a postmodern on postmodernism

Stanley Hauwerwaus is a firebrand for the church. Engaging and witty, he is primarily an ethicist with a knack for speaking in a way that gets under people's skin. Always worth a read. So here's something I like of his.

The essay from '95 is entitled Preaching As Though We Had Enemies, and is an academic rant - that's kind of what he does :)Beginning with "I am just postmodern enough not to trust 'postmodern' as a description of our times," Hauerwas writes an engaging and accessible essay about the church's captivity to the world. His aim in the essay is to pull apart the fabric of our modern Christianity thinking and reveal that "if postmodernism means anything, it means that the comforting illusion of modernity that conflict is, can be, and should be avoided is over." The great part about Hauerwas though is that he seems to relish his role as Devil's advocate. He goes for shock value with titles like, "Preaching as Though we Had Enemies" even though he is a pacifist. His concern is that the church has lost a sense of her opposition to the world, not just from materialism, but also because of our assumptions about how values and freedom work.

His essay is nice because it demonstrates briefly how our thinking got this way. He's not just saying, "You have to stand for something or you'll fall for anything" like so many Sunday sermons. He's trying to demonstrate that our impotence in the world comes from something. Early on he summarizes his thoughts about postmodernism:
I confess I take perverse delight as a theologian in the controversies surrounding postmodernism. Modernity sought to secure knowledge in the structure of human rationality, and relegated God to the "gaps" or denied Him all together. Modernity said that God is a projection of the ideals and wants of what it means to be human so let us serve and worship the only God that matters-that is, the human. Postmodernists, in the quest to be thorough in their atheism, now deny that the human exists. Postmodernists are thus the atheists that only modernity could produce.
I love it! (he just called you an atheist, btw) You can understand the phrase "by denying that the human exists" as meaning postmodernism deconstructed and relativized everything we know, leaving us with an inability to say anything certain at all, including that we exist or what our nature is. So Hauerwas is writing to brace the church, to startle it into recognizing how different we should be than the world! I like how he describes the intellectual problem we have:
" Christians in modernity thought their task was to make the Gospel intelligible to the world rather than to help the world understand why it could not be intelligible without the Gospel. Desiring to become part of the modernist project, preachers and theologians accepted the presumption that Christianity is a set of beliefs, a "worldview," designed to give meaning to our lives."
So what is lacking in church is the actual voice of God, conviction and an active struggle against evil in the world. The church should be taking it to the streets. Well, at least that's what I think his point was. The great thing about Stanley, though, is that even if you miss the whole point, there are still a couple of good quotes to hang your hat on. My favorite line:
"Cosmic struggle" sounds like a video game middle-class children play.
I mean, how great is that!? Every theologian should be so lucky.


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