You might have to be my age or a little older to understand that “tell it like it is” was a byword of the late 1960s and 1970s. Which is relevant to the point I’d like to meander toward, because those days was a lot more “modern” than these days am.
I’m a late-comer to the modern/post-modern discussion, partly because I always (and mistakenly) thought of “modern” as a term that moved forward in time, just like the word “contemporary” used to do. Nowadays, if you live in a “modern” or “contemporary” house, it was probably built 40-50 years ago. I couldn’t grasp the discussion because I couldn’t understand the terms.
“Telling it like it is,” contrarily enough, is a “modern” concept. Like old journalism, it hangs on the notion that a person can tell a story without a particular point of view or slant; that he/she can see it from all sides and recount it factually, unemotionally, disconnectedly. The “post-modern” notion is that it’s impossible for anyone to do that; we’re all going to have our own histories, beliefs, opinions, and colored lenses (preferably lavender with wire rims) – and no one can tell a story exactly the way it happened. We all “call it like we see it.”
Science, for instance, used to be pretty sure about everything. Then chaos theory started punching quantum holes right through the fabric of certainty. Pretty soon, every other discipline (even religion) became perforated with doubt.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Some things should be doubted. At the same time, there are some things that are functionally and permanently true and they should not be doubted for a moment. Gravity comes to mind, and the inherent unreasonability of any given bureaucracy. Oh yes, and God.
Doubt everything else, but none of it makes sense without God. It’s all just chaos theory and entropy and a supragalactic toilet without God.
And the process of reductionism/deconstructivism isn’t necessarily a bad thing, either – if it helps us peel away and trash outdated and nonsensical and unbiblical beliefs, doctrines, practices and traditions. Several things come to mind here, but I’m not going to mention any of them. Aren’t you proud of me?
On the other hand, maybe we could stand to be less reductionistic. (That’s what I want on my bumper sticker: “Be less reductionistic.”) Maybe deconstructivism isn’t all it’s cracked up to be … if it goes too far.
My twelve-year-old son is fond of collecting big-scale metal model cars and then taking them apart to see how they’re put together. The problem is, he’s not very adept at putting them back together – and they aren’t really made for customizing or swapping parts like he has seen on “Monster Garage.”
That brings up my fear about the pendulum swinging too far toward post-modernism. One of its bywords is “You can’t know everything.” Which leaves the committed post-modern dude or babe with a major heinous dilemma: Once you’ve taken everything apart and nothing makes any more sense than it did before, and you’ve accepted the axiom “You can’t know everything,” what do you do with all the busted pieces? (My son’s answer is to box up the little ones and put them in a closet and display the stripped carcasses of all his formerly-beautiful metal cars. This is not a comforting thought to me.)
So I finally come wandering to the point. Is post-modernism really a kind of pendulum swing that necessarily over-corrects the excesses of modernism? Is there a point ahead in the process where it will settle in a stable center?
And in the meantime – with the one and only truth in the universe that you can put an anchor into – will Christians have the faith and courage to do so?
Can we tell the Story from our own point of view; enriching it with the embellishments of our own individual stories – yet still letting it point unmistakeably to the known and the sure; to scripture itself; to truth; to God and His Son? Can we be part of the ongoing Story of Jesus without claiming our version is the only one?
Can we take off the lilac granny glasses long enough to see the Story just as it is, and its glorious, multicolored power to take each one of us in?
Can we also tell it like it is?