At least in the evangelical church, people think "postmodernism" means "having no moral standards." Not true. Postmodernism is far more complex than that, and there is value (as well as danger) in it. The value lies in how postmodernism expresses truth: Whereas earlier philosophies expressed truth as a series of propositional statements and rational claims, postmodernism expressed truth as a story. It traded the "grand narrative" (a single, all-defining understanding of the world) for the "individual narrative" (the way one person sees the world), and then it asked individuals to start talking.
Incidentally, there is something deeply biblical about this: When Christ the Word came, He did not come as a series of propositional statements; He came as a human being and lived here, creating as he lived (as we do) a series of stories, a Story that shows God to us. In the story as well as in the propositional statement there is Truth.
Perhaps this is why, every year in early September, people tell their stories again. All day I've listened as people remember where they were on 9/11. My father can remember where he was when JFK was assassinated, and we remember where we were when the Towers fell. This, more than anything else, is the story that defines who we are as people, the world as we understand it now, and this understanding comes in a series of stories.
Like my father with JFK, I have my own story with 9/11:
I was sixteen, and since I was homeschooled, I was at home, working through my Bible curriculum with my mother. The phone rang, and my mother took the call. I heard her say, "Oh, it's worse than Oklahoma City, then?" She came back, told us of the attack, and said that we'd finish our schoolwork before we turned on the television.
So we did. By the time we turned on the television, both towers had fallen. We watched television for the rest of the morning - my mother, my younger sister, and I - even though the television is never on in our house. When my mother and sister left that afternoon to run an errand, I tried to do work, but I kept going back to the TV, kept turning it back on, kept watching until late that afternoon when everyone came home again.
I could leave you with something very philosophical, urge you to pay attention to people's stories because these define us. All I want to leave you with for tonight, though, is a poem.
This is a found poem - in other words, a poem in which many of the words and phrases are drawn from outside texts. The point of a found poem is to discover poetry in straightforward literatures, to turn something simply factual into something thought-provoking. I have taken my found poem from the stories that have been cropping up all day on Facebook under #wherewereyou and across the web. interwebs on the National Journal and the People Press.
I hope the poem makes you think. (As you read, keep in mind that I wrote this rather quickly this evening, so - be gracious.)
Psychologists babble about our
Public collective consciousness, but
All I know is, every year we
Tell our stories, tell them
Tell that we were in a 9 a.m. class, that
We were driving to work, driving to
School, we were getting a haircut, we were
Trapped – in a chair at the orthodontist’s.
Again we tell, we were in fourth grade, or
Tenth, we were starting our workday,
We were at our desk, we were
Exercising – in front of the TV.
Then someone called.
Father, sister, co-worker –
Someone called, someone said,
‘Turn the news on, we’re under attack.”
“It’s worse,” – “ worse than Oklahoma City.”
So we turned the news on, and now
We tell how we watched TV that
Beautiful fall day, watched all day saying
Nothing to nobody, and when someone
Turned the TV off, we turned it back on –
So we tell that we saw the South
Tower as it started to fall, saw
Rivers of people walking north,
Terrified business people – so many –
And we tell of doctors and nurses and
Gurneys lined up not moving, not talking –
Waiting. We tell of the sign on I-95, reading
“Avoid Lower Manhattan.”
So we were undone and
So we tell our stories – these
Broken cries, catechisms for
Those who come after, repeating
That we may pray, that we may
Pray in peace.