant because you believe that what took place in the past took place under “lesser” circumstances than now, and is irretrievably different. You think artifacts from the past (like the Bible or “faiths”) that clutter the cultural landscape are to be reused to generate something better.

Wikipedia quote: Hypermodernity has even more commitment to reason and to an ability to improve individual choice and freedom. Modernity merely held out the hope of reasonable change while continuing to deal with a historical set of issues and concerns; hypermodernity posits that things are changing so quickly that history is not a reliable guide. The positive changes of hypermodernity are supposedly witnessed through rapidly expanding wealth, better living standards, medical advances, and so forth. Individuals and cultures that benefit directly from these things can feel that they are pulling away from natural limits that have always constrained life on Earth. But the negative effects also can be seen as leading to a soulless homogeneity as well as to accelerated discrepancies between different classes and groups.

So if you feel like people will consider you a Dwight Schrute at a party if you talk about Jesus, you might be right. You are acting like an historical artifact (Jesus) has meaning. You seem to be fighting the inevitability of change. You are saying that life on Earth has meaning and we don’t have to fight its constraints as if we should have power over it. You are standing out against the backdrop of gigantic institutions enforcing soulless homogeneity on us in the name of progress. And so much more.

It is an evangelism nightmare. Hypermodernity assumes everyone is an idiot if they are not hypermodern, like the cartoonist from Charlie Hebdo who responded to people praying for Paris after the recent attacks (above). For him, religion is modern, the past. Paris is freedom and joy, the future. Religion (a modern umbrella under which all “faiths” belong) is the seedbed of terrorism = faithful people are in bed with terrorists = You make me sick you Christians!

Jesus does not need to make people vurp

What to do? I’d hate to terrorize a party! I hardly want to stand in the way of progress. I don’t even understand all this philosophy.

Four suggestions, for now.

  1. Talk this over. Things ARE changing fast. We need to keep talking about what is happening, like I am talking right now about how Aaron was schooling me.
  2. Remember that Jesus is present, even if people try to make him an historical artifact. Even if people have repeatedly subjected him to the latest philosophy, the Lord rises in each era and has been incarnate in them all. You don’t have to argue the Lord into existence.
  3. Have a story and tell it. Jesus is going to be found in a loving relationship of trust in which God can be spoken of as the lover God is rather than a mere philosophical argument, a value, or political statement.
  4. Pray. Like right now. Jesus will be revealed and you will be inspired to live a life of creativity, free of shame and free to share.

Relationship pain for the Jesus-follower — new birth through conflict

Since the 1980’s there has been even more fighting in the church than ever! As postmodern thinking takes over the philosophical playing field and becomes more and more codified into law, conflict about the old, modern way of doing things happens all the time. The other day I was in a dialogue about what Circle of Hope is all about and someone kind of accosted me because they assumed I would be a proponent of some old-school church idea. A woman who was listening in to this impending conflict said, “Rod’s pretty much postmodern, if anyone is. I don’t think you’ll have to worry.” I did not think it showed.

The truth is (and you’ll have to decide, I’m afraid, what that means) is that I am not postmodern or modern. I am a Jesus follower.

  • I could easily be postmodern, since my life is “made” every day in relationship with the resurrected Jesus; grace is new every morning to experience and I experience it in a community based on that common experience.
  • But I could easily be modern too, since the source of my life is transhistorical and my call to live it is built right into my essence as a human being; before I was, Jesus is.
I am not going to let oppressive, totalitarian, anti-Christian forces in this country diminish and denigrate the holiday and the celebration. I am not going to let it happen. I'm gonna use all the power that I have on radio and television to bring horror into the world of people who are trying to do that. -- Bill O'Reilly
I am not going to let oppressive, totalitarian, anti-Christian forces in this country diminish and denigrate the holiday and the celebration. I am not going to let it happen. I’m gonna use all the power that I have on radio and television to bring horror into the world of people who are trying to do that. — Bill O’Reilly

Saying things like that about the truth can get one into a conflict almost every day. That is, you can have a fight if you hang out with people who have not just shut down in the face of the barrage of input beaming at them and attempting to reform them according to the latest new-improved paradigm. For instance, I included the term “postmodern” in my speech at Broad and Dauphin a few weeks ago and was schooled in both meetings about what I meant. I did not shut down; but I did think “Boy! If you are a leader you are asking for trouble.” Since Christians generally hate conflict — it feels so unloving and probably unholy, they certainly would not want to get into trouble! Our cell leaders face the pain of real or prospective conflict all the time and wonder how they ever got into the mess they are in!

But Jesus is not afraid to cause conflict. To read the scripture it would appear that his main mission was a conflict. Likewise, the Apostle Paul exemplifies how a Jesus-follower inevitably fights. He teaches about it so much that I could hardly summarize it in a blog post. But I do want to reflect on four of his teachings for the sake of people who have not shut down, but are still speaking the truth in love. There are new things being born in this era; there is no sense trying to keep the baby from being born, even if it hurts. Here are four paraphrases of significant examples of Paul having conflict and the basic things he hangs on to when he is in a fight.

Trust God to be at work

Philippians 3:14-16 – Let’s walk by the same rule and mind the same thing: our call to follow Jesus with our all into His all. If you have another mindset, God will be revealing that to you.

We get all ramped up when we don’t agree. We are tempted to cut people off as a result, or to flee to like-minded people and create a faction. Paul is confident that God is at work. People pursuing maturity in Christ will figure things out with God’s help. Our anxiety (and judgment) about how immature they are or how right they aren’t won’t help. Hang on to trust.

Accept one another

Romans 15:1-7 – We should be like-minded toward one another with the mindset of Christ. He has received us in love through great suffering in all our weakness. With one mind and mouth, let’s praise God.

Even if I think my loved one or acquaintance is flat-out wrong, or even being wicked, my discernment about how to respond is based on my ultimate goal that we should be one in Christ. I don’t write them off, even if they seem unholy or dangerous. I don’t write them off by relativizing them, either. “Freedom” for postmoderns is being left alone to get what I deserve according to what I can achieve. “Acceptance” has become keeping an appropriate distance, not spiritual intimacy or even agreement. I don’t let me or mine get reduced to that. Hang on to longsuffering.

Resist oppression

Galatians 5:7-15 – There are always law-keepers and law-givers who tempt us to re-enslave ourselves. They don’t walk in the Spirit and their goal is not love like Christ’s, demonstrated on the cross. It is our liberty in Christ that allows us to serve. We don’t demonstrate our love by following rules that don’t come from Jesus.

Paul is so frustrated by interlopers who are trying to make the Galatians follow Jewish laws, especially circumcision, that he wishes they would emasculate themselves in the same way they are trying to cut people off from the Spirit. The aggressive new laws associated with social construction philosophy, such as campus “hate speech” codes, find their way into the church and cause conflict similar to Paul’s these days. Any number of people will think they are not accepted and loved (like Christians are supposed to do!) if their “laws” are not followed. I think the “laws” have some good intentions behind them (as did the Judaizers in Galatia!), but they need to come from God to be in everyone’s best interests – somewhere from which postmodern laws consciously have not come. Hang on to the Holy Spirit.

Humbly receive

1 Corinthians 4:1-7 – We have what we have received. If we don’t think this, our comparisons make us judges when only God is the judge. Any light we bring was generated by God. Any hidden thing revealed will find its final meaning in Christ.

The conviction that “we only have what God gives us” makes Jesus-followers prone to conflicted situations, which makes a lot of them want to stay hidden. The new regime marching under the colors of postmodern thought says things like: “Irrespective of what one might assume, in the sciences, problems do not arise by themselves. It is, precisely, because all problems are posed that they embody the scientific spirit. If there were no question, there would be no scientific knowledge. Nothing proceeds from itself. Nothing is given. All is constructed.” — Gaston Blanchard. There is truth in what he says if God is not with us, but he’s basically opposed to what Christians know.

Our faith leads us to know that goodness can be experienced; grace is imminent. Our questions do not call reality into being; and our lack of questions do not protect us from our built-in yearning to connect with our Creator. The fact that humans still make meaning of life still implies that there is meaning. Jesus is the truth of God. The Holy Spirit keeps affirming that. We’re going to have conflict. Hang on to your receptivity.

girlsgateConflict is not intrinsically bad. But it is likely to be painful – just like Jesus experienced. The world keeps trying to make laws against the violence being engendered by requiring people to endlessly compete for their rights in the social landscape. The most marginalized are supposedly protected enough to fight as hard as the dominators who protect them. Jesus-followers have another way.

But we will be in a fight too, just like Paul demonstrates. Some of us will opt out and just try to be as inconspicuous as possible. Some of us will not control our tongues too well and be conspicuous in a bad way. But let’s try to stay with Jesus and one another and meet the new era with joy, not just with dread about the next conflict. God is at work. We have been accepted by Jesus. No one can enslave us anymore. We have received wonderful things. There is a mystery that is unfolding to each person about their relationship with God.

A doula told me the other day that no matter how many mothers she accompanies, each birth she attends is like a brand-new miracle. Each rebirth is similarly amazing. If, as in the birth of a baby, there is suffering, why should we not attend the birth of faith in Jesus with the same understanding? People are fighting for their lives. Hang on to your amazement.

Other thoughts on conflict:

The intrinsic affront built into believing

Conflict with the world: Disentangling from addiction

Why is being part of Circle of Hope so demanding?