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  GINKWORLD: VOICES: position papers  



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modern and postmodern; the difference 


about three years ago I was speaking with a friend and they asked if I could explain the difference between modern and postmodern culture.  I started to explain the difference, only to find myself tongue-tied, floundering for words and using those most creative connectives like “umh,” “well,” and personal favorite “ahh.”  my floundering was not based on not knowing the difference – I knew the difference, I live the difference; my floundering was based on not being able to give voice to those differences.  you see, I had spent so much time “knowing” what it meant to be postmodern, (internalizing all I knew), that I never even considered the possibility of “explaining” what it meant to others (giving voice to what I knew).


many of us fall into that same trap.  we know what we feel; we know what we know.  but “knowing” and “voicing” are two very different things.  knowing is "self serving" at best, while voicing is "selfless serving."  "to know" is the start of self-development, but "to voice" is to help others develop and walk a similar path.  remember the movie, “mad max, beyond thunderdome”?  at the end when the young girl is sitting in the burnt-out building with all the others surrounding her and she says, “It’s time to tell the telling.”  giving voice to your understanding of postmodern culture is being able to “tell the telling.”  your being able, and my being able, to “tell the telling” is allowing the narrative of our culture to take flight and develop into a powerful “telling” to help change lives.


I am uncertain exactly where I heard it, if I read it or even if I imagined it, but when I can to this simple realization – my voice came to life – I was able to “tell the telling.”  what was that realization?  Simply this, the difference between modern and postmodern culture can be found in the difference between two tv show – star trek and star trek; the next generation; similar, but vastly different in all parts of the “telling.”


let’s center on one main charter from each show – spock and data.


look at spock, half vulcan/half human, and he spent most of his time fighting to subdue the ever “ill-logical” human half, and trying to bring to life his “better” vulcan half.  for whatever reason, reason, logic, and intellect had better appeal to him then human emotions.  I can remember when I was growing-up my cousins (who were older then I) use to play “star trek.”  they use to fight over who was going to be spock.  spock was the coolest.  I, on the other hand, being one of the youngest was always delegated to playing “a nameless crewman” which meant I was going to be killed by the klingons as soon as the game started – family, go figure.


data, on the other hand, was the perfect machine, reason, logic, and intelligence; and he would have given it all away for the opportunity to be human - to experience the deep pains of human emotion.  his striving to be human is the perfect model of the postmodern culture.  he knew his abilities were important, yet he sought after the human emotions that spock ran from (never really succeeding).  data knew that human qualities based on the diversity of human emotion were important and could only add to his being.  he saw that science truly "solved" nothing, but interaction between people could bring about change and growth.  data sought to make new friends, even though he had no idea how to go about it, while spock was content being by himself with a “close friend or two.”  data saw the value of experience and emotions, while spock say the value in reason and logic.


we could work-up a complete list of the differences between spock and data to compare modern and postmodern cultures, but eventually, like all metaphors, it would break down and become “silly.”  in your own mind I am certain you can develop a solid list for your own voice – for your own “telling.”


while I do not want to go deeper into the spock/data thing, I have created a list of items I believe show a radical difference between modern and postmodern culture and you can find that list can be found at the end of this paper.  but there is one very important underlining factor to this whole process and that factor is this: the difference between modern and postmodern is not age or demographics – meaning to say, it is not a generational thing, or an ethnic thing.


over my experience (a very important point in the postmodern world) I have met some very postmodern 60 year olds, and some very modern 30 year olds.  with the realization that “generation X” turns 40 in the year 2001 (1961-1980) and “generation Y” turns 20 (1981-2000) the year 2001 will produce a new generation not yet named and the church needs to be ready for them.  If we only think in terms of putting people into “happy little groups” we miss the communities that form around idea, heart and passion.  We miss the possibilities of looking at people, not “generations” and saying “You matter to me, and you also matter to God.”


general characteristics:

I hesitate to write a general list of characteristics, mainly because modern people see lists as central to being part of a group; while postmodern people see it for what it is, a list – nothing more and nothing less - and that not all people fall into the list that was created.  it does not make you part of a group, it does not exclude you from any group; it is just a list.  Here is a group of characteristics I see in a postmodern culture.

(some of these characteristics are "secular" in nature - for example, the way they view sin and salvation is based on a secular understanding - I am not saying that a postmodern believer does not believe in salvation, we do)








Program Driven


People Driven


Machine based and economically driven (“Time is money.” “The wheels of progress turn.”)



tech based and metaphorically driven (“I’ll drop an e to you this weekend”)



Based on Reason – intelleo ut credam – I Understand in order to Believe.



Based on Experience – credo ut intellegam – I Believe in order to Understand.



Linear, and founded on absolutes and “objective thought”



Circular, and found in the life narrative.


World View

Metallic, a disjointed group of mineral and economic possibilities, based on boarders and political systems.



Organic – living and filled with connective communities at all levels, boarders are not important.









Plan for all possible events, minimizing the possibility of making mistakes – mistakes are unacceptable.



Mistakes are human, and we can not plan for all possible outcomes - know where you start, and map a journey - all people map a different journey



Only believe if you can “prove” God is real



God is real, just tell me why I need to accept your truth over the truth of another



Church is the building – even though they claim it to be the people.



Community is the church, in and out side of the building.  we are looking to be engaged, included, and inspired


World view

See the “natural” division of “secular” and “sacred.”  Something’s belong to God, and other things do not.



Sees no difference between “secular” and “sacred.”  Everything belongs to God  Have a deep understand Pop Culture – seeing no difference between the sacred and the secular



Rigid, committee driven and top down.  Change is hard, and long in coming.  anything seen as new is viewed as “problematic.”



Flexible, and from the bottom-up.  Open to new ideas and a willingness to implement them quickly, and change directions if needed


Pastoral Staff

Seen as “the purest of the pure” and is not allowed to make mistakes, of any kind. 



Seen as human, and is allowed to make mistakes without fear of being tagged



Believes in Salvation, but not in Sin - basically everyone is good



believes in Sin, but not Salvation - do not agree that "sins can be forgiven" the challenge is to teach the saving grace of christ.



family is defined by mom, dad and 2.5 kids.  family does not extend to friends.  family is more important then friends



come from broken homes – “broken” does not mean “good” or “bad.”  friends are very important, and considered family



a few "close friends" - it is better to have one close friend, then 100 acquaintances 



want to become a whole person and live in peace with others

. want to experience community

.  want to make a difference in peoples lives.  feel disconnected from others, and even themselves


they are searching for a safe place where they can make friends



don't get it, and just don't want to



Are Media Savvy, but not Media Manipulated




the challenge is to figure a way to introduce the postmodern person to Jesus as Savior - knowing that the same old stuff, will not work.


john o'keefe





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