The Postmodern Faith
When I was younger, and soaking constantly in the echo-chamber of White Evangelical messaging, one of the things that you’d hear the high-minded religious philosophers rage against was the advent of postmodernism. Of course this because a talking point for preachers and teachers who had no real grasp of what modernism was and how postmodern thinking diverged from it – indeed their the academic or the country preacher was likely representing either of those accurately, and for the purposes of this writing it’s not necessary that I detail either. Because the phenomena I have in mind has more to do with what they THOUGHT postmodernism is and was than with the actual philosophical debates that transcend their theological essentials.
In other words, it doesn’t matter what postmodern actually is, so much as what these religious philosophers taught the masses that it was.
The description I always heard was that the postmodern philosophy denied the existence of objective facts.Everyone was entitled to their own truth, their own facts, and thus no one could be disproven. It was, admittedly, a description loaded with an ironic level of lack of self awareness. After all, the whole body of organized Christianity was divided and re-divided over differing fact claims regarding the teaching found in a single book. These men (almost invariably men) failed to notice that having a couple of dozen different “truths” about what the proper method and meaning of baptism is was a delightfully spot-on illustration of the sort of thinking they were upset about. Being a product of the echo chamber, I too was blithely unaware of this obvious self contradiction.
The problem, these men taught, was that Christianity (to be clear, THEIR VERSION of Christianity – whoever was speaking or writing at the time) was objectively true and in order to avoid having to conform to that truth postmoderns had to create a worldview in which everyone could have their own competing truth. Which, again, was basically epidemic IN the church, and had been for over a thousand years. But they don’t consider that to be the same thing.
So, what has all this to do with the subject matter of this site? Well, it’s been my observation that those same Evangelical Dominionists, of late, have openly embraced the very tactic that 30-40 years ago they had railed against. Christian Nationalists now build entire careers and ministries around denying objectively determined facts and writing whole books about what doesn’t seem to them to be right, no matter what the science says. They pontificate subjective opinions and encourage the readers to use “common sense” (another way of saying, “that which seems right to you no matter what the book says”) and their personal opinions to reach conclusions that they pass off as facts, because “everybody knows.”
This becomes even more ironic as they ramp up their attacks against trans people by saying “science doesn’t care about your ‘feelings’ because facts are facts.” Indeed they are, but this lot is the same one that’s rushing headlong to insist that the science is wrong because they intuitively feel that what science has revealed can’t possibly be true. And then they cite their faith-held view that a collection of ancients writings proves their feelings are correct, nevermind that said writing do no such thing when analyzed objectively (whether or not one accepts the proposition that what that book says has any objective basis in fact).
The contemporary Christian Nationalist has become in practice, the very thing that his predecessors raged against – someone who’s subjective truth-claims demand to be taken as authoritative as any objectively determined fact because they are entitled to assert their own truth. I’d find it hilarious, if it wasn’t so dangerous.
Photo by: Clive Varley