postmodernism


I’ve been thinking lately about postmodernism.  Which is odd because I live in Tanzania — which has not been influenced greatly by this worldview.  All the same, it’s been on my mind.  And here is my poor attempt at defining postmodernity — which, by the way, I believe is an impossible task.  How do you define something that denies to a large extent the ability to define things?

Postmodernism is a reaction to our modern worldview.  Modernism claims that there exists an objective truth which can explain all reality. Postmodernity, then, denies the existence of a single truth which informs all other existence. It allows for each individual or group to possess different interpretations of reality, all of which can be true — or at least none of which possess any more truth than any other.  So postmodernism is quite skeptical of any theory which claims to be absolute in its truth or in its ability to inform all areas of life. There is much value, then, placed on tolerance and inclusion; while certainty and conviction are frowned upon.

[Sidenote:  It’s only fair that postmodernism allow room for its own conclusions to be questioned — as how can there exist an absolute claim that there can be no absolute claims?]  But here’s the question that’s been on my mind, partly because it was asked recently by Charles Spurgeon:

Do we have to adopt postmodern thinking in order to minister to the postmodern mind?

I feel we should be careful not to compromise Biblical truth in attempts to reach the world around us. At the same time, though, if I understand the shift that is currently taking place, postmodernism is not something a society “chooses to adopt.” Rather it acts behind the scenes, shaping the way we actually view the world.  And the shift will occur (to some extent) in western society as a whole — not only in a few who DESIRE to buy in, while others are simply able to avoid any postmodern tint to their own thinking.

No, postmodernism won’t be avoided any more than was modernism. Americans haven’t been actively deciding to glorify the individual, to value science and reason above spirituality, or to bow down to technology.  There is not required a commitment or decision in order for this to be the case.  Rather the commitment or decision required is that of rejecting the above worldview, or parts of it.  Modernity has simply been the default in our world.  And that default is now changing.

I’m not arguing that we should simply give in to the newest bully worldview on the block.  Rather I’m suggesting that postmodernity is going to shape (to a large extent) the minds in (and the mind of) our culture. I wholeheartedly believe there exists a kingdom worldview outside of both modernism and postmodernism (or inside of both).  And I pray that the Spirit can help it to infiltrate our minds.

I personally don’t like apologetics.  I don’t like the fact that we believe we can prove with logic the existence of a God who exists above and outside that very logic.  But that is what modernity has done in Christianity.  However, as much as I personally dislike apologetics, I can’t claim it’s not a valid way for some to come to know Christ.  Nor can I claim modernity hasn’t colored my own view of the world.

I assume anyone drawn to Christ by the Holy Spirit is coming from within their own worldview and capacity for thought. So the church’s task is to find a way to appeal to a postmodern world, without compromising the truth of the gospel. But we mustn’t confuse truth with modernity’s claims on it.

I’m guessing this is going to require a great deal of humility and the ability to question a number of our own ideas — and allow them to be questioned by others. Ideas we once held as absolute truths, and possibly even used as a foundation for faith.  We need to examine what modernity has done to Christianity, and allow for some of that to be undone. The answer is for Jesus Christ to stand as the foundation of our faith, and nothing else.

May we see our world through Jesus’ eyes.  And may we have the very mind of Christ.  Amen.

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40 Comments

Filed under just thinking

40 responses to “postmodernism

  1. So the church’s task is to find a way to appeal to a postmodern world, without compromising the truth of the gospel. Therein is the rub james. Unfortunately, the modern church has (in some/many cases taken the exact opposite view. We have compromised the truth to appeal to the postmodern. Tolerance and inclusion have become the coup de grat of the modern church to the detriment of the truth. Not that the truth has changed (it never will) but at the stating of the truth. Having some trouble expressing myself this morning but I hope I am at least coming across. I also think that to dumb down the Gospel is to take the challenge out of it to the new generation.

  2. “Unfortunately, the modern church has (in some/many cases) taken the exact opposite view. We have compromised the truth to appeal to the postmodern.”

    but bill, it seems the opposite view would be to compromise the truth of the gospel and STILL NOT appeal to the postmodern world. which i would also agree is something we’ve done at times. i think i’d argue this is exactly what more legalistic groups do daily: by exchanging the gospel truth of salvation by grace for that of salvation by works, which i’m assuming does not appeal to postmoderns. [or to me.]

    all of that said, i agree with you that many have given up on truth (or at least watered it down a great deal) in order to reach the current generation. and i don’t want to fail to challenge new generations, but i think a “dumbing down” of the gospel may be exactly what we need. by that i mean we’ve made Christianity this huge and complex set of beliefs and doctrines. and bible study is about gaining knowledge only. we’re so “smart” about the bible, but we still don’t necessarily look any more like Jesus.

    • Ike

      Brett….it seems that more than a “few” evangelical churches across America has reduced salvation down to saying a prayer and asking Jesus to come into their hearts. The very same churches who pointed the finger at those who believed themselves saved because they were baptized as an infant……have done the very same thing……only they have made it easier. Just repeat this prayer and you are saved.

      • i’m with you, ike. though i appreciate the sentiment behind these groups’ ideas, i think they’re doing harm to the name of Christ. i get that salvation is by grace through faith, and believe wholeheartedly in that. but when we stop our definitions of salvation at justification, i think we’ve made a huge mistake…

  3. I reckon I should clarify “dumbing down.” I agree with you that it is more than a complex set of beliefs. No question. By the dumbing down comment I am referring more to that which is most often defined as the health/wealth teaching and easy believism. I also most certainly agree with you that many have exchanged the gospel of grace with a religion of works. IMHO I think there is a prong of that which finds itself in the health/wealth garbage. Sadly, your last statement is also very very true.

  4. I tend to think that there needs to be a difference between “philosophical” postmodernism and “practical” postmodernism. While the later is certainly a derivitive of the former, the later doesn’t seem to be as much of a rejection of the idea of absolute truth as it is a rejection of the idea that any one person or group can discover absolute truth.

    Thus practical postmodernsim is skeptical of the claims made by both the religous (pre-enlightment/divine-centered) and scientific (enlightment/human-centered) communities and the reason for such rejections is that despite both communities claims upon truth (which meant they held the keys to progress, the future of civilization), they have created more havoc than health. Religion has resulted not in peace and prosperity but many acts of wars and human atrocities. Likewise, the scientific community has failed as well to deliver. Nuclear Technology only led to the dropping of a bomb followed by cold war. Housing projects, as a part of the solution to urban poverty, only helped to create more urban violence rather than more humane living conditions.

    Practical postmodernism is an ironic term since postmodernist are pramatics. Having seen the failures of religion and science, practical postmodernism being the pragmatic ideology that it is, is in seach of whatever works. If eastern philosophy appears to work, then try it. If a smorgasbord mixture of religions and sciences work, then try it. But be weary of anyone person or group that claims to have the absolute solution because that line has been tried and found thus far to be wanting.

    How do Christians, whose core conviction is a claim on absolute truth, respond to practical postmodernism? Given the pragmatic nature, Christians must show the postmodern world that Christianity works…that following Jesus is the path to the life we all seek even if we don’t articulate that desire in Christian or religious terminology. That means our truth claims must be affirmed through what is seen. If our actions as Christian do not match the claims we make in our preaching, we WILL NOT convince the postmodern culture of anything except that we do not have the truth.

    How interesting it is that in John 14.15-24 after Jesus tells his disciples that he is leaving them and Judas (not Iscariot) asks Jesus why he does not show himself to the world, Jesus responds by reminding his disciples of the need to be obedient to him. I am all for traditional western Christian apologetics if there is a person who struggles philosophically with the ability to believe in God, the resurrection of Jesus, etc… But by in large, the apologetic needed by Christians in a postmodern culture is obedience…discipleship to Jesus that shows the world why the gospel is the truth against all other political, religious, sociological, ecconomical claims. Until Christians living in a postmodern culture come to grips with this, it will continue to lose the war on truth.

    Thank you for your post on postmodernism. This is something the church must talk about.

    Grace and peace,

    Rex

    P.S. Sorry for the long comment but this is something I am trying to convince many Christians who live in the states (who live out of a modern paradim) about.

    • great comments, rex. you are much smarter than me. thanks for deepening the wisdom on this page of my blog.

      i’ve never thought about the fact that postmodern thinking in many ways stems from the perceived (and real) failures of religion, science and the like to make sense of life and accomplish good. so you make a very strong point, in my mind, when you say the world needs to see genuine Christianity through obedience.

      i welcome people talking about obedience on my blog. no, i hug people that talk about obedience on my blog. i’m so tired of our constant study of the Bible to find knowledge, rather than to be obedient.

      you said, “But by in large, the apologetic needed by Christians in a postmodern culture is obedience…” i’m with you, but want to add love, which i think tends to come with obedience. they feed one another. i just know that i’ve seen “obedience” without love before — in the pharisees and in my own religious tribe — and it doesn’t point anyone to Christ or make sense of reality.

      • James,

        Your reply is kind. I’m not any smarter, postmodernism just happens to be the missional context I find myself in. I am sure you could teach me some things about animism.

        Any ways, I would consider self-sacrificial love and service as the primary means of obedience, especially in the context of Jesus’ final week with his disciples before his arrest in the Gospel of John (ch. 13-17) where Jesus begins by washing the feet of his disciples and then instructs them to love one another (13.34-35) as he looks forward to the end of the week when he will demonstrate the ultimate act of self-sacrificial love and service by giving his own life up on a cross.

        However, several years ago I listened to a lecture by NT/Gospel of John scholar Gail O’Day (Emory University) give a lecture where she employed the motifs of “love” and “friend” for the Gospel of John. She demonstrated from classical Greek literature that true love is expressed when one is willing to lay their life down for another and true friendship is when one is willing to speak the truth to another. In the Gospel of John Jesus demonstrates both true love and true friendship as he is willing to both lay his life down for others and tell the truth to others. Interestingly, in chapter 21 Jesus then calls Peter to true love by predicting his own martyrdom (v. 18-19) while the writer (John) becomes the one who carries on the friendship by writing the truth (v. 24). So from this sense, true love and true friendship could be construed as the means of obedience according to the Gospel of John.

        Any ways, we need to talk about the place of obedience and what that entails in the Christain faith more because from where I sit, Christianity seems high on grace but not too high on the idea of obedience.

        Grace and peace,

        Rex

      • good ideas, rex, on the intersection of obedience and love. i like thinking through it that way — with love as the primary means of obedience.

  5. Linda M

    Hi James Brett,

    I have been reading the comments made on this blog of postmodernism today. I think what is perhaps missing in this discussion is that we are to be obedient to the Spirit of God. We are to be led by the Spirit of God. To me that means a dynamic where change is occuring in the believers own life and the Body of believers as a whole in what the Spirit instructs them to do or to say. the Spirit will bring the needed unity for this.

    If you look at Jesus’ example in the Bible he said he did nothing except what he saw the Father do.
    Nothing on his own. Nothing of his own volition.

    I think part of what has happened in the church in North America and in other developed and prosperous nations is that we rely on the arm of flesh more than the Spirit of God. The Twelve apostles went out preaching, teaching, casting out devils after Jesus breathed on them. Jesus gave them the ability, the knowledge, the understanding the power the courage to fulfill his instructions in a few moments of time before he sent them out.
    I think what may be happening in the church is what was happening to the natural children of Israel after they occupied the promised land. A judge would be raised up ( such as Samuel )and people followed that leadership for a time. when Samuel was gone the people over a period of a few generations were totally off course ( as were the spiritual leaders). Judgement from God followed. A new judge was raised up. My point here being we as a church seem to be going around the same cycle as the natural Israelite nation of the Bible. That tells me that as a church we are looking to the natural and not the spiritual. We are living and functioning as if ‘before the Cross’ and not after the fact of the Cross.

    How do we relate to postmodernism in our culture? For sure we need to have action and not just talk. We need to have God working with the church providing the signs and wonders like he provided for the early church in order to substantiate and confirm what they were teaching and preaching. We profess to have a God, but we very rarely see a demonstration of that. Why? I think because we’re functioning nearly the same way as the unbeliever and agnostic. We’re relying on our own wisdom and our own ability as a church to solve our problems and figure things out.
    Our gospel is not intellectual it is foolishness to the World. If we try to present the gospel intellectually to a postmodern mind we will be on the same plane as every other religion and belief.

    I think it comes down to a revival of repentance from God’s people, from leadership in the church, and a renewed seeking for and obedience to Jesus. Otherwise, I think it may be a grass roots movement or another method that God will use to build his church. I don’t think this new building will be the ‘church organization and struture’ as we know it today.

    • linda, i agree we should be obedient to the Spirit of God. i think part of the problem, though, is this: in my mind, obedience to God and hearing further from the Spirit (or the ability to ascertain his will) seem to go hand in hand — and feed off one another, if you will. so when we read in the Bible to do everything without grumbling and complaining, yet refuse to be obedient to that simple command, we distance ourselves even further from hearing the Spirit speak into our lives.

      but when i’m obedient in even a little, i am given more to which i’m asked to be obedient. not that God doesn’t desire each of us to hear him and obey. but i see it as sort of a progression… or a process of revelation in our lives.

  6. Christine

    A very interesting discussion. Thanks for the post, Brett.

    If I could just for a moment, look at the philosophy of postmodernism, in particular the part we should absolutely be rejoicing at: the post-modern epistemology. Now epistemology is just about how we can know, what are appropriate means for seeking truth. Moderism lead to to a positivist epistemology, which only including things we could observe with our five sense as indicators of reality (truth). Christianity was vehemently opposed to modernism and, centuries after the fact, became completely absorbed into it. Hence, all of the “proving God” apologetics, which really undermine the nature of faith.

    Postmodernism in its response to modernism does not take that viewpoint on how we can access truth. Stories, experiences, ideas also becoming valid means of knowing, perhaps more reliable means of knowing.

    The problem arises when we realize we cannot judge this experiences in a quantificable (measurable) fashion and they are not transferable. I can see what you see if you show it to me, but I cannot feel what you feel just by you telling me about it. Part of this problem is the insufficiency of langauge, but not all of it.

    So, it is not that postmodernism holds tight to the notion of a distinct lack of objective truth, but realizes that we cannot access objective truth, that we have no way to measure if such a truth exists or what it would look like. It simply says we cannot know, that we have no means to judge.

    And here is where struggling with faith for two millennia means that the church can contribute to the postmodernist discourse: we’ve been wrestling with these ideas for 20 centuries, trying to share immeasurable experience and to judge good theology from bad. Not only should we welcome the change in epistemology, which acknowledges our spiritual experiences as valid means of understanding truth, but we can add what we have learned about evaluating and judging those experiences to the postmodern discourse.

    • Linda M

      Hi Christine,

      I think the only thing I might say here to your discourse about postmodernism is that other ideas and religions are getting far more attention and interest in their faith and religion than Christianity is during this change of epistemology.

      I’ve heard the term that Christians are getting pushed out to ‘the fringes’. Christians and Christianity are getting marginalized in the developed nations of the world. Other faiths, religions can have their say here in Canada but we Christians cannot. We are intolerant, unloving, non-conforming, troublemakers. Laws have been put in place in Canada to make Christians confess (through the threat of fines and jail time) to the honorable and equally sanctioned union of male and male or female to female marriage. Of homosexuality being a natural and healthy sexuality in the lives of people, as natural as the sexual relations between a man and woman. That we can no longer know or judge what ‘family’ is in our nation of Canada becasue it means something different to different groups of people.

      I’m not sure how Christianity is going to have the position and respect to be accounted as anything but an old fashioned ideology that has existed past its time and needs to be replaced by ‘new thinking’. I don’t think we will be invited to the ‘table’.

      • Christine

        Hi Linda. I live in Canada, too. And I agree that Christianity gets much less attention, and much more criticism.

        It’s just that, I’m not sure it isn’t deserved. In the postmodern discourse, Christianity is the one faith still claiming to have all the answers, to have everything fiqured out (which, one has to admit is pretty arrogant). And we have been pretty intolerant and unloving; we are not mirroring the Christ we claim ot follow. Most of us are total hypocrits (which, hypocritically, is the one thing Jesus outright opposed). I don’t know how we can expect to have an position or respect at all. We need to earn our position at the table. The sooner we acknowledge that and actually start trying, the less irrelevant we will doom ourselves to be.

        And on the marriage “debate” here (not really a debate, the issue is settled in Canada). I find Christians to be completely free to speak their minds on the issue, regardless of their position. That’s part of living in a free country, as is not being able to use government policies to promote one set of beliefs over another. The fact that we try to do such things is one of the reason we don’t get invited to the discourse. Respect is a two-way street.

    • christine, i like where you’ve taken this. the idea that for centuries christians have been dealing with spiritual experiences and matters — and can now speak to postmodernism from where we stand.

      except that i’m afraid many of us have opted out of the spiritual side of our faith, in favor of heady religion.

      • Christine

        I do think we have a wealth of experience in wrestling with different viewpoints trying to discover truth. What we haven’t arrived at is a lot of answers (Christians disagree about almost everything), but that’s part of the benefit. Postmodernism doesn’t want pat answers (which we’ve failed at trying to provide in a modern context), but real authentic experiences, which we have plenty of. Lots of stories of people’s real life experiences of Christianity, and plenty of experiences in theological exploits, trying to undertand one another and test and judge and measure these inherently unquantifiable experiences. We have something to offer and can provide lessons on how to navigate a search for truth in a post-modern context.

        I agree we don’t see a lot of focus on this aspect of our Christianity (although it is one of the things the emerging church is embracing). What do you have in mind when you say “heady religion”?

      • “What we haven’t arrived at is a lot of answers (Christians disagree about almost everything)…”

        this makes humility all the more important. if we’re going to be Christ in a postmodern culture — or even if we’re going to prevent Christianity from continuing to splinter into millions of groups that don’t want to admit they came from the same board — we will have to possess great humility. and exercise it frequently as we seek to understand one another and share our own thoughts, feelings, and interpretations with others.

        by “heady religion” i meant what modernism has done to Christianity:

        – in depth study of the text only for the sake of knowledge.

        – becoming a Christian requiring a mere adherence to a certain brand of doctrine.

        – our faith in general being taught in steps or given in checklist form.

        – and ignoring feelings, emotions, and the Spirit himself in favor of examining scripture.

      • Christine

        Brett, your list makes it very clear what you mean: the modernized, super-intellectualized version of Christianity. Really, unless our beliefs relate to our real lives, unless the are informed by our experience and impact the way we live, what good are they?

      • i’m with you, christine. i hope postmodernism brings with it a great change in this part of christianity…

  7. Ummmm… excuse me for jumping in Linda, but I’m a little confused as to what you are referring to when you say, “Laws have been put in place in Canada to make Christians confess (through the threat of fines and jail time) to the honorable and equally sanctioned union of male and male or female to female marriage.”

    I too am Canadian and I am not familiar with any such law. Certainly, if you choose to incite violence against gay people (which would be anything but Christian) you could face jail time under hate speech legislation, but nobody is requiring anybody to “confess” anything that is against their religious beliefs. Granted, freedom of speech and religion do not override all decency like it does in the US which allows the likes of Fred Phelps and his crazy family to protest funerals with very hateful signs. I’m very grateful that we have checks and balances in Canada, but none of those checks and balances are going to force people to “confess” things they believe to be wrong based on religious beliefs or personal morals.

    Could you be a little more specific on what laws you are referring to?

    • Linda M

      Hi Cindy,
      My understanding is that right now in Canada a pastor or preacher cannot say in the pulpit that homosexuality is an unnatural act and that the Bible speaks against it as so. If a preacher does, he/she can be fined 2,000 and jailed for up to two years. This is not being enforced in our land right now, but the law has been passed and can be acted on at any time. I believe that I heard this through a church that I attended.

      It seems reasonable to me that if Canada is setting these types of laws into its repetoire, other nations and countries are likely doing the same thing or have done the same thing. Canada is considered a free nation. If our laws can censor what we say in Canada what is going on in other countries?

      Like you say, it may be possible that many Canadians have no idea what has been going on here in our country behind the scenes.

      • Hi Linda,

        First of all, being banned from saying one thing and being forced to confess another are two very different things. But that aside, while I have no doubt that you heard something along those lines in a church that you attended, sadly not everything we hear from the pulpit can be trusted. I am quite certain that no such law exists in this country. That you were told such is nothing more than a shameless example of fear mongering .

  8. Linda M

    Hi Christine,

    I think we are seeing a double standard here in Canada with a Christian’s ability to speak and be open about their religion and beliefs. For sure, I think in the Education realm this is occuring. Privately, we still have the freedom to speak about what we believe and to be open about our faith in Jesus, but formally we do not have that freedom here. Christianity as far as I know is lumped with the fables and fairy tales in our schools. What I think is getting quite a bit of attention in Canada these days is the Eastern religions and practices and the Animalistic beliefs of our natives. We saw that at the Olympics that Vancouver hosted in February. I didn’t see anything about Jesus or Christianity being presented at the Olympics. I could be wrong.

    Even though we have Christians in our politics and civic areas of service the policies, practices and laws being made in Canada are very clear that we are not a ‘christian’ nation any more. We embrace all faiths and religions here. All of them are accorded respect, acknowlegment and taken seriously by our government. That is the current correct political talk to be spoken in Canada at this time. do you see this as so?

    • Christine

      Linda,

      I think we need to be clear about the difference between being able to speak your mind and be open about your beliefs, and having them respected or understood by others. On the first count, Christians are as free as anyone.

      I do not know what you mean by the education point, or about having a “formal” right to speak about beliefs. Christianity would either not be taught, or taught as one of many religions (with respect, not as a fairy tale), in public schools. We also have private religious schools in Canada, and parents can chose where to send their children. In fact, here in Ontario, Catholic private schools are the only private schools to receive government funding. Native traditions were given a prominent place in the Olympics, as I understand it, because the games were held on native land. It was showing respect for the First Nations people in our country, not about religion.

      I do in fact see that, in Canada, “we embrace all faiths and religions here. All of them are accorded respect, acknowledgement and taken seriously by our government.” This is the exact opposite of a double standard. All people and all beliefs are equal before the law. It’s a democracy, not a theocracy. The idea that Canada (or the US) was founded as “Christian nations” is an abuse of history. This isn’t true today, nor was it ever. Our law is based on religious freedom for all.

      What you are seeing is that Christianity no longer has the privileged place it once held, not in law, but by custom and tradition. In other words, Christianity used to trump other religions and belief, and is losing that place. This is more popular opinion than public policy, and again, I’m not sure that decline isn’t undeserved.

      • What Linda may be referring to is a bill that has been up for debate recently. I know the group Christian Legal Fellowship was fighting a bill last week that would force Justice of the Peace to perform marriages they didn’t feel their conscience allowed them to. In Canada thus far, public service officials have been able to step aside from issues that did not go with their conscience. Now, they are trying to take away our freedom of conscience, freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

        This one bill is the losing our civil rights, and our freedom of Christian religion.

        National post article: http://network.nationalpost.com/NP/blogs/holy-post/archive/2010/05/09/435191.aspx

      • Christine

        Lauren, I’m glad you brought this up (and that you’re checking out this awesome blog of Brett’s), because this is where the rubber really hits the road politically. In this case, the people affected are representatives of the state, their capacity to marry people is as a member of the government (the judiciary) are their job is to preform state functions (including civil marriages). This is not the same as a case of a minister (which represents a religious group) or a private individual. Two rights are clearly in conflict and it will be interesting to see what the court rules.

        Personally, I would be opposed to anyone be required to do something (even as part of their job) that violated their conscious, but I also understand (as a function of my own profession) that our work often requires us to represent a viewpoint we personally disagree with, it’s not something only justices face (where they are constantly enforcing all laws, whether they agree with them or not). This is much like the American debate on doctors preforming abortions. The real problem is when only one justice/doctor is available in any given area to preform a service that people have a right to by law.

        By comparison, justices probably aren’t allowed to refuse to marry people on the grounds that they were marry previously then divorced, that it is an inter-racial or inter-faith couple, or any other criteria, which might all contradict a justice’s personal beliefs.

        The solution might mean that justices unwilling to marry any couple that can be legally married (that the state they represent has deemed marriable, including same-sex couples) will have to renounce their ability to marry anyone, at least as a representative of the state, in order to avoid the conflict. Not a perfect solution, but the situation in tricky, legally.

  9. Linda Mew

    Hi Christine,

    I guess the next question is ‘Where does the Bible stand in all of this?’ Are we saying that the Bible is not the truth? That Jesus Christ can be compared to other leaders of religious movements in the world such as the Dali Lama?

    Are we saying that what really matters is how Christianity has been presented to others? That if that presentation has not been very good then it’s alright to dismiss Jesus and the Bible until we start getting it right?

    Where is the place of the Holy Spirit? Are we saying that other religions and practices have a spirit (unclean) and that is all that really matters in the coming postmodern philosophy? I think we are dismissing Christianity as being nothing more than another religion and belief system that is now being superceded by other religious and belief systems that seem to present themselves better to the world.

    I think that another thing that is happening alot is that people want to take a little bit of this practice and a little bit of that idea and make up something that is personal and acceptable to them. They want to set up their own idea of who or what God is and what he expects of them. A customized God that fits the way we choose to think. For many people these days ‘hell’ does not exist anymore. They’ve made that decision.

    So where do you see this postmodern thinking taking us?

    • Christine

      Hi Linda. I think we are again venturing into something different. There is Christianity’s place in the state, according to law, it’s position in society at large (again, not something under our control), and how we view and present Christianity. Let me explain:

      I believe (some would say “know”, but if I’m the one saying it, the difference is somewhat semantic) that Jesus is God and that the Bible is true (although this means different things to different people). I can hold to this and affirm it as an absolute truth even when I live in a country where all religions and beliefs are equal before the law, and while participating in a sociaty that does not universally affirm Christianity. There is nothing, to me, in my belief that makes me think I should be able to lord over other people and force my beliefs on them, even if I could prove absolutely that they were true.

      This was true in a modern world and will continue to be true in a postmodern one.

      What I’m saying is that we should be trying to improve our Christianity in order to be part of a postmodern discourse. This means respect (which is not the same as agreement or admitting that all faith are equally true, but does mean not forcing our beliefs on others or dismissing them as ignorant or terrible people for not agreeing with us and not forcing our beliefs on others), and humility (because Christianity clearly doesn’t have it all figured out – again, we disagree on just about everything – and denying this isn’t helping anyone). It probably also means admitting that Christianity has had some terrible influences on society (the crusades, the inquisition, slavery, segregation, the subjugation of women, the spread of AIDS, sexual abuse, and gay-bashing – to name a few). We need to be honest, with ourselves and others, about Christianity (which does not mean accepting that are core beliefs aren’t true). We don’t need to learn to agree with the rest of the world, but we do need to learn to disagree well, because in general, we disagree very poorly, very unlovingly.

  10. Lauren,

    That is not national legislation that is before the courts but rather something being proposed in the province of Saskatchewan. Of course, that is not to suggest that it won’t have implications elsewhere in the country. And the proposed legislation is actually one to exempt civil marriage commissioners (such as a justice of the peace) from performing same-sex marriages on the basis of their religion. (Clearly not what Linda was referring to.) PEI already has legislation to that affect and other provinces are allowing such exemptions on a more informal basis. I suspect it is only a matter of time before this issue is challenged before the supreme court and thus becomes a national issue. When one person’s rights clash with another person’s rights it’s always a sticky issue.

    I won’t post my view on such legislation as it is getting far off topic here on Brett’s blog. But I will just say that this has nothing to do with the right of any minister (Priest/Pastor/etc) to refuse to marry a same-sex couple. Ministers have always had the right in this country to choose who they will marry and that hasn’t changed. A minister can refuse to marry any couple for any reason. So I don’t think this is the law that Linda alluded to which I uphold does not exist in this country.

    If you’re interested in my view on whether or not a justice of the peace should have to marry same-sex couples, you can read about it here: http://cindymurphythinkingoutloud.blogspot.com/2010/05/when-rights-clash.html

  11. Linda M

    Hi Christine,
    I did some fairly quick research on the internet looking for incidents involving christians and the law here in Canada. I’m sure I could find lots more. There’s more going on here in Canada than meets the eye I think. There is surely a double standard here in Canada for christians. We will in all certainty be seeing more and more persecution and censorship in Canada for Christians in the days ahead.

    Tuesday, March 10, 2009
    http://www.todaysfamilynews.ca/Religious-Freedom/guidelines-could-trump-doctors-moral-beliefs.html

    Physicians in Ontario could be just weeks away from putting their medical licences on the line if they refuse, as a matter of conscience, to perform procedures which they deem immoral, the National Post reported.

    and again in Saskatchewan, this is about the Sask commissioner that refused to marry a same sex couple recently.

    “The point is,” said a StarPhoenix editorial, “in a secular society that goes to great lengths to separate people’s personal religious beliefs from their performance of job duties in the public sphere, what Mr. Morgan is asking the court to do is reprehensible.”
    The decision to go this route follows a ruling in 2008 by the Saskatchewan Human Rights Tribunal. It found Regina marriage commissioner Orville Nichols guilty of violating the province’s human rights code for refusing to “marry” a same-sex couple as a matter of conscience. He was fined $2,500. The case is now before Court of Queen’s Bench.

    National Post columnist Lorne Gunter denounced the proposal Monday as “yet another example of the tyranny of human rights commissions over our daily lives.”

    and again in Alberta just recently,
    Lund v Boission ( a youth Pastor who wrote a letter to the newspaper editor condemning homosexuality as non-Biblical.) he was sued and has been fighting in court for 8 years to clear himself of charges of ‘hate speech’ in Court of Queen’s Bench and now the Appeal Court of Alberta.

    “As many of you know,” he wrote in March, “yesterday I was informed that Lund has appealed the recent ruling that vindicated me and released me from the bondage that this eight-year human rights crusade has inflicted on me for a 2002 letter to the editor. Even my own two children have had to share the burdens that the case has inflicted on me.”

    “This could go all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada,” he told Chalcedon. “Am I willing to go that far? Yes, I am. Christians have to be willing to take risks. You have to have the courage to say, ‘I’m not going to be told what I can say.'”

    The Abolition of Man- article
    In Canada, as in all the Western countries these days, the statist Left holds all the cards. They can push any law they please through the legislature, and have the judiciary uphold it, even in the face of strongly adverse public opinion. They control the public schools and colleges. The news and “entertainment” media slavishly promote the Left’s agenda. Banks and corporations fund “gay pride” parades and the electoral campaigns of statist politicians. Even some churches collaborate with them.

    Under Canada’s “human rights” laws, the government pays 100% of the plaintiff’s legal costs, while the defendant must pay for 100% of his own costs. So far the defense of Rev. Boissoin has cost more than $200,000-money that had to be donated by Christian legal foundations, and by fund-raising events. Justice Wilson did not award him damages.

    • Linda,

      Hate speech legislation undoubtedly makes for a very uneasy balancing act. On the one hand I am grateful that it provides us with protection against the type of blatant bigotry that goes untouched in the US such as the example of Fred Phelps and his clan who picketed the funeral of a young man who was brutally murdered just for being gay with claims that he had gotten exactly what he deserved. Free speech should never be abused to incite hatred and violence against people. It is particularly disturbing to me that such laws are at all necessary to keep Christians in line, as this should never be an issue for anybody that truly follows and promotes the example of love and forgiveness set by Jesus.

      On the down side, it is pretty much impossible to draw a clear line on what constitutes going too far and inciting hatred and violence beyond simply exercising our cherished right to free speech. Inevitably, we are going to end up with people that are skirting the line, like the youth pastor in the case you have cited and it will not always be cut and dry as to whether or not they have crossed the line. It will be interesting to see what the Court of Appeal rules in this case and whether or not it gets taken to the Supreme Court as Mr. Boissoin has stated he is prepared to do.

      What I personally find disingenuous is the way in way in which Christian media reports on this case. The statement you posted is a clear example of this, “Lund v Boission ( a youth Pastor who wrote a letter to the newspaper editor condemning homosexuality as non-Biblical.) he was sued and has been fighting in court for 8 years to clear himself of charges of ‘hate speech’ in Court of Queen’s Bench and now the Appeal Court of Alberta.” I have read other reports from Christian media which are along the same lines. They claim that Mr. Boissoin was brought before the courts on this issue for condemning homosexuality as “non-Biblical” or “sinful” or “against God”, etc. They try to scare their Christian audience into believing that merely speaking out against homosexuality in this country can land you in the courts. It is a blatant false misrepresentation of the case. Nobody is in any danger in this country for merely holding to and expressing the view that homosexuality is sinful or wrong or unbiblical, or even for stating that all gay people are going to hell. In my searching, I did not come across one single article offered by Christian media that gave a fair representation of why Mr. Boissoin is involved with this court battle. In order to gain a fair perspective of this case, I sought out the actual court proceedings which you can read here if interested: http://www.albertahumanrights.ab.ca/LundDarren113007Pa.pdf . I have not read the entire document, but enough to see what was said that could be seen as in violation of hate speech legislation. As I suspected, Mr. Boissoin’s belief that homosexuality is sinful was not the problem. The problem was in the militaristic approach that he took which could fairly be seen as provoking violent behaviour. Here are a couple excerpts from the letter which Dr. Lund (the plaintiff) offered as being “militaristic and alarmist that seek to evoke war against homosexuals and their supporters”:

      “My banner has now been raised and war has been declared so as to defend the precious sanctity of our innocent children and youth, that you so eagerly toil, day and night, to consume.”

      “With me stand the greatest weapons that you have encountered to date – God and the “moral majority”. Know this, we will defeat you, then heal the damage you have caused.”

      “Come on people, wake up! It is time to stand together and take whatever steps are necessary to reverse the wickedness that our lethargy has authorized to spawn. Where homosexuality flourishes all manner of wickedness abounds.”

      That last one I find particularly disturbing. Seriously, one should not say “take whatever steps are necessary” without at least qualifying that to say that it does not include violent attacks against the “enemy”. It’s interesting to note that what sparked Dr. Lund to take action was that two weeks after this letter was published in the local paper in Red Deer (a small city in Alberta of about 90,000) a teenage boy was beaten simply for being gay, in the ensuing trial he told the court that he did not feel safe after reading the letter in the paper. No one claimed that the letter directly inspired the perpetrators, but lets face it, it certainly helps to encourage such behaviour when you paint homosexuals (and those who advocate for them) as toiling, day and night, to consume our innocent children and youth and then later call upon people to take “whatever steps are necessary to reverse the wickedness”. It is particularly disturbing to have such things come from someone who has direct influence over youth. Testimony was given by a woman that worked in the youth centre that Mr. Boissoin ran that she “was personally aware that one of the youths who beat the 17 year old youth was a person who frequented the youth center quite often.” She also testified that, “Mr. Boissoin was aware of this and did nothing in response to the beating.”

      There are many other disturbing ideas promoted by the letter, including comparing homosexuals to paedophiles and drug-dealers that you need to protect the children from and implying that homosexuality is a disease that your children may catch. He actually asked the question, “Will your child be the next victim that tests homosexually positive?”

      Mr. Boissoin, in court, claimed that his intention was merely to stir up political debate and call people to take action politically, but on cross-examination he admitted that “he was unaware of a specific phrase in his entire article that pointed the reader to political action” and that “his article did not provide any sources of education, resources within the community for education, groups the reader could join, or references to voting or the ballot box or specific political remedies or actions.” And this is the real kicker, he also admitted “that the CCC was having a political meeting at the time he wrote the letter and he chose not to announce the political meeting despite having this knowledge at the time.” I find it pretty difficult to believe that the only action he intended to call the readers of his letter to was political when he avoided any political references and wouldn’t even mention a political meeting that he was a part of.

      It remains to be seen how the Court of Appeals will rule on this case, but Mr. Boissoin was certainly skirting the line of hate speech and the likelihood that his motives were not hateful seems highly suspect. I am highly offended at the dishonest way Christian media has represented this case. Even if it is perfectly within Mr. Boissoin’s right to free speech and is found to not have crossed over the line of what is legally considered hate speech, a Christian moral standard should take higher ground than this. I don’t believe anybody truly upholding a Christian ethic is in any danger of facing charges of hate speech in this country regardless of where they stand on the morality of homosexuality.

  12. Christine

    Hi Linda,

    The case of the doctors and the marriage commissioner and instances that deal with representing, or being employed by the state. These are very tricky situations, and it is something we are wrestling with in Canada, as these are issue that have not yet been settled. But, I think the “threat” here is exaggerated. Exemptions have been in various parts of the country for marriage commissioners (and may continue in Sask, too, depending on how the court rules) and exemptions are made of civil servants. The new medical guidelines (which are made by the College of physicians – peers – and not the government) only require doctors to refer patients seeking abortions, not to preform them. The goal is only to keep an individual’s beliefs from abstructing the provision of government services, not to force any specific person to provide those services against their religious or moral beliefs.

    On the issue of the letter… well, saying that homosexuality is non-Bilbical is not hate speech, and no one considers it such. What is considered hate speech is anything that can be taken to incite violence of create an environment of fear. Certainly, saying something is non-Biblical does not qualify. The laws are very clear on this. So, while I’m sure Boission said that in the letter, I am quite positive that would not be the portion of the letter he was sued for.

    I don’t know what you are referring to in the second last paragraphs. It seems a mischaracterizations to mean, with no specific examples. (Perhaps there was supposed to be a link there?)

    And on paying legal fees, it is essential for the functioning of the system that people have the capacity to defend their rights. I don’t know why the government would pay of the legal fees of those founf ro have broken the law. If the situation were reversed, and a Christian was the plaintiff, defending their human right to freedom of religion, their fees would be paid and their opponent’s would not.

    I’d like to point out though, that even if all of this were as bad as you make it sound (which I don’t believe is true), it only indicates that Canada is becoming more secular. It do not represent a double standard for Christians. Any Buddist or Hindu or Muslim or atheist refusing to provide government services or inciting hatred and violence would be dealt with in the same fashion.

    I think it is telling that we see these types of moves as “against Christianity”. I think it shows that Christians are often the only ones who try to deny people government services or incite violence and hatred. We should think carefully about what that means, and understand how people might have trouble thinking we represent a God of love and mercy.

  13. Linda M

    Hi Christine and Cindy,

    I’m sorry that I gave you the impression that the opening of “Lund v Boission ( a youth Pastor who wrote a letter to the newspaper editor condemning homosexuality as non-Biblical.) he was sued and has been fighting in court for 8 years to clear himself of charges of ‘hate speech’ in Court of Queen’s Bench and now the Appeal Court of Alberta.” was from a website. These are my own words and my own summary of explanation to introduce this case. I have not read the website link you provided about this case yet. I will have a look at it though. Thank you.

    What I did read in one of the sites I located during my research was that this youth pastor Mr. Boission was not someone who had a strong influence or any real authority in the community of Red Deer, AB to have the ability to incite anything. He was voicing his own opinion publicly. Someone took exception to it. A extremely powerful and authoritative organization called ‘the human rights commission’ got behind the offended person, Dr. Lund.

    This was an example of Goliath pounding on David in our culture. Why doesn’t the human rights commission go after the ‘ big guns’? They’re trying to make an example of a simple defenseless young man who I believe had ‘good intentions’ motivated by his religious faith when he warned people of an impending clash he saw coming in our society over our national moral health and spiritual condition vs what he believes is taught in the Bible.

    There are two sides to this incident. Mr. Boissoin may have stepped off the politically acceptable line but the human rights commission has done some real overkill on this letter writing incident also. As far as I know no community riot ensued because of Mr. Boissoin’s comments in the newspaper. No damages occurred. To say that Mr. Boissoin’s letter incited an action of a beating against a gay person in Red Deer could only be verified by the person that did the beating. I think there may be alot of assuming going on in this legal case. Apparently, Justice Wilson of the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta thought so too. After 8 years of hearings he dismissed the charges against Mr. Boissoin. Mr. Lund has now appealed this decision.

    What is the human rights commission’s plan? To push the face of this young man into the mud and filth? To personally destroy him and make a public example of a impulsive youthful action? One of the things I understand that Mr. Lund wants is a public apology from Mr. Boissoin personally. Because the human rights commission got behind the issue between two individuals in Red Deer, AB. the commission now has to ‘save face’ and get this young man convicted of a crime.

    I don’t think there is any love and mercy shown by Mr. Lund or the human rights’ commission either in this case. My opinion? Show some mercy and grace towards this young man, Mr. Lund, and drop the charges. Fight someone your own size. Is the possibility of hate of Mr. Boission and his view not involved on Mr. Lund’s part too? I don’t think ruining people’s lives is the appropriate answer to this legal case either.

    • Christine

      Linda,

      Hate speech is not defined by someone’s ability to incite something. If they are calling people to violence or promoting hatred, directly or indirectly (which is a hard call to make, hence the complexity of the court case), it is hate speech. They do not have to have actually caused anything to be found guilty of hate speech.

      The Human Rights Commission is a body (of the government, like a court) that rules on cases of human rights abuses. They did not take Lund’s side. He made a complaint to the commission and the commission would have reviewed all the evidence and made a decision. When their decision was appealed, it was then sent to a higher court body. When Lund “sued” Boission, it was the Human Rights Commission that heard the case.

      The Human Rights Commission is only enforcing the law. Should all courts show mercy by not sentencing anyone who breaks the law? Lund might wants an apology, but this is separate from what the courts demand. Boission was fined for breaking the law, appealed, and won the appeal. Lund is appealing the appeal, which is his right. This is a legal matter before the courts.

      None of this changes the fact that hate speech is very specific in law (although individual cases can be hard to judge) and does not include voicing your opinion on a matter of saying that something is unbiblical. No one will be fined, and certainly not jailed (!), for saying so.

      The Human Rights Commission ruled that Boission was encouraging people to be violent and spreading hatred. They may be wrong, certainly the appealate judge thought so, the Supreme Court may yet decide. But, if he was, is that something you would condone? In Canada, we have decided that anything that could caused others to be harmed or creates fear of harm should be censored. Maybe you disagree, but how can you say this is creating a double standard for Christians. Where does Christianity require us to do such things?

      Christine

      • Christine

        I should have specified that “harm” here refers to physical harm, “harm” as defined in law, not simply offence.

  14. Linda M

    Hi Christine,

    I did a little more research and read some of the decision of the Human Rights panel you had linked in your earlier blog in this topic of Postmodernism. I think it will be challenging days ahead to try and provide equal rights for all under the law. I believe that’s one disadvantage of multiculturalism in general within a country. Many people groups with varying beliefs, customs, and faiths and values and backgrounds.

    It is likely that Mr.Boission went over the top in his letter to the RedDeer Advocate newspaper. I do believe however, that the Concerned Christian Coalition (CCC) of which Mr. Boission was the executive director has a political emphasis and directive as its mission and as the reason for its existence. I believe they do work within the political realm maybe sort of like a ‘watchdog’ for laws and other legal matters affecting Christians and Christianity in Canada.

    This case seems very complicated. Beyond me to figure out. My belief is that we do need to protect the freedom of speech that we have in Canada at this time. It seems to me that freedom of speech vs the right to not be subjected to verbal abuse has now become the main issue in this case. Like you say the Supreme Court of Canada may be the court to finally try to walk that fine line. It almost seems inevitable that when one groups rights are protected another groups rights are being stepped on and vice versa. The problem here in Canada is perhaps that we have many, many different ‘groups’. How can we possibly satisfy them all?

    My understanding from what I read is that Mr. Boission either by his own volition or by request has resigned from being licenced in Alberta as a Religious minister. My understanding is that he has resigned from any further doings with the CCC in Alberta. Mr. Boission has specifically stated publicly that he does not hate homosexuals, but his beliefs are that their lifestyle is being promoted within the schools in a way that directly violates his own beliefs about a ‘healthy’ sexual lifestyle and that his own children have no choice but to sit under the tutulage of ideology that he opposes as a Christian. I think it comes pretty close to home when a person has a belief that some ideology is negatively affecting your children and you are unable to do anything about it.

    Perhaps the question now is does Mr. Boission deserve to be punished and pay a price for the rest of his life for an ill advised and inappropriate letter to the newspaper? If so, Mr. Boission will be the only one to pay this price in this case. I don’t believe this case substantiates this kind of response toward Mr. Boission from the Courts.

    Apparently, Mr. Lund’s legal costs in this case have been covered by a fund through the University of Calgary where Mr. Lund is employed as professor. It appears that he did not lose his job/career over this lawsuit either. It appears that Mr. Lund will not have a large debt to pay back for legal fee costs after this case is finalized. I’m not sure but I suspect that Mr. Boission will have some legal fees to pay back. To date his costs incurred to defend himself in this lawsuit are around 200,000 and rising.

    In my opinion in order to ask Mr. Boission to pay a lifetime sentence for his actions there should be some very major damage that has occured by his letter. I don’t see this as having happened at all. In my opinion it’s time to let Mr. Boission off the hook and let the constitutional courts figure out the overall ramifications of this case for the Canadian public and our desire to maintain a democratic and fair society for all.

  15. Christine

    Hi Linda,

    Yes, balancing rights is always tricky, and often rights are in conflict. And a multicultural society makes this more difficult. But I think it is worth it, because the alternative would be to discriminate against certain groups, which is not something I think we could support as Christians.

    I don’t think Dr. Lund should have to bear any of the burdens of this case, because he made the complain really on behalf of a large group of people that he had good reason to believe were endangered by the letter. Mr. Boissoin’s removal from his previously held positions may not have been the result of the Human Rights Commission ruling, and would not have been required by the Human Rights Commission. I think the CCC would have had to pay part of the costs as they were also implicated in the case, and other Christian groups are likely helping with costs. As well, most of that money was probably spent on appeal, which Mr. Boissoin did not have to pursue, and, it the courts find that the case against him was completely unfounded, he could still be awarded costs. So, I’m not sure it’s so unfair. A human rights violation is not like a criminal charge with a criminal record. It would not in itself ruin someone’s life. But there was likely a lot of bad publicity, which is not something the government did.

    What I found particularly disturbing about the letter was that Mr. Boissoin accused the LBGT community of purposefully plotting to recruit children. He was inciting fear of homosexuals which could reasonably lead to increased persecution of the gay community. Mr. Boissoin has no reason to believe that there is a “gay agenda” as he described it, and you would certainly not find that in the Bible, that part is not a religious belief. And that idea, that people should do “whatever it takes” to “defeat” the “enemy” because they are after your children, is the problem. That is not a religious belief, it is not supported by the Bible, nor did Mr. Boissoin include any references in his letter to political action. This kind of talk is very disturbing, and can truly harm a vulnerable population. And it is not Christian.

    But leaving the details of the case aside, can you see how it was misconstrued in the Christian media to make it seem like Christians were being persecuted? But really that is far from the truth. Living together well in a diverse nation is very difficult, but Christians are not held to a different standard and we are not being discriminated against.

    I think part of the problem is that Christians are accustomed to having greater privileges than other groups, we are so used to discriminating against and even persecuting other groups, historically, that an equal application of the law feels like a loss of rights relative to other groups. But I think what we need to do is to recognize how unloving Christianity has been (including unfairly stereotyping groups we generally disagree with, as Mr. Boissoin did, possibly with terrible consequences for that group). We should be willing to own up to these things as a church, repent, and apologize.

  16. Linda M

    Hi Christine,

    We have done some good blogging on the topic of postmodernism and the situation of Lund v Boission. These topics are more than I can figure out. I think as a multicultural nation we do have some serious challenges, on the other hand, I think it is nice to have the differences among us in dress, culture, (language, as long as we can speak to and understand one another! 🙂 As I’ve heard people say, we don’t have to go out into the world, the world has come to us! 🙂

    One thing I think we need to think about is that God says in the Bible that he is the only God that he knows about. He says there is no other God. He says he is the Creator of all mankind. He says that if people from any nation want salvation from eternal judgement they need to acknowledge him and call on his name and accept the gift and sacrifice of his Son. Jesus died for the sins of the whole world. Jesus is the only way that has been provided for the people of the world to have eternal life.

    It has been very interesting to talk about matters here. However, I’m blogged out. I don’t know what else I could say on this topic. I don’t have enough knowledge about the issues of postmodernism. I hope my signing off is ok with you. Nice to meet you online. Take care 🙂

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