I have something like three topics in my head, none of which would make a proper blog post on its own; I think if I roll them all up into one big post it’ll go much better, and I’ll probably end up remembering that one last nagging thought I think I thought but can’t remember thinking, though at some point I thought I thought that thought and forgot that thought, you see.
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Normally, I’m okay with James MacDonald. He’s generally a decent preacher, and I’ve had opportunity to be blessed by a number of the things he’s said. On Saturday I caught a snippet of a sermon he did on post-modernism, a snippet that I’m going to go on to criticise mercilessly. I’m not even going to pretend that I don’t like criticising, just to be nice, because I generally do analyse things in my head. This is no exception.
I’m well acquainted with the art of making a straw-man and then tearing it down: it’s a useful skill in certain circumstances. For instance, showing people what a straw-man is. Making a straw-man out of post-modernism, saying it’s all about relativism and denying truth claims, etc, is disingenuous at best, and outright dishonest at worst. The only way someone could come to such a conclusion is if he had never, ever actually joined the conversation and instead sat in the bleachers and listened to the hecklers.
Any post-modern worth his salt will admit that right now post-modernism is a tag applied to a whole bunch of junk, all of which is unified by the undeniable supposition that modernism is no longer good enough to meet today’s challenges. In short, modernism is broke. When modernism first burst onto the scene — or I should say evolved out of the Middle Age’s chaotic ruins — I’m sure the first generation considering themselves modern had no idea what that even meant. It took hundreds of years for the philosophy to coalesce. It took a long time to look down and see where the world had planted its feet. And even modernity as a definition fails to capture every facet of modern thought: after all this time we’re not quite sure where we stand.
I’m sure the first generation to question the King’s divine right to rule raised a few eyebrows. The first generations to question rationalisation, alienation, commodification, decontextualization, individualism, chaos, and industrialism should raise a few eyebrows too.
But the post-modernism as a philosophy, as a way of life, is in its infancy. Mocking its shortcomings or even its perceived shortcomings is like making fun of a budding artist’s paintings. It’s not in good taste, and it smacks of pure meanness.
Besides, no post-modernist will say that 2 + 2 does not equal 4. But if you can’t see the difference between that and saying that truth claims are contextual, that narrative matters, and that not everything can be measured and sorted into a list, then you’re the one who deserves a good mocking. It’s not hard to make straw-men for modern American churches — pastored by a Canadian or not — especially when they cater to a rich middle-class audience by tickling their ears while explaining why they’re better than those dirty post-moderns. Thank you, Lord, that I am not like them, that I believe in truth claims! (See what I did there?)
That said, I don’t consider myself post-modern. I don’t think it’d be a good idea, as it seems to be every good Evangelical’s whipping boy lately. I have, however, read books by Brian McLaren and Donald Miller, and see a lot of good in them. Though I fear I’ve said too much…
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Today’s message reminded me that there’s quite a difference between hearing the stories of Jesus and hearing lists of attributes of Jesus. Maybe it’s just me, but I can list facts all day and no one will give a toss (facts are by their very nature boring; even documentary film-makers understand this). Novels and poetry and stories and songs aren’t simply entertainment, they’re also communicative mechanisms.
Once, when was a lot younger than I am today, I started volunteering at a soup kitchen. My motives weren’t that great, I suppose, as it gave me an excuse to not attend one service of a church I had begun to dislike quite a lot. But I still did it, and I think that counts for something. Most of the people that came there were pretty much the dregs of society. I was trying to think of them as noble and loved and the sort of people that Jesus would have had a meal with or maybe healed of something, but I had hard time seeing them as anything but very smelly and dirty. I honestly didn’t like myself for feeling this way, but I just couldn’t get past it. To me they were just people who needed a bath.
Then this one guy — he looked about fifty years old — sat down at this badly tuned piano, pulled out a sheaf of dog-eared music, and played. And man, could he play. I presume to play keys a bit here and there, but nothing, nothing like this man. Later the staff told me he was a hardcore alcoholic, that he had destroyed his life with booze, and I’m sure this was very true. Yet it seemed to me that amidst all that brokenness there was this indestructible beauty that simply couldn’t be kept in.
I don’t how he did it, but this man helped me as much as I helped him. I gave him a meal, true, but he gave me the ability to see past the surface into the inherent nobility that is contained in each person’s soul, whether that person is a redneck or is homeless or is a soccer mom or is an annoying television preacher with bad hair.
Sometimes I tell this story to people to show them that there is beauty even in ashes, that there is joy in an alcoholic’s music, something like that. I suppose I could simply tell them that, or maybe make a slide with some bullet points, but it isn’t the same, is it?
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Laura and I just got back from celebrating our six month anniversary. It’s flown by! In that time, we’ve had no major problems or even any major fights. My mum thinks this is because we’re essentially still honeymooning. I like to think it’s God’s grace. See, I’m much more spiritual than my mum, though of course I’m not. She’s got me beat by a good kilometre or two.
We stayed at a local hotel, since local hotels cost a fair bit less than non-local hotels, and feasted on Elliot House food. Both were excellent. We even had a whirlpool bathtub. I made it too hot to get into when I first drew the bath. I’m stupid like that, but you can see how my wife is long-suffering.
It’s still odd to say “my wife”. My wife. Yep, still odd.