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Welcome to Faith in a Postmodern World (FPW). I have requested this board because i wish to have a place where i can set the standards for discussions and bring up topics without fear of offending any part of the board's culture. My desire for this board is not an indictment of any other of the many fine boards i have frequented at the Fool, nor is it an indication that i wish to refrain from participation at those boards. It's just that after more than two years here, i feel the need for “A Place of My Own.”

Allow me to explain my vision for the conversation here. My number one desire is for this to be a home for open dialogue, rather than dogmatic defense of any particular point of view. Too many times, discussions of religion and faith (or lack thereof) are focused on each person desperately trying to prove his opponent wrong. Our deeply held beliefs largely define who we are, and we feel threatened by beliefs which seem mutually exclusive to our own. That's human nature.

I hope we can rise above that here. By stating that desire, i make no claims that all truth is relative or that “Absolute Truth” does not exist. Neither do i necessarily assert the opposite. I call this board “Faith in the Postmodern World” because most “faiths” in the United States and Europe are Modern and i'm interested in exploring how our understanding of these faiths is changing and will continue to change as our cultures continue further and further into Postmodernity. Again, i'm not claiming that the truths which may or may not be found in various religions are subject to change (though perhaps they are?), i'm merely pointing out the inescapable fact that the lens through which we all view the world is changing. Even if Absolute Truth exists, no one can claim to understand it perfectly.

The number one thing i hope this board can avoid is the condemnation of participants. If anyone reading the posts here becomes incensed by something he reads and wishes to jump in and “set someone straight,” please leave, now. This is not a place for people to open up about their beliefs so other people can come along and show them how bad those beliefs are. This is a place for people to seek better understanding of other beliefs. The goal is to share knowledge (and of course opinions), not to prove others wrong.

Please don't get the wrong impression. I'm not asking that we all go around patting each other on the back saying, “I'm so glad you have your beliefs and i have mine, aren't they all wonderful?” Let's face it, some ideas are stupid. Two plus two doesn't equal nine, and scientific observation has proven that the earth revolves around the sun, not vice versa. Likewise, some beliefs are damaging, such as racism and sexism. I do not suggest we tolerate stupidity and/or beliefs that lead to actions which clearly harm others. But i do hope we'll all give one another as much room as possible to explain what we believe and why. There is something of a fine line here.

Now let me explain my own frame of reference and some of the terminolgy i use. I come from a Christian family and still today i am quite happy to call myself a Christian. Some others who call themselves Christians might think my beliefs make me unfit for the label, but those who so believe are precisely the persons i hope will refrain from posting such opinions on this board. It does not benefit anyone to make claims about what labels do and do not fit other posters.

With my use of the word “Postmodern,” i am not referring to a literary, architectural, or artistic movement, nor am i attempting to label some philosophical ideal. I use the term Postmodern to refer to the era which modern cultures are evolving into. To oversimply, we can divide history into four eras, Ancient, Medieval, Modern, and Postmodern. For the purposes of this board, we are primarily concerned with the last two.

Though the birth date of the Modern Age is debatable, it will serve our purposes to place it at the invention of the printing press in the mid-fifteenth century. But the dates we wish to use to frame it are comparatively irrelevant. The issue is how we define the Modern Age and consequently how we will define the Postmodern Age. To characterize Modernity, i will borrow from Brian McLaren. In A New Kind of Christian, McLaren asserts that the following characteristics defined the Modern World: 1) Conquest and Control 2) Mechanization 3) Analysis 4) Secular Science 5) Objectivity 6) Criticism 7) Organization 8) Individualism 9) Protestantism, The Institution 10) Consumerism. Thus people and/or societies that are Postmodern are post-conquest, post-mechanization, post-analysis, etc. Or to put it another way, people and societies that are Postmodern are those that in some way are reacting against Modernity. That may not translate into a complete abandonment of all Modern systems, but it at least translates into a different understanding and application of them.

I believe there are degrees to which a society can be characterized by these attributes, and degrees to which they can evolve past them; it is not an “all or nothing” proposition. Likewise, a society need not consist entirely of Modern or Postmodern citizens. Some people in a culture may be thoroughly modern while others around them are transitioning into Postmodernism. In the book mentioned above, McLaren argues that much of American culture has evolved into the early stages of Postmodernism while the Christian Church remains entirely modern. He also argues that Christianity has become so enmeshed with Modernism that most Christians are unable to see its influence on their faith. Many Christians assume their faith is based on the Bible, when in fact it's based on a Modern reading of the Bible and even beyond that, a Modern version of faith in general.

So my goal here is to take a step back from the tunnel vision which plagues so many of us. I hope we can examine faith and ponder where we are headed at the dawn of a new age. As i already stated, i speak from a Christian point of view, but i welcome anyone of any faith as well as those without faith (in a religious sense) to join in the dialogue here. Everyone is welcome, so long as you are willing to abide by some essential basic standards of discourse. And let me reiterate that if you have any interest whatsoever in condemning anyone or labeling someone else's beliefs as “bad,” then please move on to another corner of Fooldom; your comments are not appropriate for this board. I think we can all explain what we believe and why without condemning others for their beliefs. It's not a matter of “who's right,” it's a matter of respecting one another and seeking to better understand other points of view.

Thanks for taking the time to read my ramblings, and welcome to the board!
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