Postmodernism’s influence on Bahamian morality
There exists in the world today a growing, but prevalent philosophy that is called postmodernism, or deconstructionism in some circles. Its essence is that no text has any meaning in and of itself. A written text is innocent, neutral, weak, says nothing and means nothing. Words are encoded symbols. The only meaning that a particular text has is the meaning that the reader ascribes to it. A text means nothing until the words, the encoded symbols are decoded, and not even the author is the authority on the meaning of the text.
The original message and intent of the author are lost to the power, privilege and prerogative of the reader. What is important is what the text is saying to the reader. Interpretational power lies in the reader.
Now on the surface, this seems quite innocent, harmless and ridiculous to the point of being humorous. Actually, postmodernism eased its way into our thinking with popular catch phrases like “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” and “a picture paints a thousand words”.
Postmodernism is the outcry against the modern philosophers of the ‘Dark Ages’, the Reformation and the Age of Enlightenment. Postmodernism is the product of a culture that is forever changing, and not evolving, but devolving in its attempt to be intellectually, literarily, and philosophically relevant to each and every culture. Subsequently, it is also an outcry of current philosophers against reason, rationalism and authority.
From the fourth to the 17th century, belief in the scriptures was primary, honored and afforded highest preeminence. Reason, logic, rationalism were rejected, demonized and considered anti- God (interestingly, the ‘Cold War’ conflict between faith and reason continues yet unabated).
Scripture was seen as the final authority on all matters of faith and practice and was the final authority in areas like social sciences, philosophies and epistemology. Theology was considered the ‘queen of the sciences’. All knowledge was subjected to theology, and what was not addressed in scripture was “anathema”. Absolute truth and meaning were found in scripture and nowhere else!
Thus the modern attack raged against the philosophers and theologians of both the Reformation and Renaissance. But postmodernism’s attack was subtle, vicious, silent, but deadly. Postmodernism’s attack grew through subterfuge, echoing ever so loudly in the halls of learning across the entire academic world. But, most alarming, postmodernism raised its tentacles even in another area, which we will discuss later.
And so postmodernists called for resurgence in the ability of reason and science to comprehend the vicissitudes, and the mysteries of life. They called for a resurgence of the human mind as progressive and to position it as a final authority.
On the surface, this philosophy is seen as harmless, for if no text has any meaning other than what the one the reader or hearer ascribes to it, then one can imagine that you can take a text and make it say anything that you want it to say. A student for example, would always get an A for his interpretation of any text. After all, meaning is derived, found and given by the reader.
It reminds us of an old baseball story:
Says one umpire: “I called a strike as a see it”.
Says the other: “I call a strike as it is”.
The third umpire (closest to postmodernism) says: “It ain’t nothing till I call it”.
But the tenets of postmodernism are no game. It is an insidious, deadly misplaced authority of truth, because it destroys the value of, and the need for the acquisition of knowledge. For why should one study the sciences, the great literary works of Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Francis Schaeffer, Karl Marx, etc.? Why the need to study, or even write, poetry for that matter? Why, when meaning is in the ‘eye of the beholder’, the reader? Why, when a text says nothing and meaning is arbitrarily given by the reader?
Postmodernism is also sinister because it seeks to compromise truth. If meaning is found in the reader, then truth automatically becomes an entity that is relative to the reader, subject to his or her mood or attitude on any given day. If truth is relative, then it cannot be absolute. Do you see where I am going with this? Postmodernism destroys the existence of truth as it is found in any text. After all, truth, meaning, knowledge and reality are really residual in the prerogative of the reader. The text says nothing until the reader ascribes meaning to it. “It ain’t nothing till I call it”.
Finally, postmodernism is demonic. It subtly attacks the very core of Christianity. No text, absolutely none, says or means anything. That includes even the Word of God. Meaning is only given by the reader. This then destroys not only the veracity, but also the credibility and the authority of the Word of God. The scripture says nothing and means nothing. It comprises only words, encoded symbols waiting for a decoder. The Word of God has been reduced to being like the frog waiting for a kiss from a beautiful princess. Remember, that is the fundamental tenet of postmodernism in order to free the meaning contained therein. Its meanings are hidden, trapped, waiting on such a decoder. It is like a body created, but lifeless until breath is breathed into it by another. The ultimate aim and intent of postmodernism is to deconstruct and decimate authoritative structure. By undermining the credibility, relevance and authority of scripture, we then have no moral obligation, no moral codes, trending toward immoral living. After all, a written text means nothing. Meaning is in the mind of the reader.
As much as any well-meaning Christian or minister of the Gospel may despise postmodernism, it may shock us all to realize that this sinister theory exists, not just in America and Europe, but also right here in The Bahamas, and more alarmingly so, it exist in our churches. Its stealth existence has permeated even our tertiary halls of learning.
I daresay that postmodernism is alive right and inadvertently practiced even by the most godly of saints. Postmodernism’s attempt to undermine and destroy the relevance and authority of scriptures is practiced regularly, right in our Bible studies and prayer meetings. How, you ask? In the words: ‘What I think this scripture means to me, or to us is…’.
Post modernism lays the foundation for moral anarchy – every man does what is right in his own sight. This is a foundation for the crime, the panacea that envelops our land. Many of us, regardless of our rank and file, education and various statuses live a degree in postmodernism’s moral framework; and so we live with moral, financial, political and ecclesiastical impunity.
May we all examine the base core of our belief system, may we be taught from Parliament, from the ecclesiastical places, from the institutions of learning, to examine ourselves first; for service to others must begin with service to self.
– Dr. B