Postmodernism may have originated in the province of academics and eggheads, but you will encounter it in your daily life, no matter who you are. Pick one of these nine areas to learn how you will see postmodernism affecting you and your children. Read about the postmodern position in their own words:
This piece is by Xenos Christian Fellowship and is part of their book The Death of Truth (Dennis McCallum, general editor) released by Bethany House. The Xenos site says “A highly readable critique of postmodern culture. This guide to the new shift in thinking in America draws from the expertise of nine scholars and communicators from different fields like counseling, education and religion”.
While I have not read the book ... the excerpts below are an excellent summary of how postmodernism affects us today, whether we know it or not...
In postmodern public education, teachers are no longer transmitters of information to children. Instead, teachers facilitate children as the children construct their own knowledge. Who are we to say that western science is better than the psychoenergetics (precognition, psychokinesis, remote viewing, etc.) of ancient Egypt?
So-called alternative medical techniques were considered pure superstition a short time ago. Not any more! Now, authors like Deepak Chopra and Dolores Krieger have brought Ayurvedic Medicine and Therapeutic Touch into mainstream hospitals and nursing schools with the help of postmodern rhetorical techniques.
Have you heard people claiming that Physics proves the whole world is interconnected? Have you heard people claim that quantum physics shows that the universe is not rational? Why are top rated movies like Jurassic Park and Dances With Wolves always attacking science and western culture?
The existence of therapists suggests that they want to seek a better state of affairs for their patients. But who determines what constitutes a "better" state of affairs? Isn't this a values judgment made by one (the therapist) for another (the patient)? It's not clear what the basis for such a judgment is, when reality is that which is constructed in the mind of the patient.
The new tolerance in religion means never questioning the propositions of another religious point of view. But wait! There's one exception. It's okay to censure any religion arrogant enough to think it knows the truth. These are the fundamentalists. They have to be stopped before they gain the upper hand and begin persecuting other religions again. The marginalized religions, those of non-western civilizations, must be given a voice.
We don't look for what happened in history any more. That will never be known, and besides, everyone's reality was different then, as now. No wonder we have today, Women's history, Gay and Lesbian History, Black History and Native American History. It's no exaggeration to say that in postmodern cultural history, each marginalized group had their own experience, their own reality. The goal of history is to give voice to the silenced, or marginalized minorities.
Law and Government
The Critical Legal Studies movement is increasingly influential. This radical reading of the law sees all law as political constructs designed to hold down the poor, women, minorities, or those of alternative sexual preference. They think judges cannot be "fair" in any objective sense, and are therefore really only engaging in the theater of justice while pursuing their own agenda.
Postmodernism and You: Education
Gary DeLashmutt and Roger Braund, Contributors
"African Americans, Asian Americans, Puerto Ricans/Latinos, and Native Americans have all been the victims of an intellectual and educational oppression that has characterized the culture and institutions of the United States and the European world for centuries."
This statement begins the report recently generated for the state of New York by a task force commissioned to revise their history curriculum. The report was entitled: "A Curriculum of Inclusion, Report of the Commissioner's Task Force on Minorities: Equity and Excellence."
The report goes on to say that
"[This] systematic bias toward Europe and its derivatives . . . [has had] a terribly damaging effect on the psyche of young people of African, Asian, Latino, and Native American descent . . . [this] European-American monocultural perspective . . . [explains why] large numbers of children of non-European descent are not doing as well as expected."
Statements like these are manifestations of postmodernism as it impacts public education.
Key Postmodern Educational Concepts
A key word to learn when trying to understand postmodern education is constructivism. Constructivism is the main underlying learning theory in postmodern education. The basic idea is that all knowledge is invented or "constructed" in the minds of people. Knowledge is not discovered as modernists would claim. In other words, the ideas teachers teach and students learn do not correspond to "Reality," they are merely human constructions. Knowledge, ideas and language are created by people, not because they are "true," but rather because they are useful.
Reality is a story. All reality exists, not objectively--out there--but in the mind of those who perceive it. Nobody's version of reality can claim to have more objective authority because all versions are merely human creations.
No, we're not kidding.
The implications of this view of knowledge are staggering, as Ruth Zuzovsky points out:
"Another major feature of this tentative, relativist, and instrumentalist [pragmatic] concept of knowledge is the equal worth of knowledge constructed by the learner, the teachers, or the scientists." [emphasis ours]
If no one's knowledge is necessarily true, everything changes. Now the question of what counts as "knowledge" to be taught in the schools is not a matter of objective evidence or arguments, but rather a matter of power. Those who have the power can make sure their constructs are the ones that dominate the curriculum, while other opposing viewpoints are at least partially suppressed, ignored or "marginalized."
Since the focus of the classroom, in postmodern education, becomes the student's construction of knowledge, they shift away from a teacher-centered classroom to a more student-centered environment. Grayson Wheatley explains,
"Rather than identifying the set of skills [and knowledge] to be gotten in children's heads, attention shifts to establishing learning environments conducive to children constructing their mathematics and science in social settings."
A student-centered classroom in this context is likely to have minimal structure. It usually involves opportunities for social interaction, independent investigations and study, and the expression of creativity, as well as provision for different learning styles. There, students create knowledge, and are no longer forced to bow to the subjugation of traditional objective "knowledge." As Everhard explains,
"School knowledge disables to the extent that it silences students, usurps their minds or at least demands acquiescence . . .[such knowledge] usually places boundaries between emotion and knowledge; students do not control knowledge, but rather 'must write their student roles and scenarios in conformity to the teacher's master script.'"
So, Selase Williams, and others argue that AAL (African American Language) is a regular language like Spanish or Japanese. He shows that statements like, "Shanita bin pass dat tes," means "Shanita passed that test a long time ago." The difference, he argues is that AAL arises from an African linguistic base. Therefore, inner city kids should be taught in AAL as their mother tongue, with English as a second language. ("Classroom Use of African American Language: Educational Tool or Social Weapon?" in Christine E. Sleeter, Ed. Empowerment Through Multicultural Education, p. 205-207) Anything less would be sheer exploitation.
Likewise, Glasersfel explains that in other areas of knowledge,
"The teacher would come to realize that what he or she presents as a 'problem' may be seen differently by the student. Consequently, the student may produce a sensible solution that makes no sense to the teacher. To be then told that it is wrong is unhelpful and inhibiting . . . because it disregards the effort the student put in."
Here, then, we see postmodern relativism at work in a menacing fashion. Children not taught right from wrong, even in areas like science and social studies. Will their employers be so tolerant?
Teachers in Postmodern Education
At least under postmodern theory we aren't guilty of an even worse crime according to postmodern scholar, Johnella Butler, who warns that "the colonization of minds is characteristic of American education."
In other words, when dominant culture calls on minorities to speak classroom English, do math, history and science the white man's way, they have acted in the old colonial role, just like earlier Europeans who believed it was their responsibility to colonize non-white cultures and lands, imposing European standards, dress, religion and language on those cultures.
Okay, so they don't want to impose the teacher's "reality" on students, why go to school? Actually, they have a definite set of values they hope to inculcate:
· striving for diversity-- guarding, unchanged, the existing values, tastes and way of life of each subculture in our society.
· equality--In postmodern ideology, equality means equal in terms of power relationships
· tolerance and freedom--tolerance has a new meaning: roughly, never negating or criticizing oppressed groups. Freedom for cultures and communities to express themselves
· the importance of creativity--Creativity is clearly allied to the postmodern emphases on the construction of knowledge and diversity. Stimulating and affirming creativity in students is important in constructing knowledge and values, particularly, if diverse viewpoints are to be encouraged
· the importance of emotions-- Affirmation of emotions follows along with the importance they place on self-esteem. They believe that any time children's emotions are challenged (even hate or selfish jealousy) the child is being disabled by having the teacher's reality imposed on her
· the importance of intuition--intuition gains in importance, because rational thought has lost its authority as a means for dealing with ideas. Modernists tend to suppress intuition and feelings, according to postmodernists, even though they are just as legitimate and perhaps even more important than rational, conceptual (or "linear") thought
The Rest of the Story
From this description it should be clear that postmodern educational theory is a radical departure from what we are used to in education. In The Death of Truth, you can see all these and many other points in postmodern educational theory, all backed up with material from the leaders of this movement in their own words. Also read our book to discover:
· How much progress have postmodernists made in public education?
· What is the prognosis?
· How would their agenda stack up to the biblical world view?
· What are the good parts in postmodern theory?
Postmodernism and You: Health Care
Donal O'Mathuna, Ph.D., Contributor
Medicine and health care are perfect examples of how we may be affected by the new postmodern thinking, even when we have no involvement with the technical side of the philosophy itself.
Health care today is increasingly including what practitioners call "alternative medicine." These therapies are known variously as alternative medicines, fringe medicine, New Age healing, or nonlocal medicine. For the purpose of clarity, we will use the term "alternative medicine" in this chapter. This is a good term because the National Institutes of Health recently formed the Office of Alternative Medicine to investigate these therapies.
Two of the most popular schools of alternative medicine are Therapeutic Touch and Ayurvedic Medicine. Both draw their views from the same two sources: Eastern mystical religion and postmodernism.
Also See Section on Alternative Medicine
Ayurveda is the traditional medicine of India. The word literally means "science of life," but there is a deeper spiritual basis for the practice. The best-known proponent of Ayurvedic Medicine in the United States is Deepak Chopra, MD. He is the author of numerous books on this subject, including the best-sellers, Quantum Healing, Perfect Health, and Ageless Body, Timeless Mind. These have been translated into 25 languages. Chopra practiced modern Western medicine until returning to India to learn Ayurveda from Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who introduced Transcendental Meditation to the West. Maharishi has bestowed Chopra with the title, "Dhanvantari (Lord of Immortality), the keeper of perfect health for the world."
According to his view, the basic substance of our bodies is not matter, but energy and information. This life energy, or Prana, is nonphysical and flows through everyone, animating and sustaining us. True health results from a balanced flow of this energy through the body. Imbalances in the flow lead to physical symptoms which we recognize as illness, aging and death.
[IPS Note: And yet Chopra’s book 7 Spiritual Laws of Success has been endorsed by none other than Ken Blanchard, who Rick Warren welcomed on board to teach Christians how to grow the church. Not only does Blanchard have close connections with the occult, but his knowledge of Jesus seems to be pretty paltry. See Rick Warren’s Strange Bedfellows and Ken Blanchard ].
While Ayurveda gains popularity in the general population, Therapeutic Touch is popular in the nursing profession. It is currently taught in over 80 colleges and universities in the United States, and in more than 70 other countries, especially in schools of nursing. The National League for Nursing accredits nursing colleges in the United States and has endorsed Therapeutic Touch.
Therapeutic Touch also focuses on the energy field around human bodies, again called Prana. Also like Ayurvedic Medicine, these practitioners focus on balancing the flow of one's Prana in order to heal.
The doctrine for both these popular forms of alternative medicine come from the same source--Hinduism. Why, then, are we discussing them in the context of a book on postmodernism?
[See More about Ayurveda]
Alternative Medicine and Postmodernism
Postmodernism is not the source for alternative medical ideas, but it is the Trojan Horse that has brought primitive outlooks like alternative medicine to prominence and acceptability on campuses today.
Modern scientists have known the views behind alternative medicine for a long time. But these views have been rejected for some very good scientific reasons. Most important, as we shall see, proponents of alternative medicine cannot demonstrate that it works. However, in the postmodern environment at most of our academic institutions, theories like those used in alternative medicine cannot be critiqued freely.
Postmodernism denies many of the ways by which a world view, or a medical therapy, can be assessed and judged. Therefore bogus research may carry as much weight as properly structured and controlled research, especially if it derives its content from one of the oppressed non-western cultures, like that of India.
Almost anything can gain credibility, once scientific methodology is declared nothing more than a cultural bias--namely, that of western Europe. But the consequences of this shift may be serious, including dangerous long-term effects on people's health.
How Postmodernism Supports Alternative Medicine
Postmodernists argue that reality is not as rigid as we once thought. They claim that the idea of objective reality is a metaphor to help us communicate. Such a view of reality is compatible with alternative medicine in a way modernism never was. In short, alternative medical apologists use three standard postmodern directions of argument:
They cast doubt on the findings of traditional biochemical medicine, arguing that it is merely an outgrowth of a western (modernist) mentality which is materialistic, male dominated and cold.
They argue that alternative medicine is the product of the "marginalized" or oppressed minority culture in the west. They claim that criticisms of alternative medicine are nothing but power posturing by the medical establishment, who endeavor to preserve their control of medicine.
They seek to replace objective, rational experimental data as the basis for accepting the value of a therapy with a new basis: personal experience. [See Section on Alternative Medicine]
Case in Point: The University of Colorado
A recent investigation into the teaching of Therapeutic Touch at the University of Colorado provides a good example of postmodern debating tactics.
A group of citizens in Colorado questioned the teaching of Therapeutic Touch at the University of Colorado's Center of Human Caring. They complained that tax moneys should not be spent teaching a technique which was based, not in science, but in New Age religion. The University convened a panel of faculty from both that university and elsewhere to examine the scientific evidence for Therapeutic Touch. The peer review panel concluded that "there is not a sufficient body of data, both in quality and quantity, to establish TT as a unique and efficacious healing modality." They recommended the practice not be taught for another 20 years until sufficient evidence had been established to validate it.
The response to this report was very postmodern. According to one of the critics of Therapeutic Touch, the Center's Watson and Quinn viewed the finding "as male-dominated medical imperialism against female-dominated nursing." In their view, the evidence was not as important as the ones interpreting it. As support, Watson claimed, "We would like to imagine our whole lives are rational and science-based, but only 15% of medical interventions are supported by solid scientific evidence." In the end, the University has allowed Watson's Center to continue teaching Therapeutic Touch on the basis of academic freedom.
Postmodernism poses threats to people's thinking in a number of areas. But in health care, it also poses a threat to their bodies. Instead of receiving treatments that actually work, those who place their hope in postmodern-defended alternative medicine can easily end up failing to treat serious conditions. Meanwhile, students in medical and nursing schools nationwide are being urged, or even required to tamper with the occult in the name of alternative medicine. None of this would have been possible without the postmodern shift in thinking.
The Rest of the Story
Read The Death of Truth, where you will learn:
· about the documentation for the whole alternative medical movement, including their explanations in their own words.
· about the shortcomings of the supposedly huge body of experimental and clinical data supporting alternative medical theories. In fact, outside review has discredited all their work.
· how the apologists for alternative medicines use postmodern rhetorical ploys to divert scientific criticism of their questionable techniques.
· how the Bible views these practices.
Postmodernism and You: Science
Lee Campbell, Ph.D., Contributor
Science has been under unprecedented attack with the rise of postmodernism. Both in academic circles and in popular culture, we see today a contempt for the sciences that many find hard to understand. Science is viewed as the vanguard of European exploitation, a discipline run amok, the instigators of nuclear and other weapons systems, the handmaiden of big business, and as the defilers of nature.
The movie, Jurassic Park was a perfect example of the criticism of science as well as the use of quantum physics and higher math to support mystical views of reality. Others see science, not as the culprit, but as the victim. They hold that science has been corrupted by westerners to make it fit their rationalistic, "linear" form of reasoning rather than seeing that science really supports mystical religious views.
Modernism and Science
Although the founders of science were Christians, religion has been the traditional enemy of modernist science. Indeed, right up to the present, Christians have often cried foul at the arrogance of modernity. For instance, in a current general biology text the authors, through inept philosophizing, equate modernism with rationality and any other view with irrationality.
"Darwin knew that accepting his theory required believing in philosophical materialism, the conviction that matter is the stuff of all existence and that all mental and spiritual phenomenon are its by- products . . . In Darwin's world we are not helpless prisoners of a static world order but, rather, masters of our own fate . . . And from a strictly scientific point of view rejecting biological evolution is no different from rejecting other natural phenomenon such as electricity and gravity. (emphasis mine)"
This extreme modernist position is all too typical of the arrogance which has earned the ire of postmodernists along with many others in society today, including Christians. To them, anyone who refuses atheistic materialism is so ignorant, they might as well deny gravity! Never mind the implicit claim to omniscience that allows this human to know that nowhere in the universe could the supernatural exist.
Also See Section on Atheism
Today two groups of critics have made common cause in their attacks on traditional science: Secular postmodernists and eastern mystics.
Secular Postmodern Criticism
When postmodernists criticize the sciences, they often include the influential work of science historian, Thomas Kuhn. Kuhn is critical of what he sees as modernist misrepresentation of the nature of science. Modernist definitions of science claim that science is objective because it is empirical (based only on the data of our senses), rational (reasonable, or logically defensible) and that its presuppositions are obviously true. Kuhn claims science is a social enterprise and as such is also quite subjective. He argues that, "every individual choice between competing theories depends on a mixture of objective and subjective factors."
Kuhn applied the word 'paradigm' to the beliefs and methods used by a community of scientists at any point in time. Paul Feyerabend, a prominent and more radical postmodern theorist, uses the same word. He argues that, before scientists operating in one paradigm can change their minds to another paradigm, they have to undergo an irrational conversion experience in their thinking. He claims that, because the meaning of the words used in the first paradigm cannot be translated into the language of the second, the paradigms are "incommensurable" (e.g., cannot be related to each other). And, since these theories are incommensurable, we cannot say that one more exactly describes objective reality than the other.
"We certainly cannot assume that two incommensurable theories deal with one and the same objective state of affairs (to make the assumption we would have to assume that both at least refer to the same objective situation. But how can we assert that 'they both' refer to the same situation when 'they both' never make sense together? . . .) Hence, unless we want to assume that they deal with nothing at all we must admit that they deal with different [conceptual] worlds and that the change (from one world to another) has been brought about by a switch from one theory to another."
We can group postmodern criticisms of science into four charges:
1. All observations are subjective, including those by scientists. Therefore scientific conclusions are not objective
2. Although scientists claim to be guided by rationality, the critics argue that rationality itself is guided along the lines of dominant theories that are social fabrications.
3. The rules of logic are nothing but socially prescribed ways of thinking
4. The presuppositions of science are only obviously true to people from our western culture.
In The Death of Truth, we examine each of these charges in turn. Here, we only have space to consider one choice comment by postmodern critic, Feyerabend that gives the feel for the postmodern view:
"The rise of modern science coincides with the suppression of non-Western tribes by Western invaders. The tribes are not only physically suppressed, they also lose their intellectual independence and are forced to adopt the bloodthirsty religion of brotherly love--Christianity . . . Today this development is gradually reversed . . . But science still reigns supreme . . . Thus, while an American can now choose the religion he likes, he is still not permitted to demand that his children learn magic rather than science at school . . . And yet science has no greater authority than any other form of life."
Mystical Critics: Fritjof Capra and Friend
The relationship between mysticism and postmodernism is a complicated one, which we cannot consider in depth here. Suffice it to say their assumptions overlap at key points (such as their rejection of reason and their critique of western culture) which leads to an alliance of ideologies. Mystics have often tried to claim that science has been distorted. Also See Section Mysticism in The Church
Mathematician Rudy Rucker, a mystic, explains:
"The Irish philosopher George Berkeley (1685-1753) advocated an idealistic philosophy called immaterialism . . . It is surprising to learn that such a seemingly perverse world view is embraced by modern physicists . . . I propose that we stop trying to explain our mental experiences in terms of invisibly tiny objects arranged in patterns in 3-D space. Instead let us take our actual thoughts and sensations as the truly fundamental entities."
Once we accept the 'evidence' for monism (the belief that all things are one), the source of authority rapidly changes to nothing more than personal experience. Renee Weber, a postmodern philosopher, agrees, and takes the argument one step further:
"Unlike science, which turns to the world outside the seeker, mysticism turns within, to the laws that govern the seeker himself. Science is outer empiricism, mysticism is inner empiricism . . . for the mystic the inner and outer are reconciled through the hermetic dictum: 'As above, so below...' Both scientist and sage are transformers of energy, involved in the dance of Shiva. The scientist makes the dense matter dance to produce pure energy, the mystic - master of subtle matter - dances the dance of himself . . . In the very act of interpreting the universe, we are creating the universe . . . as we dialogue [the cosmos changes] . . . its idea of itself . . . It assigns a role to man that was once reserved for the gods."
Mystical arguments are often based on quantum physics, following the line of the very popular book, The Tao of Physics, by Fritjof Capra. In that book he argues:
· Complementarity (quantum physics) shows that reality is composed of contradictory truths.
· Indeterminacy and Action at a distance (quantum physics) teach that the diverse particulars in reality are highly integrated, or connected to each other (thus supporting the eastern notion that everything is part of one essence, called monism).
· The "stuff" of which the universe is made is not matter but energy.
· All three quantum observations support the notion that reality is brought into existence and maintained by the action of consciousness.
In The Death of Truth, we examine each of these claims and the reasons for them in laymen's terms.
The Rest of the Story
In The Death of Truth we also cover:
· Actual statements from prominent postmodernists fully revealing their view
· Examination of the research they claim supports their view
· A critical rejoinder
· Detailed explanation and refutation of mystical interpretations
Postmodernism and You: Psychology
Jim Fidelibus, Ph.D.
Many Realities, Many Minds
All kinds of diverse people appear in the case load of a general-practice psychologist or psychotherapist. Each patient holds a set of assumptions about life, morality and relationships which is supported by a particular cultural context, and each set of assumptions is, to some extent, incompatible with the others. New-age consciousness, evangelical Christianity and secular atheism are not easily reconciled. They could be viewed, in a sense, as separate "realities." Yet each of these patients seek assistance from the same professional.
This is why many therapists view their offices as crucibles of multiple "realities." Therapists learn to enter into, and operate within, the assumptions each of these realities in attempting to be helpful. To some extent, therapists' professional livelihood depends on their ability to serially switch channels from one patient's reality to another as a typical work-day unfolds. Operating within these diverse realities--and regarding each as valid within its own frame of reference--is all within a day's work for today's therapist. Consequently, therapists are taught how to suspend their own view, and be of "many minds."
To be of many minds means to make room within oneself for diverse ways of thinking in an effort to relate to each. It means to regard truth as plural and relative, rather than singular and absolute. Contemporary therapists would say that what is "true" for me in my cultural context may not be what is "true" for you in yours. To be of many minds is to regard each individual's "reality" as valid within its own context and on equal footing with all other "realities."
Being of "many minds" is the postmodern mind set. Postmodernism is made for contemporary times. By radically relativizing the concept of truth, it argues for the presence of multiple culturally-determined realities, all of equal validity.
This price we pay for such an outlook can easily become intolerable. Postmodernism creates a world-view which is ultimately untenable and unlivable. From a psychological perspective, when lived-out consistently, it fragments the individual's sense of personal identity and promotes a sense of isolation.
Postmodernism and Psychology
For the reasons covered above, therapists today are increasingly concluding that effective helping is culture-bound. The very strategy that works within one cultural context may make no sense in another. They argue that:
· Communication and language patterns are bound with the structure of power within the family system
· Pathology doesn't reside within the "identified patient," but within the interactional patterns of the family
· The "identified patient" merely bears the symptoms of dysfunctional family communication patterns
· Symptoms are a form of language (i.e. metaphors)
In each of these assumptions, the centrality of language betrays the influence of postmodernism. The use of language defines and identities of those in charge as well as those who are "sick." It constructs the "reality" of each individual as it's defined within the family "culture."
Postmodern-influenced therapies often use language maneuvers to effect change because of their belief that reality is a language construct. A clear example is paradoxical intervention in which the therapist prescribes the symptom--an approach we discuss in some detail in The Death of Truth. [This approach is articulated by, among others, by Jay Haley Problem Solving Therapy, (New York: Harper & Row, 1976)].
Modern Vs. Postmodern Therapies
Differing views of reality are nothing new to psychotherapy. Modern counseling approaches in psychology have long assumed, as postmodernists do, that the ways patients see themselves aren't objectively true. This is a central belief in the schools of cognitive and cognitive-behavioral therapy. However, they further assume, unlike postmodernists, that the patient will become well by developing a more objective--or truer--self-appraisal through the process of therapy. The therapist's job is to guide the patient into areas where important information and experiences have been left-out or misunderstood. Modern cognitive-behavioral therapists help patients move from an inaccurate to a more accurate view of self based on objective evidence.
In postmodern versions of therapy, however, things are different. First, as we have seen, people's lives are considered "texts" in the sense that they are narratives. To postmodernists, we each "live in story," therapists included. They argue that, to assume that the therapist's construction of reality (or narrative) is superior to, or truer than, the patient's, is arrogant. According to postmodernism, the therapist's views are just as culture-bound as the patient's, and therefore the therapist can claim no interpretation superior to the patient's. The therapist never tries to "correct" the patient's narrative by comparing it to any standard of "truth." Rather, the postmodern therapist seeks to disrupt the client's personal narrative by switching the frame-of-reference. He seeks to change meanings, and refers to "marginalized subtexts" or alternative interpretations. [For an important early work in this field, see Jacques Lacan, The Language of the Self, (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1968)]
Postmodern Loss of Identity
Those of us who are postmodernists feel compelled to act without a foundation in truth. When this is the case, we are in a position of not really knowing why we do what we do, or why we believe what we believe. It's all a matter of where, and with whom, we happen to be at the moment. Consequently, we lose a sense of who we are--we lose a sense of identity--in a world of equally valid, but dissonant, alternatives.
One way to reduce the dissonance is to surrender to the culture of the moment--to exchange a consistent self-identity for shifting cultural identity. Thus, coasting through the ebb-and-flow of social change, we yield an independent "I" for an ever-changing "we." This is the direction postmodernists would have us take, as Cregen explains.
Also See ‘Why Christianity’ on THIS Page
Postmodern psychology argues for the erasure of the category of self. No longer can one securely determine what it is to be a specific kind of person--male or female--or even a person at all. As the category of the individual person fades from view, consciousness of social construction becomes focal. We realize increasingly that who and what we are is not so much the result of our "personal essence" (real feelings, deep beliefs, and the like), but of how we are constructed in various social groups.
Postmodern Loss of Identity is Not Self-sacrifice
Do not, however, confuse the postmodern de-emphasis on self as equivalent to a self-sacrificing attitude. Postmodernism doesn't account for self-sacrifice as anything more than a metaphor--a way of communicating. True self-sacrifice is a distinctively biblical concept. While substituting "We" for "I" might seem to self-giving, it can easily produce as much harm as good.
The loss of self-identity has been associated with some of the most unsettling findings in the entire psychology research literature. The loss of self-identity isn't only frightening. It can be tragic. We need to think back no further than Waco or Guyana to see the devastation that can result from the surrender of self-identity to a culture.
Loss of personal identity and truth may lead to some devastating problems:
· Loss of Individual Freedom - Cultural determinism led to the definition of Jews as non-persons, resulting in their near extermination in Europe. Cultural determinism has led to the definition of the unborn as non-persons, resulting in their destruction by the millions. When society is left to determine who counts, anything is possible.
· Danger to Mental Health - With the loss of self, or identity, culture is given enormous power. If I cannot stand apart from my culture, then I am completely controlled by it. Whether I can feel good about myself, and whether I really matter at all, is determined by society and those who run it.
· Mental Illness An Illusion - If there is no self apart from a social construction, then mental illness is an illusion. Dysfunction must be seen exclusively in the social environment. While this is often the case, this way of thinking can also contribute to a radical sense of victimization in which emotional problems are too easily interpreted as purely the result of past abuse. Such theories ignore the individual's response to abuse.
· Psychology As An Instrument Of Social Control - Not long ago in the Soviet Union, psychology became the tool of choice for waging war against those who would not conform to the totalitarian standards of the state. From the time of Breshnev on, the Soviets often preferred to put dissidents into psychiatric wards rather than into Gulags. Without the applications of objective diagnostic standards, it could well be that anyone who fails to conform to the status quo (who perhaps is too "intolerant" or "fundamentalist") may be considered insane.
Postmodernism is a stealth-destroyer. It may seem open-minded and comfortably tolerant on the surface, but with its denial of the individual and its fascination with power, the makings of manipulation are all present. People may not recognize its danger until it's too late.
The Rest of the Story
In The Death of Truth you will see:
· Examples of specific postmodern therapeutic strategies
· The thinking of key postmodern thinkers in their own words
· How biblical Christians should respond to the postmodern shift in the field of psychotherapy
Postmodernism and You: Religion
Jim Leffel and Dennis McCallum, contributors
Religion has sustained over a century of attack from modernists. Yet, people today are as interested in spiritual things as ever. Recently, sociologists have shown that 95% of adults believe in God or a Universal Spirit. Books on angels, near death experiences, New Age, Christianity and the occult top the best seller lists. While people are still interested in spiritual things today, the kind of spirituality commanding interest has changed vastly in recent years.
Today spirituality means mystical experience, not truth. We can seek and savor any experience we please, as long as we remain inclusive and tolerant.
The Two Cardinal Sins of Postmodern Religious Culture
Sin #1. Intolerance
Not too long ago, intolerance meant rejecting or even persecuting practitioners of other religions. Not any more. Now, intolerance means questioning the validity of any aspect of another's religion. To the majority of Americans below fifty today, questioning the truthfulness of another's religious views is intolerant and morally offensive. This prohibition against differing with other's viewpoints is postmodern.
See The Gospel.. A Hate Crime.. Welcome to the 21st Century
Strangely, it turns out that one exception is allowed to this universal prohibition against intolerance. For some reason, it's okay to question and even denounce religious views when dealing with what is pejoratively labeled "fundamentalism." Today, when people refer to "fundamentalists" they no longer mean just religious extremists like the Shiites waging holy war against the West. Today, fundamentalism may refer to anyone who claims to know truth or who charges another religion with falsehood. Fundamentalists are in the wrong because they subscribe to universal truth claims (metanarratives), and are therefore "totalistic," or "logocentric," in their thinking.
Sin #2. Objectivity
Postmodernists argue that modernists use reason to exclude people. When people apply reason to religion, before long, someone's reality is being branded "false." This is not inclusive, and it is also harsh and naive, because:
· First, questioning another's beliefs implies that we can refer to an external objective reality, when in fact, reality is a social construct. By trying to apply rationality to religion, we are really trying to impose enlightenment European culture onto others.
· Also, by challenging the truth claims of another's religion, we devalue the person who is the source of his or her own truth.
Thus, under the banner of inclusiveness postmodern thinkers actually include all but one group-- those of us who are committed to biblical authority. According to postmodernists, fundamentalists are those who believe religious teachings are true or false, not just within their own paradigm, but over all paradigms. "Fundamentalists" view religious truth as objectively true, and therefore subject to rational scrutiny. Evangelicals certainly fall within this circle because we believe that if something is true, its opposite cannot be true at the same time, regardless of what paradigm a person holds.
Postmodernism and Eastern Mysticism
Borrowing or Coincidence?
Observers of religion are aware of an intrinsic relativism in eastern mystical traditions such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism. As Monistic faiths, these religions teach that everything is part of one essence. All these traditions not only reject reason as tool for discovering truth, they even utilize contradiction on the rational level to drive learners to a deeper or higher plane of understanding. For instance, Buddhism describes the Tao as the sound of one hand clapping. The Hindu Brahman is "always and never." Such paradoxical thinking, with its rejection of rationality, is naturally compatible with postmodernism.
Also, neither eastern religion nor postmodernism accept the reality of the world we observe in an objective sense. In Hinduism, the material world is Maya, which means illusion. What seems real to us (the material world) is an illusion. We have already seen how postmodernism holds that reality is a social construct.
Although it is tempting to think these two outlooks have borrowed, one from the other, this is apparently not the case. Instead, they are compatible outlooks which have made common cause in popular culture, often blended with native spiritualities and New Age consciousness. Remember, tribal nature religions also make no use of reason in their paths to knowledge of the world. These religions rely on tradition and intuition for know spiritual things, none of which can be tested in any way by reason.
Other contemporary movements have proven to be compatible with postmodernism as well. Some aspects of the recovery movement are strongly suggestive of postmodern thought.
What do we suggest when we urge group members to give themselves to "God as you understand him" or to their "higher power?" Ultimately such vague and subjective formulas suggest that the content of belief is irrelevant. A higher power could be the God of the Bible, but it could also be anything from the recovery group itself (which is often encouraged) to a New Age concept of "the god within" to the gods of Buddhism. [AA's cofounder, Bill W., states, " . . .the designation 'God' [does not] refer to a particular being, force or concept, but only to 'God' as each of us understands that term." AlAnon's Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, (New York: Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, 1981) p. ix. Alcoholics Anonymous doctrine also teaches explicitly that the support group can act as one's "higher power." See Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, p. 25.]
People might have a religious experience with such a higher power, but one thing is discounted: The importance of propositional truth. Or, to put it differently, postmodern worshipers are like postmodern readers; they are the source of truth, not the discoverers of truth.
The literature of the recovery movement teaches that it is inappropriate to question another person's higher power, because recovery is tied to their belief in the power of the God of their understanding. When you think about it, Twelve Step spirituality is distinctly postmodern in the way personal interpretation or experience and personal empowerment are substituted for truth about God.
Consciousness and Reality
Postmodern thought also dovetails neatly another feature of New Age Consciousness: The way consciousness can create or alter reality. In New Age religion, mental imaging can create new realities, not unlike the way affirmative postmodernists hope to create new realities. Although New Age thinkers have not thus far demonstrated the fascination with political power seen in postmodern circles, they also favor oppressed tribal peoples as more pure than western culture. [See Section on The New Age]
Experience and Authority in Religion
Of the several religious leaders we profile in The Death of Truth, most explicitly say that personal experience is the key to understanding religion. Most also call for dissociation as a preface to the religious experience. Dissociation is the loss of conscious awareness of the real world. Specifically, postmodern religionists call for people to leave all rational categories behind before ascending to the godhead. Thus, they see one thing as the supreme barrier to deep religion: Reason, and its handmaiden, truth.
Whether it's Joseph Campbell, John Bradshaw or Fredrick Turner, all agree that we must first take leave of our senses before trying to know spiritual things. How similar they are to some calls within the evangelical church!
The Rest of the Story
In The Death of Truth, our chapters on Religion and Evangelical Imperatives, and Practical Communication Ideas cover:
· How specific leading postmodern religionists think in their own words
· How postmodernism has also crept into the evangelical church
· Practical ways we can communicate with our postmodern culture without losing our grip on truth
Also See Pluralism
(All Paths.. One Destination? )
Claiming that it is intolerant to say that "all paths do not lead to the same destination" misses the point. The important issue is the truth or falsity of this assertion. It is tragically true that few of those who believe 'all spiritual beliefs are valid paths to God" seem to have made an in depth study of various religions to see if their claims are based on fact, or fairy dust. This simply because many, if not most, people seem to believe that religion is a matter of what you believe, and 'faith' has nothing to do with reality. Whether you have thought about it or not, whether you are willing to face it or not, the simple fact is... if two religions make truth-claims which contradict each other, they cannot both be right. As one example among many, when one religion says there is no God, another claims there is only one God, and others say there are many gods ... someone doesn't have their facts straight and that means they cannot be trusted to show you the path to God. Whether we realize it or not, we literally make dozens of decisions every day, based on evidence and facts, not feelings. Why are we not doing the same with religion?
Postmodernism and You: History
Tom Dixon, Contributor
There are few events as historically well-documented as the Holocaust. The twentieth-century slaughter of six million Jews by the Nazis left behind a churning wake of historical evidence, and the waves created by the dark ship's passing can still be felt fifty years later. We can still inspect the camps, the gas chambers, and warehouses full of documentation, and many who were directly involved in the gruesome events remain to tell of it. Such are the kind of sources and documentation historians dream of: a vast number of eyewitnesses whose accounts are in agreement, and a whole corpus of virtually harmonious evidence. Historically speaking, it doesn't get any better than that.
In the last few years, however, thousands of people have bought into the remarkable suggestion that the Holocaust was a grand hoax. Most historians have brushed aside this theory as ridiculous, thinking that if the Holocaust is not historically proven, probably nothing else is. But surprisingly, the idea has established a firm foothold in the nation's universities and news rooms, and a Gallup poll conducted in January of 1994 showed that 33 percent of Americans think it seems possible that the holocaust never happened.
"Holocaust denial is only the most spectacular example of a broader assault on knowledge, facts and memory that is sweeping through the culture," writes John Leo in U.S. News and World Report. He lists several other unfounded ideas that have gained a following, such as the supposedly strong influence of Iroquois thought on the U.S. Constitution.
Some people are convinced the truth about their own history has been deliberately hidden. An HBO-Pepsi poster promoting Black History Month features a picture of the pyramids and the words, "We are the builders of the pyramids, look what you did . . . so much to tell the world, the truth no longer hid."
The Changing Face of Historical Research
The Holocaust did, unfortunately, occur. But increasingly among students of history and even in popular culture, the facts of history are becoming more flexible and can be bent to accommodate almost any argument. One historian remarked that he preferred a cloud of "great vague ideas" to the dust of "true little facts." History, long held as an objective field of study like chemistry or physics, is now considered an ever-changing inquiry into the subjective viewpoints of past cultures.
Scholars used to view 'history' as the investigation into what actually happened in the past and why. Today's postmodern historians view history more as a study of people's images and thoughts about their society and their past. What actually happened is no longer the historian's primary concern, and in fact, can never be known. Instead, what matters is what people thought happened.
Such a trend is frightening, especially for Christians, whose faith is based on God's character of love and mercy as proven in his actions in history. God repeatedly reveals himself, not as primarily the God of inner impressions or even as the God of nature, but as the God of history. "For the Lord our God is He who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage . . ." (Joshua 24:17) and "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." (Exodus 3:6) Paul stresses that the historical resurrection is the lynch-pin of the Christian gospel, without which there is no Christianity. (1 Corinthians 15:17) No one has as much to lose from the postmodern approach to history as Bible-believing Christians.
The Rise of Social History
History departments have changed this century under the influence of two schools of historical research. The schools were Marxist history and the Annales School of historical research. Both tried to interpret the flow of history by looking at things other than the traditional forces associated with historical change-- politics, war, economics and intellectual history. The new form of historical study saw history as being moved by forces beneath the surface, including class struggle. Historians called the fusion of these schools "social history."
By the late 1970's, history departments across the nation and Europe which had long focused solely upon political and church history, had fragmented into a plethora of interests. Major schools began to offer black history, urban history, labor history, the history of women, criminality, sexuality, the oppressed, the inarticulate, and so on. Entire new departments were founded for Black Studies, Women's Studies, Hispanic Studies, etc. Much of what these departments taught was in the category that used to be known as history.
For example, studies of women and their roles in past societies appeared. These studies often argued that the key to understanding history is to realize that women have been historical victims of an enduring patriarchal regime. Thus, the struggle between women and their male oppressors is analogous to the struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie in Marxism. Careful observers will find much truth in these studies, even when not reaching the same conclusions when it comes to the big picture. The important point for us in this survey, is that feminist and other types of social historical studies constitute a completely new way to approach the study of history.
Social history, with its emphasis on the more common aspects of human experience down through the ages, has been described as "history from below." Instead of studies on the lives, for instance, of great political rulers or military campaigns, Social Historians focus on things like marriage, working conditions, and social organizations. Studies on these common areas of life increasingly appeared in historical journals. Between 1958 and 1978, the number of doctoral degrees in social history quadrupled and surpassed the number of dissertations written in political history.
As social historians sought to discover the history of the voiceless masses, they faced a fairly obvious problem: how do we listen to the voiceless masses? How can we learn the story of segments of society which left no biographies, no chronicles, or any written data? Social historians claim that although such peoples have left no official history, they have left behind tracks which can be detected in their cultural practices and forms. The study of these forms and practices is cultural history. Cultural history consists mostly of studying symbolic behavior among the inarticulate--that is, the illiterate or voiceless people who manage to express themselves very well through their cultural forms, according to cultural historians.
Underlying cultural historian's references to the inarticulate in history, is the thought that they are inarticulate because the powerful, in their own day and since, have silenced them.
In recent years, studies of intellectual and cultural history have overtaken those done in economic and social history. This shift from social history to, more specifically, cultural history has come as a younger generation of historians have reacted against strictly Marxist models. More importantly, the influence of postmodern literary theories has drawn historians' attention away from economic and social matters toward an increasing interest in language as the primary element of social reality.
The Rest of the Story
Read our book, The Death of Truth, and learn:
· What the Annales school taught
· How the Bible and biblical studies will be affected
· Why social and cultural history threaten to overthrow historical fact for the sake of propaganda
· How the politicization of history is already progressing on campus today
Postmodernism and You: Law
Gary Saalman, Contributor
Rodney King, a black man from Los Angeles was apprehended by police in 1992. During the course of a violent confrontation, police severely beat him with night sticks after stunning him with stun-guns. But a private camera recorded the beating for the entire nation to see. Months later, an all-white jury acquitted the officers involved, provoking a riot which burned hundreds of buildings, injuring and killing scores of people. African American citizens in Los Angeles and across the country were enraged at the confirmation of their worst suspicions--blacks cannot get justice from the white American justice system. Later, the officers were convicted by a federal court, but the doubts remained. What if there had been no camera running? Would anyone have taken Rodney King's word that he had been beaten? Or would he have been blamed for any violence during the arrest?
Incidents like this have highlighted questions about the fairness of law in America.
Our Present Legal System
Operating a legal system along the lines of traditional American legal doctrine requires that people be rational beings who understand reality. Traditional legal theorists believe legal processes can yield a relatively fixed set of correct answers to legal questions. They believe judges can and should remain objective, neutral and disinterested in their decision-making.
In recent years, however, postmodernism has risen to the forefront of legal theory. Postmodern theorists, also known as "anti-foundationalists" and "critical legal students," claim the law cannot have any foundation because there is no foundation for objective knowledge of any kind. They say we cannot objectively understand reality because all knowledge is contingent on social convention (especially language). Postmodernists discount individuals' capability to reason and to discern truth. Instead, they demonstrate how each social group focuses on certain tenets favorable to their particular group.
Principles of law could never reflect universal truths, they argue, only allocations of power among social groups. According to these scholars, it is senseless to talk about whether a law is right or wrong or moral or amoral. Law is whatever the most powerful cultural group in society makes it.
Postmodernism's influence in the law raises fundamental challenges to the legal system. If law is not objective, if it does not embody values to which we all should adhere, then why should citizens be bound by it? Is law merely a naked assertion of power by one group over another?
Postmodernism's Prominence In Legal Theory
Although hard to measure, most observers agree that postmodern theories of law are exerting a huge influence today in the courtroom and the legislature. According to Peter Schank, postmodernism "has emerged to become as dominant in legal theory as any paradigm in the past." Another authority says, "Aspects of postmodern philosophy . . . have by now thoroughly infiltrated academic legal analysis." Gary Minda claims, "Postmoderns have redefined the benchmark for evaluating the cogency of reasoning and the validity of the evidence."
The Critical Legal Studies Movement
Since the 1970's a group of professors have been organizing what became the critical legal studies movement. They argued that the law was biased in that it reflected the political ideology of a ruling class and protected their interests. The professors maintained that legal principles and rules, though designed to appear neutral, were in fact loaded in favor of the wealthier classes, as professor Kelman explains,
"If there is a single theme [in Critical Legal Studies], it is that law is an instrument of social, economic, and political domination, both in the sense of furthering the concrete interests of the dominators and in that of legitimating the existing order. This approach emphasizes the ideological character of legal doctrine, and is therefore more concerned with its internal structure than the approach that focuses on latent social functions."
Organizers of the first Critical Legal Studies conference were repelled by the "traditionalist" or "formalist" approach to the law and legal studies. They rejected the notion that neutral and nonpolitical legal reasoning could resolve most controversies. Like other postmodernists, they believe that language means different things to different cultures, and that language shapes thinking. They argue that reason is never fully reliable because it is never actually objective. What masquerades as objective legal reasoning is actually the reassertion of the rights of the privileged.
The Principles of Critical Legal Studies
While we do not have the space here to develop the areas fully as we do in The Death of Truth, we can at least name their primary principles:
· All Legal "Truths" are Mental Constructs Shaped by Social Convention
· The Law Seeks Wrongful Legitimization
· The Law is Full of Indeterminacy, Incoherence and Contradiction
· There Are No Foundational Principles
Later Postmodernism Legal Thinkers
The first generation critical legal theorists deconstructed traditional legal theory using principles of contradiction and indeterminacy. Now, second generation critical theorists focus on the way in which law defines and reproduces cultural values in society. Legal scholar, Gary Minda explains:
"Second generation Critical Legal Studies scholars seek to reveal how various legal categories are constructed by judges and legislatures from cultural and political contexts [i.e., biases] . . . Advancing a social-construction thesis, crits attempted to show how legal meaning about the world 'comes from within' the interpreting subject and is itself constituted by an external and social cultural environment."
Leslie Bender explains the thinking behind feminist critical legal theorists, or "Femme-Crits" as they are known in legal circles.
"Men have created and named a world in which men have power over women--physical power, political power, opportunity power, silencing power. We must learn how our social and political organizations have been constructed by men in their own image and explore how a world constructed by women and men for woman and men would be different . . .
The primary task of feminist scholars is to awaken women and men to the insidious ways in which patriarchy distorts all of our lives . . . Unearthing each shard of patriarchy is especially difficult because of the powerful assumptions embedded in our language and logic. Western culture teaches us that the patriarchal description of reality is not biased but neutral; that our knowledge and truths are not subjective. . . but objective, scientifically based, and universal . . ."
But the femme-crits will help us understand how all our western views are really just patriarchal theater.
Angela Harris explains how the same postmodern ideas apply to race-oriented Critical Legal Students, or "race-crits," as Gary Minda calls them:
"For race crits, racism is not only a matter of individual prejudice and everyday practice, rather race is deeply imbedded in language, perceptions, and perhaps even 'reason' itself. In CRT's [Critical Race Theory's] 'postmodern narratives,' racism is an inescapable feature of western culture, and race is always already inscribed in the most innocent and neutral-seeming concepts. Even ideas like 'truth' and 'justice' themselves are open to interrogations that reveal their complicity with power . . .
Long ago, empowered actors and speakers enshrined their meanings, preferences, and views of the world into the common culture and language. Now, deliberation within that language, purporting always to be neutral and fair, inexorably produces results that reflect their interests."
Remember, these are not a lunatic fringe at the margins of legal practice. They include department heads, and leading professors at law schools like Harvard Law! They are practicing lawyers and legal authorities, like Lani Guinier, who recently attracted attention when she was nominated to be the attorney general before withdrawing.
The Rest of the Story
Read The Death of Truth and learn:
· How postmodern theories are already affecting legislation and court decisions in one state after another.
· What the postmodern legal theorists are saying in their own words, and what they propose to do
· How tolerance laws, diversity training, and behavior codes in companies, institutions and state and federal legal codes reflect the success of postmodern theorists