Saturday, July 14, 2012


I share many things with beloved internet film critic Hulk: a deep love of Community, a profound appreciation for Attack the Block, a propensity for gratuitous CAPSLOCK (just ask my Facebook friends). However, we are not in agreement on the question of postmodernism – at least, not all the time.

Much of Hulk's critique of postmodernism is valid. I have days of utter frustration when I completely concur with him on the Emperor's-New-Clothesiness of it all, and fear that, in my enthusiasm for Derrida and Baudrillard and Mark C. Taylor, I have long since disappeared up my own posterior. However, on good days I tend to believe that postmodernism is incredibly fascinating and monumentally important to the task of doing theology today.

I like Lyotard's definition of postmodernism: “incredulity toward metanarratives.”

Postmodernism, and especially deconstruction (my favorite flavor thereof), tends to make a virtue of its own ineffability – again, something that has me swithering as to whether it's super profound or total guff – but “incredulity toward metanarratives” at least seems to capture a kernel of what it has to offer.

The question I am facing, as a Christian that loves deconstruction, is:

Can you be a Christian while maintaining your incredulity toward metanarratives?

Doesn't Christianity, at its very core, necessitate a belief in a metanarrative? If you believe in the salvific death of Jesus on the cross and the ultimate reconciliation of all creation with everloving God, isn't that by definition a metanarrative?

Well. Well. In answer, I have to point to the fact that deconstruction breaks its own rules. Derrida himself said that the one undeconstructible thing is justice. For all that its critics like to paint it as an anarchic free-for-all of wanton relativism, deconstruction is actually very moral. Justice is the peg on which it likes to hang its hat.

And maybe that is the child that calls out the Emperor's nudity, the proof that deconstruction ultimately succumbs to the very metanarrativization it claims to undo. Maybe this appeal to justice is the admission that all of deconstruction and postmodernism is illusory, pointless, a shiny and pretentious way of rephrasing the bleeding obvious.

All I can say for certain is that deconstruction is something that works for me personally at this point in my life – as a way of challenging my preconceptions, keeping me on my toes, critiquing all metanarratives up to and including the one metanarrative that really matters:

And God will delight when we are creators of justice and joy, compassion and peace!”

No comments:

Post a Comment