the Church on the Hill
by D. Eric Williams
Pastor, Cottonwood Community Church
In my last installment I wrote about combating the epidemic of ignorance plaguing modern society and Church. This week I want to talk a little bit about how we arrived at this.
As with many of the modern manifestations of ancient wickedness (remember, there is nothing new under the sun, Ecclesiastes 1:9) we can trace our society’s love of ignorance to the 1960’s and 70’s. It was in the time period that the youth counter culture became mainstream. The rejection of expertise, of objectivity, of the wisdom of age and the embrace of emotion over reason were heralded as the means of obtaining utopia. Mental illness was considered a pathway to reality as was the use of hallucinogenic drugs.
Some have suggested the 60’s marked a transition from the modern era to a postmodern age. On the other hand, there is an equally strong argument that “postmodernism” is really just a variation of modernism and should not be considered as separate era at all. I happen to believe the counter culture of the 60’s and 70’s was a harbinger of a cultural paradigm shift that has been realized only in the last ten years or so. We are now in what some call the meta-modern age.
Modernism/postmodernism is characterized by the narrative. In other words, it is the text or the story that is paramount in the modern/postmodern era. This is nicely illustrated by Walter Cronkite’s well-known tag line “and that’s the way it is” ending each nightly news broadcast on CBS. In other words, the story is what we say it is. The story is determined by the cultural elite. The narrative is written by the intelligentsia, the politically powerful and the recognized authorities in the news and entertainment media. And it is the elite who determine the role of each character in the narrative (the purpose of public education and other government funded welfare). It was this narrative the hippies and their counter cultural fellows rebelled against. However, rather than propose a sensible replacement, they rejected reason altogether. Thus things continued on pretty much the same until the 2000’s - 2007 to be exact.
Although Ericsson Mobile Communications introduced a smartphone in 2000 it was with the introduction of the first iphone that the modern/postmodern age crumbled. What the internet began the iphone and the android smart phones that followed finished. Instead of accepting the word of the elite, individual characters began to “report” on the news – or create the news in real time. Suddenly the narrative was what the individual character said it was. And with millions of individuals presenting their version of reality all at once, the counter culture claim of the 60’s seemed to be true: reality is a construct; it is whatever you want it to be. In other words, truth is relative and unless your “truth” can be distilled to a 140 character tweet or a three minute video, no one will take the time to listen.
As a result there seems to a whole lot of people who don’t know how to think anymore. Rather than research a problem and reason it out, many people today simply react to the latest electronic stimuli. They read a tweet, watch an on-the-scene smart phone video, bounce from one web site to another and gather a boatload of disjointed “facts” they use to arrive at conclusions. The result is a mass of people who are at the mercy of charisma – be it the appeal of an individual leader or the magnetism of the mob. That mass of people is ignorant of history, contemptuous of the intellect and disdainful of authority. They live under the illusion they are well informed simply because they live beneath a cascade of information - fragmented information without a proper context.
It is much the same in the Church at large. That - and a proposed solution - is what we will talk about next week.