The hallmark of modernity is a refusal of paradox and mystery and a commitment to an either/or, black and white, dichotomous way of perception. This, in turn, is the breeding ground of all fundamentalism, whether secular or religious. It is also what feeds racist, sexist, cultural, and other oppositions, the very legitimacy of the “other” as opposition—the thing against “us”. What underwrites its power is the belief it is “fact” based, objective, or scientifically proven, whereas these “other” views are purely imagined (faith).
The move to the postmodern has shown all this to be pure nonsense. However, we still live with the hangover of modernity. We still feel its aftereffects, its echo. This is clear simply by perusing most of the comments on this blog. We see it in all the comments that oppose faith and reason or religion and science. We see it when knowledge can only be perceived as one thing and not a layered or multi-faceted concept. We see it when “how” (epistemology) we can know something can only be understood in one way, instead of many ways that coalesce together and support each other (holistic). We see it when “truth” can only mean one thing, and cannot be seen, again, as layered and multi-faceted. We see it when all these areas must be “either/or” rather than (postmodern/ancient) both/and. The “either/or” is the very mind-set of fundamentalism—it is a world of oppositions. Thus, it is a world never at peace. It breeds “others” and enemies. It is the world of “One” way, which is always, surprise, “my” or our way. It is “us” only. If one is not part of the “One”, the “us”, then she is one of “those” people, the “other”. Mapping and categorization, grouping, systematizing, accounting, and surveillance are its tools and methods. It is the very creation of the “in” group and the builder of boundaries and walls.
In contrast, the Christian narrative contains an intrinsic alternative to the “One”. It does this by being Trinitarian. How this “Three” dynamic is thought about and spoken of is through paradox and mystery. This opens up an entire universe of “both/and”. Instead of creating opposites, it allows for a communal, Eucharistic, participatory, sacramental, way of being “together” where we are not swallowed up in the “One” but remain both unique selves and part of each other, both-and, always and already, at the same time. There is one God, but such is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, thus we have the layered and multi-faceted basis of reality and relations as all participate in that relation and reality by way of creation. We have the eternal dance of peace, love, and joy at the very center of existence and creation and even before there was such as we know it.
Another striking feature of the modern sensibility is its immaturity. It is exactly the way a child or adolescent perceives the world. It is very simplistic and eschews complexity. In this sense, we could say modernity is hardly progressive, but rather regressive.
All this is to say, the times they are a-changing. This essay captures, in one area (evolution), this movement away from fundamentalism and toward the “both/and” perception or sensibility, which is the postmodern turn, ancient, and Trinitarian. I’m not sure the writer truly understands any of this, but I think it is there. The writer may not even perceive that she needs to do the very thing she is happy to see this young evangelical doing, which is to allow for this “both/and” sensibility, this layered and multi-faceted (holistic) perception of things. Because we should also rejoice when those who think evolution, or science, are the only ways we can know what is true or gain knowledge have the epiphany that perhaps it is more complex than that, more layered, and more multi-faceted, perhaps it requires “a little bit more”.
In this season of giving, as we approach the Sunday of epiphany and New Year, we need to have that moment the Grinch does: “Maybe Christmas, he thought… doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps… means a little bit more!” But the “more” here is disallowed by the modern sensibility and fundamentalism. It can only be what it “is” on the surface and nothing “more”—it can only be one thing. If it is allowed to be “more”, the allowance is made only if we agree the “more” is false and not the “reality” of the “store”, rather than the “more” being the reality. If one wants to know how capitalism and its organizing logic have crushed everything in its path, one need only watch “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”. If we cannot see or allow for a “more” then all becomes commodity to be marketed—exchange replaces gift. Where there is only exchange, there is no need for grace or mercy, nor gift. There is a “more” to everything and the “more” is the reality. There is “more” to you. We are more than tissue and blood. This truth is captured in the Eucharist. It is not “just” bread and wine, but something “more” and the more is the reality.
We need our views broadened not narrowed and such is what the postmodern (ancient really) turn allows for, which as a Christian I understand or perceive to be Trinitarian, participatory, and sacramental. This sensibility follows the grain of the universe, and escapes or transcends the linear, surface, and one-dimensional, oppositional view of modernity, which goes against the grain and thus has at its very core an intrinsic unrest and violence. The only result can be hearts several sizes too small.