Tuesday, March 30, 2004

The New Fundamentalism (?)

Almost a century ago, modern Fundamentalism began to develop into its present-day form after the "Modernist/Fundamentalist" controversy of the early 20th century. The "liberals" won the battle, and "fundamentalists" were discredited in the academic world, and made to look like idiots at the Scopes Monkey trial. Fundamentalists went on to become the "fightin' Fundies" who fought and debated and sentenced to hell anyone who deviated in the slightest from their view of, well, just about everything.

As time went on, the Fundies gave up fighting with the Liberals (although they would rant tirelessly about Liberals amongst themselves) and turned their guns on each other, endlessly writing scathing diatribes against any perceived (and the emphasis should be on perceived) deviation from the accepted party line, and went to the extremes of censoring people who even associated with people whose fundie credentials were under suspicion -- they called this "secondary separation" (you don't associate with infidels and you especially don't associate with those who associate with infidels). Billy Graham endured many scathing attacks from them for this reason.

What we know as Fundamentalism today is the result of people reacting against perceived enemies, and eventually degenerating into attacking their own colleagues who didn't "get it". End result: increasing irrelevance, except within their own small, closed circles.

Postmodernism, as a philosophical & theological construct, needs modernism. Without modernism to "deconstruct", postmodernism has nothing to say. It's just a reaction. It offers few, if any solutions. It deconstructs beautifully, even gleefully, modernity and its influence on churches, but doesn't reconstruct anything in its place.

It just critiques everything even remotely labelled "modernity". It's like a rebellious teenager trying to establish an identity by lashing out at anything his/her parents stand for.

Like the "fightin' fundies", postmodern Christian groups run the exact same risk of living in constant reaction against modernism, and as time goes on, they will turn their attacks on each other for not being "emergent" enough. Trouble is, they're just becoming more and more  isolated, ranting amongst themselves about the evils of modernity (and McChurch), but failing to provide anything proactive, positive, engaging, or attractive in its place (Philippians 4:8)

Or, as has happened with the whole Christian recording industry, and more recently the "worship industry" (what a miserable combination of words!), postmodernism will just become another marketing subgroup of greater Christendom. And like the fightin' Fundies, they run the risk of becoming just another splinter group that is irrelevant outside of their own small, closed -- but trendy -- echo chambers.

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