A few have asked for the quotes related to postmodernism from yesterday’s sermon entitled, “Grace and Peace,” from Colossians 1:1-2. My first point was that “peace is the purpose of Colossians.” My third point was that “peace is the achievement of grace.” My second point – intended to demonstrate the relevance of the first and third points – was that “peace is the longing of these postmodern times.”
I sought to illustrate this second point, that peace is the longing of these postmodern times, by pointing to two examples: that of the consummate postmodern person, on the one hand, and the consummate postmodern community, on the other.
The first, the postmodern person, comes from one of the more provocative and influential American philosophers, Richard Rorty, Professor of Humanities at the University of Virginia. In the introduction to his Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity, Rorty sketches a figure he calls the “liberal ironist,” or what I referred to as the consummate postmodern person. Rorty explains:
I borrow my definition of ‘liberal’ from Judith Shklar, who says that liberals are the people who think that cruelty is the worst thing we do. I use ‘ironist’ to name the sort of person who faces up to the contingency of his or her own most central beliefs and desires – someone sufficiently historicist and nominalist to have abandoned the idea that those central beliefs and desires refer back to something beyond the reach of time and chance. Liberal ironists are people who include among these ungroundable desires their own hope that suffering will be diminished, that the humiliation of human beings by other human beings may cease” (p. xv).
In trying to identify a second example, that of the consummate postmodern community, I didn’t have very far to look. In fact, I only had to go as far as the Village of Oak Park website, where I then downloaded the community’s Diversity Statement. Here are the relevant paragraphs (the entirety of which can be found at: http://www.oak-park.us/public/pdfs/2003%20diversity%20statement.pdf):
The people of Oak Park choose this community, not just as a place to live, but as a way of life. Oak Park has committed itself to equality not only because it is legal, but because it is right; not only because equality is ethical, but because it is desirable for us and our children. Ours is a dynamic community that encourages the contributions of all citizens, regardless of race, color, ethnicity, ancestry, national origin, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital and/or familial status, mental and/or physical impairment and/or disability, military status, economic class, political affiliation, or any of the other distinguishing characteristics that all too often divide people in society.
Oak Park’s proud tradition of citizen involvement and accessible local government challenge us to show others how such a community can embrace change while still respecting and preserving the best of the past. Creating a mutually respectful, multicultural environment does not happen on its own; it must be intentional. Our goal is for people of widely differing backgrounds to do more than live next to one another. Through interaction, we believe we can reconcile the apparent paradox of appreciating and even celebrating our differences while at the same time developing consensus on a shared vision for the future. Oak Park recognizes that a free, open, and inclusive community is achieved through full and broad participation of all its citizenry. We believe the best decisions are made when everyone is represented in decision-making and power is shared collectively.
Now, in neither of these examples do you hear the language of peace. Yet you certainly feel the longing for peace in both, don’t you?
Finally, let me conclude with a few observations.
- First, we won’t understand these postmodern times in which we live unless we come to terms with this underlying longing for peace, which, in my view, drives the whole outlook.
- Second, as Christians we must not scorn or despise, much less mock, postmodern expressions of a longing for peace, whether in the form of a bumper-sticker or an anti-war march, since a longing for peace should be our longing too.
- Third, as Christians we should let the “peace of Christ” (Col. 3:15) so shape our lives, both individually and corporately, that it becomes evident to all that only in the Gospel can one find the peace we all long for.
For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross (Colossians 1:19-20).
Listen to this sermon from October 5, 2008