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The worldview group I have chosen to write about is Postmodernism. I have chosen Postmodernism because in our society today, all around us in people's thinking, actions and all they do, Postmodernism is the prevalent mindset or worldview that people have. Even if they do not even realise it, it is not hard to see the Post-modern thinking just by talking to people on the streets about religions, crime and life in general. Of course, this is not to say that everyone will have adopted this worldview, but anyone born at some point in the twentieth century will most likely have some form of Post-modern worldview affecting their thinking. And because of that, I have chosen to explore the Post-modern worldview, explaining what it is and what the key points are, and to present a way in which Christians can connect to Post-modern's and share the Gospel with them. But before I go into Postmodernism and what it is, firstly I will look at where Postmodernism derives from - an aesthetic movement that is usually known as "modernism". Modernism is the movement in visual arts, music, literature and drama, which rejected old Victorian standards of how those things should be done. There was a time of "high modernism" from around 1910 - 1930, where some major people of literature helped to redefine poetry and fiction. 'Woolf, Joyce, Eliot, Pound, Stevens, Proust, Mallarme, Kafka, and Rilke are considered the founders of twentieth-century modernism.'1 The Modernist Movement actually started to show itself around the mid-nineteenth century in France. Modernism's idea was that of reexamining all aspects of life to see what was "holding back" progress and then replacing it with ways to get the same end result. The Modern Movement said that 'the new realities of the twentieth century were permanent and imminent and that people should… accept that… new was also good and beautiful' 2 - hence why it was also known as the aesthetic movement. The beginning of the Modernist Movement in the 1890's to 1910 began a line of new thinking of that which said we should 'push aside previous norms entirely, and instead of merely revising past knowledge in light of new techniques, it would be
'Postmodernism' by Dr. Mary Klages - http://www.colorado.edu/English/ENGL2012Klages/pomo.html Wikipedia on Modernism - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modernism
necessary to make more thorough changes'.3 The "avant-garde" was what Modernism was first called and remained as a name for movements which attempt to overthrow some kind of tradition or the status quo. But the Modern Movement was not just defined by its avant-garde, but also by a trend with previous artistic norms. It also argued that to keep that standards of previous accomplishments, it was required to advance technique and theory. The time between 1910 and 1930 is what is considered the 'explosion of Modernism', when a growing unease with social order began to take place (seen in the Russian Revolution of 1905). In 1913 a Russian composer, Igor Stravinsky, composed Rite of Spring which depicted human sacrifice and painters like Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, caused shock by throwing out traditional means of paining paintings. There is also a form of Modernism that got into the Catholic Church in the midnineteenth century too. 'Modernism' was used by Pope Pius X to describe doctrinal ideas by a group of theologians, that said the 'Christian church and its dogma are human institutions that have evolved in time like other institutions'.4 In Pius X's encyclical Lamentabili Sane (July 3rd, 1907), he said "the fact that many Catholic writers also go beyond the limits determined by the Fathers and the Church herself is extremely regrettable". He also described this form of Modernism not as herasy, but as a mixture of all herasies (Pascendi Dominici gregis, 39). The church seemed to be reacting to cultural themes of the Renaissance humanism and Enlightenment of the eighteenth century. This Modernist crisis in the Roman Catholic Church mainly took place in France and British Catholic circles, and a little bit in Italy, but no where else. By the 1920's, Post-modern culture had started to arise - ironically, by the time Modernism was starting to be accepted, it was changing. A cultural movement that started in Zürich, Switzerland during World War 1, known as Dada or Dadaism featured aspects of Postmodernism. The Dada movement was mainly focussed on the visual arts, literature (mainly poetry), theatre and graphic design. Dadaism is similar in thought to a philosophical position known as Nihilism, which holds the view that the world, and mainly human life and existence, is pointless and without any meaning or value.
Wikipedia on Modernism - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modernism Wikipedia on Modernism in the Catholic Church - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modernism_(Roman_Catholicism)
Modernism, according to Dr. Mary Klages, says that: 'From a literary perspective, the main characteristics of modernism include:
1. An emphasis on impressionism and subjectivity in writing (and in visual arts as well); an emphasis on HOW seeing (or reading or perception itself) takes place, rather than on WHAT is perceived. An example of this would be stream-of-consciousness writing. 2. A movement away from the apparent objectivity provided by omniscient third-person narrators, fixed narrative points of view, and clear-cut moral positions. Faulkner's multiply-narrated stories are an example of this aspect of modernism. 3. A blurring of distinctions between genres, so that poetry seems more documentary (as in T.S. Eliot or E.E. Cummings) and prose seems more poetic (as in Woolf or Joyce). 4. An emphasis on fragmented forms, discontinuous narratives, and random-seeming collages of different materials. 5. A tendency toward reflexivity, or self-consciousness, about the production of the work of art, so that each piece calls attention to its own status as a production, as something constructed and consumed in particular ways. 6. A rejection of elaborate formal aesthetics in favor of minimalist designs (as in the poetry of William Carlos Williams) and a rejection, in large part, of formal aesthetic theories, in favor of spontaneity and discovery in creation. 7. A rejection of the distinction between "high" and "low" or popular culture, both in choice of materials used to produce art and in methods of displaying, distributing, and consuming art.'5
And that Postmodernism follows a lot of these same ideas of Modernism by rejecting genre boundaries betweens "art" and other forms of art. Post-modern art and thought tends to lean towards fragmentation and discontinuity - mainly in narrative structures and knowledge. This meaning, that, Modernism presents a broken view of human thinking or consciousness - subjectivity, and makes it as something to be mourned over. Whereas Postmodernism says the opposite: that it should not be mourned, but instead celebrated. So let me recap: Modernism is the aesthetic movement in all the different art forms, such as; music, visual arts and literature, that rejected the old Victorian ideas of how art and many other areas of life should be done. Postmodernism then came from that with similar ideas, but significant differences influenced by such other movements as Dadaism and Nihilism which celebrated the idea that life is pointless, and that
'Postmodernism' by Dr. Mary Klages - http://www.colorado.edu/English/ENGL2012Klages/pomo.html
knowledge and a narrative for life is not universal but is based only on individual viewpoint; there is no absolute knowledge or truth. Therefore, it would seem people living with the Post-modern point of view would like things that are radical and against that which is considered 'traditional' or 'the standard'. So if we as Christians can get Jesus across to Post-modern people in a radical way - i.e. moving away from the traditional images that the Catholic Church and Church of England have portrayed to people for centuries, then they may well accept the Gospel message. Engaging in a conversation about Christianity usually brings up the following questions or statements: 'church is boring, though' and 'what about the Crusades?' The best way I have found to handle these is by explaining that not all churches are like that of the Anglican or Catholic Church,6 and that there some other churches, like Pentecostal churches, that are a lot more lively and free in their worship. Also, with the Crusades in mind, and possibly other such events (like the Spanish Inquisition) it is good to explain that not everything called "Christian" actually is; sometimes things can be more political with a religious mask. This would make an excellent link to bring God into the picture and to talk about how He is an all loving God - not one to cause pointless genocides, but that He loves each and every one of us, no matter what. Introduce Jesus; He was a radical of the day, stirring up people, changing the way people thought - changing or bringing about new ways to do things that the people of the day had been doing for years with their own traditions and ways and means. And for that, He was killed by His own people, but God had an over-arching plan: the Jews thought that they were ending Jesus' teachings, but God's plan encompassed everything and that through His death, people could come to know God again personally. At this point questions may arise as to 'why' and a brief explanation of the fall of man away from God in Genesis might be required. The Post-modern culture may find it hard to grasp the idea of an absolute truth and narrative to the whole of life, instead of it just being all about them. But with a good explanation and introduction to who God really is and what He is like, then they may just accept Him.
I use the Anglican and Catholic Church mainly, because in general these are the major denominations people know and recognise, to relate to in some way.
So to conclude: relate to Post-modern people on the level that to follow Jesus goes against everything society and the world says to do and how to live, but that being a Christian is something new and different - breaking the boundaries of what people accept and expect. But at the same time, show that there is absolute truth in the world and that life does have meaning and purpose - and that can be found in God.
Handout on Lyotard and Habermas - PM defs:
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