The induction of Post Modern thought has allowed counter narratives to thrive in a seemingly blissful land of pluralism. This newfound subtlety of truth has opened our eyes to an astounding level of analyses. Alas, how is a faith leader supposed to speak about Truth if our construction of that theory has dissolved? In short, how do our religious Truths compete with so many other truth claims floating around?
In David Lose's, Narrative Identity in Postmodern Preaching, he explores ways in which the meta-narrative may revitalize a sense of authority among religious leaders; enabling them to counsel on issues of social justice. For example, in Genesis, Man is given dominion over the earth (Genesis 1:26). Taken out of context, this verse has been misused to imply that humankind may do whatever it pleases with God's creation, even destroy it. However, if the verse is placed back in the context of Genesis, it regenerates a grand narrative or overarching theme of the book, which is to care for God's creation, not destroy it.
When attempting to counter these multilayered truth claims to your congregation, use meta-narratives to illuminate underlying themes that demonstrate humankind's responsibility to care for the environment.
Jean-François Lyotard, the French postmodern theorist, declared some years ago that we live in the age of the death of the metanarrative. A metanarrative, most simply, is a story so large that it explains all other stories. Most frequently, we don’t think of metanarratives as stories at all but rather as “reality.” It is only when we encounter another metanarrative -- another grand story that explains everything -- that we recognize the boundaries of our own narrative version of reality. Lyotard therefore says that having believed, and been disappointed by, our grand narratives, and recognizing a host of others, we live only with micro- or local narratives, stories we may believe but that we know are true and relevant only for those communities that hold them.
While some have used Lyotard’s diagnosis to explain the loss of influence of the Christian narrative in a postmodern world (that is, it is one of those grand narratives that no longer holds sway in the cultural imagination), I am not confident that we can live long without some grand narrative. Indeed, it’s remarkably difficult to avoid offering grand narratives and making truth claims. For this reason, I think we live not in an era that has seen the end of metanarratives, but rather during an age that is simply saturated by grand stories, none of which, as Lyotard suggests, reigns self-evidently supreme.
Put most simply, we are surrounded by competing truth claims. Some of these are religious, but many more are about material wealth, nationalism, or ethnicity. Significantly, each and every truth claim, whether it be proclaimed from a pulpit, touted on the cover of a major magazine, or hidden in the logo of an expensive brand, is part of a larger story about what constitutes the good, the beautiful, and the true. Whereas postmodernism perceives in this swirl of competing truth claims a deterrent to our ability to make them in the first place, pluralism seems blissfully ignorant of such limitations and instead happily embraces any and all grand narratives and storied realities.
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