27 September 2010

In Praise of Deconstruction

(Simply because I haven't given anyone a heart attack in almost a month)

I admit that I find postmodernism fascinating - and I'm sure that this is partially because I despise modernism and rationalism with full fervor. Post-modernism is designed, above all else, to point out the foolish, arrogant, and even damnable assumptions rationalism makes about anything and everything.

The tool that is used for this is deconstruction. What is it to deconstruct? To demonstrate that a perceived truth is not a universal truth, but rather something specific to the moment. For example, if you were to ask the typical American how criminals are (in theory) supposed to be punished, the answer is that they go to jail (and if you ask a liberal they might add "to be rehabilitated"). This is a perceived truth, but it is not a universal truth. In many places today the default punishments are not prison terms but corporal in nature. More over, historically, this wasn't true in the US either - go back 200 years and our own use of prisons were vastly different. That which is perceived to be capital T truth is show just to be a cultural construct, a particular adaptation of our own society.

While we might not want to admit it, we use deconstruction all the time. It is the basis of Lutheran apologetics, where all we are doing are breaking down the false, preconceived notions people have about themselves, the Christian faith, and the world. And this is nothing new. To disabuse someone of false notions of reality is precisely what Christ does over and over in the New Testament. "You are right in saying, 'I have no husband'; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband" is deconstructing this woman's idea of what it is to have a husband.

But why is this idea of deconstruction or postmodernism so scary to us as Lutherans? Because the rampant, crass postmodernists have started deconstructing the Church. So we freak out and run in terror - when the very language of postmodernism and deconstruction shows us how we can defeat them.

The key is this - to successfully deconstruct, you must show how a perceived truth is not true in all places and in all times. Hmmm... let's think about that, do we as Christians have a word to describe something that is true, is real in all times and in all places. . . hmmm.

To assert the catholic nature of the Church is to assert that, according to the standards established by postmodern thought and deconstruction, the doctrines of the Church are true and more sure than any individual perception or thought.

"That's just your truth!" No, actually it is not mine, it is not one of my own deriving, it is one I have received, one I confess with Christians of all times and all places. It is not unique to me, but it is Universal. Do individuals botch and abuse it - sure, of course - and the catholic faith teaches that all are sinful, so of course individuals are going to mess it up. But there is reality in this faith. There is reality in this service. And it goes beyond what our eyes can see, what our minds can comprehend (take that rationalism!), it goes beyond what you or I determine for ourselves (take that, dumbed down Postmodernism!).

The counter to any claim of a social construct is catholicity.... After all, what is "contemporary" worship but an abandoning of catholic structures to construct something that one thinks will appeal to society?

Don't be scared of deconstructionism. Don't let the postmodernist scare or intimidate you. Deconstruct them. Show how their perceptions fall short of the catholic truth - and then maybe they will see.

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