Warning Millennials about the perils of postmodernism is kind of like warning them of the perils of laser discs. That ship has sailed, and the discussion probably does more to date the one giving the warning than anything else.
That is not to say that postmodernism has not left a legacy that has shaped the cultural and intellectual climate in which Millennials live and think. A broad ambivalence towards the authority of institutions, in an era of increased proliferation of institutions claiming authority.*
*Note, for example, that YouTube's corporate policy has a bigger impact on intellectual property use in the US than actual courts and law. And an appreciation of the performative effect of words, not always directly connected to their meaning, still abounds.
Postmodernism, at one level, simply served as the canary in the coal mine for Western intellectuals that an era of hyper-connectivity and Durkheimian differentiation was on the horizon. But, like laser discs, it completely failed to be the platform through which we came to understand this new reality.
Postmodernism cleared the air, and opened up new possibilities and questions that Millennials are now exploring. In particular: How identity relates to knowing. How communication is always a function of context. And how to navigate a diffuse institutional landscape.
Postmodernism, at one level, uprooted a lot of thinking from the institutional, cultural, and historical moorings that kept things stable. Now, in the new millennium, the task is to find one's roots again. Through explorations of personal history, reimagining old institutions and institutional arrangements, and forming new modes of community.
With this in mind the insistence on diversity isn't an untethered, ambivalent acceptance of everything. It is a function of the new and diffuse institutional landscape, which is uncertain about the authority of older institutions. It is a function of the need to navigate identity and knowing. And it is a function of the attempt to communicate across contextual divides of historical, and cultural separation (and I should add sub-cultural).
Indeed, it is the attempt to find again some moorings. But in a new world.
*Note, for example, that YouTube's policy has a greater effect on intellectual property use in the US than actual courts and law.
A sermon preached at Wesley Uniting Church, Melbourne on 27th of January, 2019. The context was the Day of Mourning set aside by the Assembly of the Uniting Church in Australia (UCA), alongside the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC). The readings were:
Recently Uniting Church in Australia (UCA) minister, and church historian, Rev. Dr. Avril Hannah-Jones published an article about the decision of the UCA’s 15th Assembly in regards to marriage. Without setting aside the strengths of Hannah-Jones’ article, there are a few concerns I feel it is appropriate to raise.
“[Jesus] is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.” (Eph. 2.14)
At the centre of today’s reading is this claim that Jesus is peace, and breaks down hostility within a new community. I want to try and unpack what this might mean for us today. But I want to admit from the start that this is not an easy idea to grapple with, and in my own reflections it has been somewhat confronting, and discomforting.
The Assembly of the Uniting Church in Australia has resolved to allows its ministers freedom to choose to marry two people, regardless of gender, or not. I welcome and celebrate this decision. I spoke for this decision.
And yet this decision was hard. Many people have been significantly hurt along the way. Many people have felt their voices choked in a church they thought offered them a space to belong.
I am aware that literally no one asked for this. Nevertheless, I am a member of the upcoming Uniting Church in Australia (UCA) Assembly - that council tasked with discernment and decision on issues of doctrine within the Uniting Church. I thought it would be helpful to lay out the issues that I see framing the issue of marriage within the Uniting Church, as a way of resourcing the discernment that the Assembly is to undertake. The issue in question is whether the Uniting Church in Australia should change its law to allow ministers to conduct same-gender marriages if they so wish -- but not to compel any minister, or any congregation to conduct or condone any such marriages if they do not wish to do so.
God who mothers the world, may your wisdom be borne in my words. And may my folly be called out by your Spirit in those that hear it. Amen.
‘Little girl, get up!’
Our reading today from Mark 5 is a story about radical transformation and healing. A young girl is raised from the dead; an adult woman is healed of chronic pain and bleeding. This is a story, ultimately, of hope. This is a story of the struggle of women being raised up.
My intention today is to try and understand how this story in Mark 5 teaches us, through the experience of the struggle of women, how to follow the way of Jesus. The point is that women who suffer and struggle for justice teach us about faith -- and we are wise to listen and learn.
The question of calling and ministry has for a long time been difficult for me. In the church contexts I grew up in, discussions of calling often followed the common narrative of a singular turning point. A vision or word from God, a moment of realisation, a heart strangely warmed.
While this kind of experience can be profound, and play an important role in many people’s journeys, this has not been my experience. And I can, after all, only talk honestly about my own experience.