Finding order amidst chaos

scalesjusticeThe Bible teaches that God is completely just and completely merciful, which is hard for us to grasp. To humans, the concepts of justice and mercy are a zero sum game. It’s impossible for us to be BOTH just and merciful at the same time in judging the morality of any particular event, situation, person, or experience. One usually contradicts the other in the sphere of human order.

I’m reminded of the old racial redlining question about a white family selling a home in a white neighborhood to a black family. Who is the neighbor the white family is supposed to “love?” the black family or the remaining residents who believe their property values will go down? The just answer may be different than the merciful answer, but it certainly will be one or the other, depending on your bias or worldview.

Is it possible to be both right and wrong at the same time?

This is why human logic and reasoning are such poor vehicles for studying the spiritual world. An anthropomorphized God is less troublesome, and so we put Him on a distant throne and worship Him from afar. It’s also easier just to conclude that the world of the spirit “doesn’t exist” than to venture off into the unmeasurable. This is the great challenge for the postmodern era and why I’m so thrilled to be offering ideas here for your perusal.

Those Christians who preach and teach about postmodernism — even as a cultural era — often only go so far as to use the postmodern term “deconstruction” to define the individualized process of shifting one’s faith from a distant God to one that’s present with us. The problem with this is what’s presented on the other side of such a shift, because it’s really just more of the same. As a group, there seems to be an overarching attempt to create new hierarchies to replace the old, and this is a million miles from postmodernism. It’s the pouring of new wine into old wineskins, and this is a profound failing of the so-called Emergent Church. If the pulpit is a modernist control tool, why then are we elevating so-called “leaders” of the movement? It is doomed to fail, if we are, in fact, entering into a new era of epistemology — “I participate, therefore I understand.” Listening to a sermon may be an act of participation on some level, but there is absolutely nothing postmodern about it.

There’s no such thing as being “a little postmodern.” It’s like the cliché of being a little pregnant. Borrowing from it to better your modernist self is absurd, regardless of the motive.

My point is that many of those who write about “postmodernism” are merely seeking a way out of the chaotic mess that is postmodernism. That, I’m afraid, is just another symbol of modernity, as stated best by Henry Adams in the early twentieth century: “Chaos is the way of nature, but order is the dream of man.” As we’re discovering in the ongoing debate about the American dream, our way of order serves only the top layer of the culture. Maybe it’s justice over mercy but more likely, justice absent mercy. Regardless, it is the result of modernity’s logic and the principal reason that our connectivity is driving a new era. When the haves speak the old French saying Noblesse Oblige (nobility obligates), they are being quite self-serving in assigning a form of mercy to themselves, because they reserve for themselves the right to determine how much “mercy” is required of them. This is one of the core debates that divide us as a nation today.

The road ahead is going to be very rough, bumpy, and full of the sinkholes you might expect from chaos. The institutions of the West won’t survive without complete reinvention, and that is the task we face in the twenty-first century. Thusly, the creation of new hierarchies to replace the old is nothing more than a form of masturbation, which while perhaps satisfying to the actor is nonetheless disgusting to anybody else in the vicinity.

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