I have been working on this theory for a while, so here it goes. I'll try to explain how God is working in the postmodern era to do something new and exciting.
The modern era is just now ending. We are so dreadfully close to it that we often can't see the forest for the trees, but the end can be seen if you look for it.
The modern era is the result of the industrial age, scientific advancement, global economics, and the elevation of the middle class through democracy and consumerism. In short, life as we know it in developed nations, with cities, neighborhoods, schools, churches, gas stations, grocery stores, commutes, traffic jams, Starbucks on the corner, and Best Buy within a 10-mile drive are all modern-era accomplishments. When I say we, I also cringe, because I am also dreadfully aware that this era leaves many people out, who may look at my life with envy mixed with incredulity at the rich and shallow life I lead while they are worried about scraping by at the grocery store, and finding a job in a society that seems to have left them behind while unemployment stays around 10%. Those in the poorest areas and developing nations are certainly seeing slow improvements in poverty in a statistical sense, but intense poverty remains a reality as the modern era ends. While capitalism and consumerism raise the quality of life for the "haves" in the world, it also creates a bigger distance between the "haves" and the "have nots".
Articles so far in this series:
Pleasing God Postmodern
Postmodern Right and Wrong
The Modern Defense
So when I say the "modern era", what do I mean specifically? I'm referring mainly to a system of thought that drives education, government, economics and society around the world, a system characterized by structure. In summary, modern thought consists of systems of laws which are built into constitutions to create modern governments, laws which are knit together to create modern technological science, laws which define households, institutions, businesses, cities, states, and countries as economic entities, and laws which define other aspects of society such as culture, art, music, sexuality, morality, etc. So the modern era is pervasive across all areas of life, and I have named some of the main areas (government, science, economics, and culture).
When I say the modern era is ending, what do I mean? The modern era is ending due to a flaw that we have found in the system. As more and more people are realizing it, the more society is ready to move on from the modern era and leave it behind. The future is something different, something WE will make it, because the world does not remain static. Postmodern, from today's point of view, simply means "after modern," or simply what comes next. The modern era did not create a perfect system, of course, and as we seek to rectify it's flaws, advancements occur in government, science, economics, and culture -- and in our entire way of thinking. So due to the effort of us all to improve the world around us, the postmodern era will sweep over us, and change everything.
What is the flaw in modern thinking? The flaw is obvious: structures made by systems of laws are limited, because they leave people behind.
Human institutions are limited because they are impersonal, uncaring, shallow, competitive, performance-based, and focused on the bottom line. Human institutions are inhuman. They don't care about those that do not benefit from the structure. In a competitive world, those that can perform well can jump onto the fast moving train of society and live well and prosper for all or part of their lives. They can use their prosperity to improve the chances of success for their children, passing on vital education and resources to the next generation to help our children perform as well as we did (if we did well) or better than we did (if we didn't do so hot). In the past it was called the American Dream. Today I would call it the American Scramble -- the fear and pressure to help our children grow up to succeed as least as well as we have.
I didn't make this stuff up, and it will happen with or without me, but what I see are the signs that as society tries to take a look at those left behind, and rectify our behavior that led to them being left behind, society will struggle to make the current system work. In trying to fix its flaws, it will invert structures, it will embrace new concepts, it will attempt to humanize the inhuman systems, it will attempt to embrace a broader morality based on equality rather than competitive elitism. In a word, it will deconstruct the societal systems, shining a bright light on the underlying assumptions and glaring flaws, and will attempt to define a new world where those assumptions are questioned. Deconstruction will seem cynical, ironic or absurd at times, as it laughs at the things we are so proud to have built, revealing our society to be incredibly shallow and uncaring. Deconstruction is the ability to laugh at ourselves and not take what we have built so seriously. It will also seem radical at times, as it proposes equality for the marginalized, reduced rights for the extreme rich, or standardized access to healthcare, education, food, water, etc. See the definition of postmodern below, and you will see that my definition is appropriate.
In short, the postmodern era leads to the deconstruction of societal structures, in order to attempt to fix the flaws exposed when considering people as more important than progress.
You might ask "how"? If this system we have built is so strong, how will it ever change? The answer is: it will change itself. The reason is that due to the dependence on laws and logical structure, the system will implode and deconstruct itself, when the logic doesn't hold. The law & logic that "all people are created equal" does not fit into the current system which promotes performance-based elitism. The more we realize that, the more those left behind will stand up against those with power, and the more revolution will occur. The more that "thinking people" realize the foolishness of our thinking, the more we will stand up for those left behind and help to change the system. Certainly those with power will fight the change, but the change in core thinking cannot be stopped. The modern era will deconstruct itself due to its dependence on order and structure - its dependence on the idea that everything makes sense and that overriding principles must be followed. The more the overriding principle of "equality" rises in importance and is embraced, the more the system's assumptions will be questioned. When critical pillars of society are scrutinized and found lacking, the ripple effect of trying to change them will bring significant transformation.
Deconstruction will not lead to destruction, but rebuilding using only the essential elements. Deconstruction is naturally followed by reconstruction.
While it may seem dangerous to have this type of revolution, and it may be painful, deconstruction is a healthy renewal of society that can occur due to keeping essential elements as important, while reducing the importance of the flawed elements. More specifically, postmodern deconstruction is the tearing down and rebuilding of modern thinking, to rectify the concepts that no longer make sense when questioned.
I'm trying to think of a really clear example, so here goes. Let's apply postmodern thought to childhood education. If we decide that the child is more important than the grades & performance, we will invert the way we educate in order to best meet the needs of each child, regardless of how they measure on standard tests, leading to the best possible outcome of a healthy educated child. If we try to fix the flaws in elementary education, we will reduce the importance of structure (deconstructing it) and replacing it with something more personal and effective, which in the end meets its goal much better of educating our children. Postmodern education is about the child, and not about the standardized measures of performance which in the past were used to help improve the overall education of the masses while leaving many children behind. The modern era fulfilled its purpose in improving life for many, in this example helping more children be able to read and do math, etc., but in rectifying the flaws in this system many of the previous structures will need to be abandoned. Certainly we will have teachers, but will we have classrooms that look like they do today? Will we have tests? These are all subject to being scrapped if they no longer work. The essential, more human, elements will be kept. I think its a good example that we are actually seeing unfold in the educational system at all levels.
If you know me, you know I'm no expert on government, education or economics and don't normally write on those topics. I am a scientist and engineer, and I can indeed see how certain principles that we've built our "science" upon are regularly questioned and deconstructed. Science now has a healthy belief that laws are often uncertain and relative, chaos is more common than structure, and attempting to measure something often changes the state of that thing, making the measurement less meaningful. In fact science has blazed the trail into the postmodern era, and culture and thought have simply followed suit. But I don't normally write about science either.
I am a novice theologian, and as a Christ-follower and writer, I have been helping society see how to deconstruct modern Christianity in order to make it more personal. More about the person and less about the laws and structure. I'm on a quest to find out what God is doing in the postmodern era. And I am excited when I think about it. What could our infinitely creative and powerful God do with this opportunity, in which society is willing to question its man-made structures and reconsider deeper concepts even if they undermine our own sense of reality? God can CHANGE EVERYTHING ! -- and do it through normal human choices, resources and efforts.
Those that love God and want to make the world a better place have never before lived in a time like this. A time of revolution and inspiration. A time of authenticity and concern. A time of humility and introspection. A time for change.
We, as a society, are doing something God yearns to do in each of us, and that is to embrace transformation through better seeing ourselves in our core nature. When we see the flaws and are willing to change them (this is called repentance), then we are transformed. We are deconstructed. God is a god of deconstruction and rebuilding. God is a god postmodern. Certainly God invented everything we today call "science". God invented uncertainty and chaos. Everything we call postmodern was created initially by God, even though God then gave humans the authority and creativity to fashion society as we saw fit. But God does not sit idle while we diligently work ... on the contrary God is always at work to bring transformation, and to bring good out of evil.
Certainly God is God Postmodern.
What does this mean for the church and for religion in general? If I have unlimited time and space on blogger servers, I could fill them with writing on this topic. Keep watching GraceEmerges and I'll try to keep the deconstruction coming in regular intervals.... And if you made it this far, thanks for reading! Take a moment to write a comment below. Is God postmodern to you?
And of course there's more to it than my oversimplification above. Here is another interesting link about postmodernism: http://voices.yahoo.com/7-steps-understanding-characteristics-postmodernism-3730670.html?cat=4, and a link to a book about Christianity in the post-modern era: http://www.progressivechristianitybook.com/
Now some definitions: from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/deconstruction
Full Definition of DECONSTRUCTION
: a philosophical or critical method which asserts that meanings, metaphysical constructs, and hierarchical oppositions (as between key terms in a philosophical or literary work) are always rendered unstable by their dependence on ultimately arbitrary signifiers; also : an instance of the use of this method <a deconstruction of the nature–culture opposition in Rousseau's work>
: the analytic examination of something (as a theory) often in order to reveal its inadequacy
post·mod·ernadjective \ˌpōs(t)-ˈmä-dərn, ÷-ˈmä-d(ə-)rən\
Full Definition of POSTMODERN
: of, relating to, or being an era after a modern one<postmodern times> <a postmodern metropolis>
a : of, relating to, or being any of various movements in reaction to modernism that are typically characterized by a return to traditional materials and forms (as in architecture) or by ironic self-reference and absurdity (as in literature)
b : of, relating to, or being a theory that involves a radical reappraisal of modern assumptions about culture, identity, history, or language <postmodern feminism>
— post·mod·ern·ism noun
— post·mod·ern·ist adjective or noun
— post·mo·der·ni·ty noun