Why Fundamentalist churches cannot survive Postmodernism
Postmodern movies are dystopian: they show a negative outcome for the world. The Wire is a postmodern TV show, showing the corruption of the Baltimore narcotics, police and mayoral office. After watching that show we can no longer approach politics and government institutions expecting Truth, Justice and the American Way, as the Superman TV shows announced each week in the 1950s.
Postmodernism grew out of the abundance of information. Just as the Enlightenment grew out of the invention of the European printing press. Postmodernism grew out of the invention of the radio, the TV, the computer and finally the internet. Suddenly information was abundant like never before.
WW2 was the good guys against the bad guys, the opposite of postmodernism, and we could not see much corruption, because we were far away, and there wasn’t enough alternate information, just lots of confirmation that we were the good guys.
In Germany, however, postmodernism took root among artists and musicians. They had lost the war in 1945 after killing 6 million Jews, gypsies, Jehovah’s Witnesses and developmentally delayed. They could clearly see the contrast between the propaganda they had received from the government and the truth they could see out their windows. However mainstream German society was caught up in moralistic strictures to keep Nazism from coming back, and focused on good vs evil.
Japan, after experiencing Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, jumped both feet into postmodernism.
In America the Civil Rights struggle was televised in the 1950s and 60s. We saw water cannon knocking over black people wearing their Sunday clothes and marching and singing peacefully, just because they wanted to register to vote.
But it was not until the Viet Nam war in the 1960s that postmodernism took root in America. We were able to see on TV every night the awful carnage going on. We weren’t freeing concentration camps and defeating Nazis in Viet Nam.
Young people welcomed the Beatles and the Rolling Stones in the early 1960s, eager to tear down the old and build new.
Then Nixon’s corruption was exposed in newspapers and on TV in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Finally sexual abuse began to be exposed. Women’s rights were rising. Sexual abuse by priests hit the newspapers in Boston in the 1980s.
The explosion of the computer and the internet has created a WaterWorld effect in our society. Now nobody gets a newspaper delivered to their door, and very few people watch TV with ads anymore. Most of our information and news comes through social media.
Currently the death of Epstein, connected to two presidents in his sex trade of underage girls, has further exposed corruption. It could never have happened until we, the American public, were ready to hear it.
So how can fundamentalist churches survive? The attitude of postmodernism is everywhere in all media:
- Question the viewpoint of any writer or speaker. What is their motivation?
- Question the facts. How much evidence do they have?
- Who benefits from these facts?
- Who suffers from these facts?
So now when a 25 year old faithful fundamentalist church member, also steeped in postmodern internet culture, listens to a sermon at his church, he asks more questions than his parents or grandparents. He is more skeptical.
When he reads the Bible he is more skeptical as well. He wants to know the political and social background of the people talking and the people being affected.
Ten years ago a speaker was talking to our church plant about the 200 Philistine foreskins that David paid King Saul for his daughter. The Philistines were a tribe that had not been conquered by Joshua and the Israelites when they conquered Canaan 200 years earlier. The Israelites hated the Philistines, who were not circumcised like the Israelites. She said, “Imagine how Saul felt when David, whom he hated, arrived with the 200 Philistine foreskins he had demanded.” I said, “Imagine how the Philistines felt.” Everyone laughed. I wasn’t laughing.
That question wouldn’t have been asked if I hadn’t actually talked to a Palestinian at a liberal Mennonite church I had attended for 6 months. He said, “We are the direct descendants of the Philistines. The word Palestinian is the same as the word Philistine. Just take out the H.” Information is dangerous to fundamentalism.
So who benefits from that story? Who loses from that story? These are postmodern questions that unravel fundamentalism and traditional evangelicalism.