Thursday, September 1, 2011

Death to the Intolerant! A Postmodern Ideal

We’ve been hearing a lot about postmodernism over the past decade or so—the deep suspicion people have today that any truth could ever be considered true for all people in all times and situations.

If we say, for example, that in 1955 America was a great nation, a postmodern advocate would probably say, “Maybe for you it seemed that way, but not for African-American slum-dwellers.” Or, if we say that our modern farming techniques have improved our quality of life, a postmodern proponent might say, “not for all the people who have gotten cancer as a result of those new farming methods.” And if we say…well, you get the idea.

A thoroughly convinced postmodernist will even go so far as to say that 2+2 might equal 4 to you, but not to him. And he might even accuse you of being arrogant for demanding that all people in all times and places admit that 2+2=4.

Conveniently for all who want to escape reason, this line of thought can be used, and has indeed been used, to excuse even the most outrageous behaviors and opinions.
Postmodern artist Marcel Duchamp displayed a vintage urinal as a work of art.

The main danger with all of this, of course, is that the Christian faith would be rendered senseless if there really is no such thing as “truth” that is true for every person forever. Either Hitler was immoral for killing innocent Jewish citizens, or he wasn’t. Either it’s wrong to treat people with black skin as subhuman, or it’s not. Either Jesus rose from death, or He didn’t. Either belief in the Gospel of Jesus is necessary for salvation, or it’s not.

Actually, the glaring faults of postmodernism have been demonstrated in very humorous ways on more than one occasion. Take, for instance, the “Sokal Affair.”

In 1996, a physics professor at New York University, Alan Sokal, decided to submit a nonsensical article to the prestigious postmodern academic journal, Social Text. He used as much postmodern jargon as he could to support an intentionally bogus premise, even including gross scientific fallacies, just to show how incoherent postmodern thinking can be. The journal editors fell for the hoax, hook, line and sinker. On the day the journal article was published, Dr. Sokal revealed his deception, to the humiliation of all concerned.

A similar thing happened in the world of art back in 1924. Understanding that there are some minor points of distinction between modern and postmodern works of art, this modern art hoax also provides a useful commentary on postmodern art.

Paul Jordan-Smith, a Los Angeles novelist, was chagrined about how his wife’s realistic art pieces were cast aside by judges at an art exhibition. To make a point of how farcical the whole field of modern art had become, Jordan-Smith painted a careless and distorted picture of a woman waving a banana peel over her head. Then he made a photograph of himself that would suggest that he had the stereotypical “tortured soul” of a true artist.
Paul Jordan-Smith as tortured-soul artist Pavel Jerdanowitch

He sent his photograph and painting to the same critics who disparaged his wife’s artwork, falsely signed as the Russian artist, Pavel Jerdanowitch (Russian-ifying his real name).

Jordan-Smith gave the interpretation of the painting as depicting a Pacific island woman who had just that moment broken free from the bondage of womanhood, celebrated by the eating of a banana and the twirling of its peel. Predictably, the critics were pleased.

Over the next three years “Jerdanowitch” submitted to the art critics four other hackneyed works of art from his Russian “Disumbrationism” school of perspective, each winning praise as “delightful” and meaningful works of art.
Jordan-Smith's prank painting, Illumination

Then, in 1927, Jordan-Smith revealed his whole charade to the Los Angeles Times, scolding the modern art culture for its pretense and degrading dogmas. A tongue-in-cheek “International Pavel Jerdanowitch Painting Contest,” celebrating the disumbrationist school of arts and the message of Paul Jordan-Smith, has been held annually since 2006.

And we need not even go into the story behind the painting of Pierre Brassau that won praise from the Swedish art critics in 1964— “the best painting in the exhibition.” Or the works of a painter that Dr. Kajta Schneider, from a German state museum of art, likened a few years back to the work of the well-known professional artist, Ernst Wilhelm Nay. Both of these artists, it turns out, were chimpanzees.

And just as surely as the unshackling of art from reason and reality has led to the diminishing of the beauty and meaning of art, so a postmodern perspective on life will lead to the diminishing of the beauty and meaning of life.

One of the most politically incorrect and difficult lessons for us to grasp in our post-Christian, postmodern world, is that objective truth—truth that is true for all people at all times—is constantly speeding its way towards us from a God who is “there” and who has equipped us with the powers of observation necessary to learn about Him. This truth is unflinching and cannot be violated without resulting in dire consequences. It just seems, in a postmodern world, to be so narrow and intolerant and lacking in diversity.

But 2+2 will always equal 4, to all people and at all times. And it will never be right to rape and murder. And God is always sending human beings enough objective truth for us to really “see” Him. But only if we dare to look.

That which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God has shown it unto them. Romans 1:19  

For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen. Romans 1:20

Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools. Romans 1:22

For this they willingly are ignorant of. 2 Peter 3:5

They should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he is not far from every one of us. Acts 17:27

1 comment :

  1. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind...
    Romans 1:28
    Intolerant of the intolerant. Does that lead to self-implosion? Or are oxymorons the proverbs of postmodern society?