There is an extraordinary, disconcerting compulsion that appears to drive these postmodern Christians. While in pursuit of their goals there appears to be no damage to the PCUSA – massive departure of existing members, collapsing influx of new members, stress to mission relationships, loss of theological, intellectual and institutional credibility, among others – that they will not accept until their demands are fully met. No matter how many times the denomination rejected their demands, they continued in their quest. Now that the denomination has finally capitulated, we are told that the issues are settled, so let’s just quietly move on.
What continues to trouble me is that this latest battle over the radical destruction of boundaries will certainly not be the last. That is, whereas orthodox Christians assume that future generations will continue to value boundaries developed by Christian civilizations; postmodern Christians assume that their purpose is to continually dissolve boundaries. That is, to a postmodern Christian, their identity is entirely bound up by the destruction of theological, social, political and personal norms.
Recall from Postmodern Christianity: A Primer.
- “The Nietzschean sense of overcoming modernity is “to dissolve modernity through a radicalization of its own innate tendencies,” says Vattimo (Vattimo 1988, 166). These include the production of “the new” as a value and the drive for critical overcoming in the sense of appropriating foundations and origins.”
This idea is at the core of their identity because they have concluded that whatever actually exists in Western Civilization is either deeply flawed or outright evil. The only “good” exists in their shared vision of a superior, but non-existent future that must be pursued at all costs. My point isn’t to argue against the need for progress. It is to argue that “progress” as defined by this postmodern Christian elite may well be in practice the opposite.
This distortion of the church’s identity and purpose has been in play since the church began. Following is a particularly insightful discussion of this issue by Lynn Harold Hough (The Interpreter’s Bible, The Revelation of St. John the Divine):
Without being false to its own deepest meaning, the Christian church can never be the instrument of anything where the real source of compulsion is beyond the area of the inspiration which comes from the God whose face we see in the face of Jesus Christ. Instead of standing for social principles because they express the will of Jesus Christ, it is possible to maintain an interest in the Christian church because it can be used for the furtherance of social positions. The politically minded church is always in danger of being corrupted by the politics which so easily become a major rather than a secondary interest. This does not mean that the church must lose its interest in practical problems. It does mean that it must be constantly alive to the temptations which arise in connection with those immediate interests. The imperial cult is not always as far from us as we may think.
Yes indeed, comparing the enthusiasms and goals of the PCUSA’s leadership with those of the secular elite’s places them disturbingly close to this “imperial cult.”