A Look at Postmodernism—Part 6


When I was little—second grade, I think—I got in trouble one P. E. period for being too loud. We were right outside the 6th-grade classroom playing kick ball on the asphalt with lines painted for the bases. (Why someone thought this was a good place for little kids to play anything is wrong, so very wrong for so very many reasons! :-()

For a competitive, excitable seven-year-old lacking self-control, staying quiet during a close game of kick ball was just too much to ask. My punishment was to miss P. E. the next day.

This was back in the era when no one thought much about leaving kids inside classrooms, so on the day of my punishment, my teacher told me I was not to get up out of my seat, then left with the rest of the class.

Most of them, that is. A little boy was also staying in because he hadn’t finished some work. We talked a bit, and I guess he told me what was stumping him. I was pretty sure I could show him what to do, but there was my teacher’s order, Don’t get up out of your seat.

Ah-ha, a solution presented itself. I wouldn’t get up out of my seat, I would get down. Yep, I got down on my hands and knees and crawled across the room. And yeah, I got busted—lost P. E. for a week, but worse, I was embarrassed, caught in front of the whole class, not just for my disobedience but for lying as I tried to walk the line of literalism. True story.

What does that have to do with postmodern thought? If my teacher had been a postmodernist she might have thought the problem was with language. Perhaps we needed a discourse that would allow us to communicate outside the tower in which our language group had us confined—hers the language of adults, mine of second graders.

Poppycock. I knew exactly what she MEANT by Don’t get up out of your seat. But I didn’t like it. I wanted to find a way around it. I also didn’t want to suffer consequences for going against it. So I, in my mind, manipulated what she said and justified myself to myself by pretending I was not disobeying as long as I didn’t break her mandate in the precise way she stated it.

I am so thankful God gave me a teacher who didn’t let me get away with that. The problem was in my sinful little heart, not in the language my teacher used. Not in my perception of that language.

But postmodernists, instead of recognizing sinful souls, blame language as the cause of most ills.

In How Postmodernism Serves (My) Faith, Crystal Downing acknowledges that the Fall of Man from God’s grace plays a part in the deficiency of language, although I get the impression her view may not be widely held:

But the story [of Adam and Eve] goes on to describe Adam’s fall from innocence, implying that language, though an element of human glory, is sullied by the fallen humans who use it. For the poststructuralist, language is like the fallen Lucifer: appearing as an angel of light (indeed, how could we function without language?), it insidiously influences the way people think and act.
– pp 127-128

Human glory? No, language, like everything else God created, pointed to His glory.

Sullied? Yes, I’d have to agree, but that does not make it Lucifer.

Downing goes on to illustrate the evils of language with a story from her childhood—one in which she was coloring with a crayon named flesh—and what a hideous deception that word was, creating the idea that only skin of that color could be called flesh.

Was she colorblind? I mean, has there ever been even one human being with that color of skin? Though I’m “white,” I knew my skin wasn’t that color. When I used that crayon, the one time, I knew the person in the picture I was coloring looked like no one I knew. But I did not begin to question the personhood of my family and neighbors and friends, or my own, because someone called this sickly pinkish-white crayon flesh.

Words do not make thoughts.

Not what enters into the mouth defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man … But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man.
– Matthew 15:11, 18

Once again, postmodern thought gets tangled up (in the effort to deconstruct modernism) rather than going to the touchstone of Scripture and testing theory against Truth.

Published in: on September 8, 2006 at 1:10 pm  Comments (6)  
%d bloggers like this: