*tapping the microphone* Testing … test … check … check.
Is this thing on?
Some of you know me, others do not. I speak to both. I am a relative newcomer to Theology Kung-fu; but, then again, it doesn’t appear to have existed very long either. So, there you are. Many thanks to the sensei for giving me posting and commenting privileges. Between this and a few other blogging responsibilities, I may never again attend to my own. The five people who read it will be crushed.
When I’m not finding other ways to avoid work, I have this week been writing a more substantive post, per the suggestion of our fair host. But right now, I want to toss out an idea. Something that I am not willing to defend to the hilt, because it is simply something that struck me today during a conversation. Indeed, because it seems so utterly obvious, I am convinced it is in no way original.
Namely, might we propose a direct link between the proliferation of evangelical forms of Christianity and postmodernity? By evangelical, I am going against the very core of my being, as Brannon and Michael may attest, and am not saying it with a sneer. Rather, I am simply using it as a sort of short-hand for what I regard as the contemporary manifestation of Pietism, whose most marked characteristics are that of individual faith, personal salvation, and the economic spirituality of I-and-thou. With its emphasis on ‘the heart’, as we have seen in other posts here, is not this brand of individualism another element in what Fredric Jameson referred to as postmodernism, qua the cultural logic of late-capitalism? In short, Jameson argues, postmodernity is best understood as being predicated on the structural necessity of plurality; that is to say, the plurality of genders, of identities, and indeed of individual manifestations of faith, of the myriad independent churches that fill the landscape of America’s suburbs. The cultural logic of late-capitalism, in other words, is about — consciously / intentionally or not — the production and consumption of all manner of socio-political commodities, whose consumption ultimately creates the need for its production and thus causes all manner of problems with regard to resource depletion and such . . . or, for Jameson, the heightened banality of culture, and thus its heightened susceptibility to particularly insidious forms of ideology.
This would explain, for me anyway, why so many postmodern theologians are perfectly happy to either give themselves over to either the evangelical or global capitalistic worlds. Is this, though, problematic? To what extent is it problematic, if it is at all, that Mark C. Taylor (for instance), former high priest of postmodernity, now celebrates the ‘complex’ indeterminacy of the free market, the vim and vigor of the so-called risk society? (He would, I realize, quibble with my characterization, but the substance of his resistance does not seem appropriate to what he actually says about the market itself.) Similarly, to what extent should John Caputo’s appropriation by the Emergent Church movement give us a second of pause — esp. in light of the fact that such a movement is linked very explicitly to new models of global finance?
Obviously, I am not assuming that everyone here is a political Leftist; nor am I suggesting that all of you go out and burn down a local Starbucks. However, one aspect of a contemporary Christian’s responsibility is to be attuned to culture, and thus, too, to economy and politics — that in which we participate and/or rage against. If that is the case, surely the complicity I’m suggesting would deserve more analysis than it has received. I, for one, find it interesting that where a new pope now rages against the straw man threat of relativism, popular evangelicalism has embraced the postmodernity that they rejected for so long as the quintessential form of relativism? I find it interesting, and I find it suggestive of evangelicalism’s latent political economy. (Cf., Gordon Bigelow’s article “Let there be Markets: The Evangelical Roots of Economics,” in the May 2005 edition of Harpers.)