The Nature of Postmodernist Thinking

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Most people are of course not philosophers and would not identify themselves as "postmodernist," but the elements of postmodern thinking are present in virtually every corner of our society. Sit down with the average westerner for a 15-minute heart-to-heart session on religion, politics, sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or the meaning of life, and you'll find the conversation bathed in postmodernist assumptions. 

Most people are confused, frustrated, hurting (in one way or another), and simply trying to get from one day to the next. They are overwhelmed in today's media-saturated, highly diverse environment, so much so that the task of figuring out some kind of authoritative, solid, take-it-to-the-bank worldview to make sense of everything seems impossible to them. In fact, just in the area of religion, the sheer multitude of competing religious perspectives (even within each religious camp - there are denominations within denominations and subgroups within subgroups when it comes to religion!) makes sorting through them seem completely impossible.

As an example, consider a hypothetical college student -- let's call her Jill. A political science major, she's taking a Government class where the professor is constantly criticizing the Trump administration - and many of the criticisms make sense. She's a member of the College Democrats and her friends all love and miss President Obama. She's got a number of gay and lesbian friends, but her evangelical Christian boyfriend, who reads the Bible regularly and goes to a campus Christian club, tells her that homosexuality is a sin. She doesn't even know what to make of the word "sin." 

She follows a number of celebrities and pundits on Twitter and Facebook - all of whom offer conflicting opinions on various issues of the day, from smoking to taxes to gun control. She's about to go to a philosophy class, where the professor sings the praises of Nietzche and Foucault, and yet her older brother whom she adores is now in law school, and is telling her how foolish all the postmodern thinkers are. 

And she's visiting her parents this weekend, and they want to bring her to their Catholic Mass, and her mom reminded her that it's probably been a while since she's been to confession. Oh, and her BFF Carol just asked her to be a bridesmaid in her wedding. Carol is a Methodist. Her fiancee is Buddhist. They're having two different wedding services. 

And all this is happening while she's changing jobs on campus and trying to keep up with her favorite TV shows: Gossip Girls and Game of Thrones.

To varying degrees, most westerners (particularly those living in cosmopolitan areas and who are plugged into Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) are like Jill. They are pulled in so many different directions that any philosophical or religious claims are buried in the background noise. And when some obnoxious politician, televangelist, parent, pastor, or even a boyfriend breaks through the background noise and makes a truth claim, particularly one that challenges Jill's lifestyle or that of her friends, such a person is viewed with suspicion or possibly even hostility. This is especially the case if it concerns a hot button topic, such as abortion, gay rights, transgender rights, race, or sexuality.

Postmodern thinking basically boils down to how we respond to people who make claims about truth, morality, or religion. A postmodern will respond with an attitude along the lines of...

· "Says who?"

· "That's just your opinion."

· "Who are you to judge?"

Postmoderns are all about celebrating diversity and multiculturalism, while objecting to pretty much any and all truth claims or claims of one culture, mindset, or value system being superior to another. (The ironic exception to this is of course the claims they themselves make on behalf of their own worldview). Whenever Christianity or some other faith group steps forward with truth claims or moral declarations, postmoderns are passionate in their resistance. And the result of their resistance is often the suppression of any truth claim. Witness the free speech controversies on many of our college campuses.

When feelings trump facts, the protection of feelings becomes more important than the discovery of or consideration of fact claims. 

This tendency we have to ignore or disregard logic and facts in favor of our feelings reminds me of a famous and quite funny Winston Churchill quote: "Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened."

Churchill's quote exemplifies why postmodernism is so seductive. It gives people an "out" from the truth. With postmodern notions in their mind, people can attempt to avoid, ignore, downplay, redefine, or sidestep facts and logic in favor of sensual fulfillment and emotional satisfaction.

Unfortunately (for them), the road to emotional stability and peace is paved with facts, logic, and discipline.

Postmodernists balk at this "logocentric" approach to thinking, but people intuitively understand this is the best way to think when it comes to things like money, health, and safety. 

Let's take money for example. Your feelings may influence your earning potential as well as how you manage your money, but they don't determine the reality of money's existence. Money exists no matter your feelings about it. And, at any given point in time, the amount of money to which you have access is an objective reality. You can't go to the bank and demand a million dollars from your account when you only have $42.16 in there!

Take safety as another example. Christian author Ravi Zacharias is fond of telling how he often encounters people from his home country of India who endorse "both-and" thinking as opposed to "either-or" thinking. "Eastern thinking," as these individuals maintain, allows for different truths to be true at the same time as opposed to "western thinking" which insists on conformity to a single truth claim. But, as Zacharias points out, "Even in India, people look both ways before crossing the street. Because it's either me or the bus!" 

Face it. Those people who are most successful in the areas of money, health, and safety are those people who base their decisions on facts and "logocentric" thinking. Why do we think it should be any different when it comes to religion or morality?

Unfortunately, postmodernism is pervasive. And it is suffocating both common sense and truth. And we are paying the price.

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