Postmodern Hangover

Apparently, a problem evangelical Christians have is that we just don't get postmodern people. We plain miss their point. According to Morgan Guyton (here) we aren't ironic enough, we crave a 1950's plasticated lifestyle and use the Bible as a political weapon to force a social agenda on people. Apparently there is no other option - either be committed to postmodernism or find oneself in an "enclave" of "Pleasantville."



It is not that I disagree with all that postmodernism says. Postmoderns provide stinging critiques of modernism, all well and good, but not much is provided to takes modernity's place. In fact, many claim that postmodernism is really hyper-modernism, the modern project taken to its logical conclusion. Postmoderns also often touch a nerve in their critique of contemporary evangelical culture. This is because they demand authenticity. They demand that people own up to their mess. This is a good critique because ministry can be hindered by fakeness - the churchy smile hiding the sadness underneath, the besuited proffesional who struggles to contain his drink problem.

Having said all that, the postmodern critique of evangelicals is not merely a friendly criticism; it is what drives many postmodern forms of Christianity. It can exist, somewhat parasitically, with the purpose of deconstructing evangelicalism. It was this aspect that eventually gave me a postmodern hangover.


My hangover was not primarily generated by a rational critique of postmodernism. There is little point in formulating an argument to criticize postmodernism. Formulating an argument, laying it out and putting it simply is, well, not very postmodern. Rather, it was generated by a sorrow about what buying into all that stuff got me into. It was primarily a hangover of regret.

For example, I remember my rants about other Christians. I would rail about evangelicals and their boring, suburban, safe, surfacy lives. They appeared to be so shallow, so unaffected, so dull. But such talk was what defined my own faith. It was as if a primary tenet of my faith was cultural criticism. And that gets tiring.

In order to have a message, given such a perspective, one needs to speak more one's opposition than of the gospel. For example, I would preach the gospel at least once a week in my itinerant ministry. But my ministry became less about the gospel and more about distinguishing myself from those Christians who were just a bit too serious for my liking. We're not like them, I would say, we get you; you don't have to be like that to be a Christian.

Even as I write this I can't believe that I could not spot my own snobbery. And I still catch myself with that same attitude on occasion. That's what the hangover is. It is the dragging on of a night out, the memory recycling itself in one's present condition. And a hangover needs a cure. And in the clear, painful light of day there was only one cure for my pride.

What was the gospel to me anyway? It was that question that ruptured my conceit. How long, in my post-evangelical-emerging-cool-ironicpeople-only bubble was it since someone had told me that human beings are under the wrath of God, condemned to eternal hell and utterly unable to save themselves; that God, in his mercy, sent his Son to bear that wrath and to save a people to himself?

It is not that I returned to modernism (I had to go back much further than that); it was that I had to allow  God to get hold of me and change me. The gospel, not the culture, had to be the main thing. Ironically, God took me on a journey that included many places and people that I would have looked down on previously. He placed me in a school renowned for fundies (see this post), gave me a house in the suburbs (yes, made in the 50's), read books by people I would never have read before and, even more bizarrely, he made me love it and love the people postmoderns so deride.

How about you? Did you make the postmodern turn only to reject it later? Do you think Guyton is correct - be postmodern or join the ranks of irrelevancy? Is there another option?

Note on metaphor: Just because I am using the metaphor of drinking and having a hangover in no way commits me to approving of actually getting drunk or having a hangover. 

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