Saturday, April 18, 2015

Are you "modern" or something else...?

This weeks blog was inspired by comments made  by Jeff Spencer in his message at the Niles Discovery Church 4.12.15

Suppose that you lived in a time and place with no radio, or TV... no newspapers or schools  or knowledge of modern scientific explanations... and this is a good picture of what historians call "the premodern time period".  The only sources of knowledge were tradition, what the religious leaders told, and "old wives tales".   In medieval Europe the church was the holder and interpreter of revealed knowledge; and was the primary authority source.  Many people on earth today still live in this way.

The arts, music, literature, and religious ideas of this period were created by and for the powerful and those who had access to education.

The so called "modern period" began with the ferment of ideas that grew out of the 'enlightenment". (1650-1950's)  ( Are you surprised that so called modern thinking began so early?)
This period was marked by a challenge to the absolute dominance of religious interpretation, a new appreciation  for  the power of questioning and observation, and from this the first growth of scientific problem solving.

Galileo looking outside the known universe
  The early scientific understanding gave rise to such ideas as the Sun centered solar system, gravity, a knowledge of microorganisms, a knowledge of chemical elements and chemical reactions.   Often, science and reason were applied in conjunction with each other.In other areas of  human thought  this was a period of intense interest in applying  reason or logic to develop understanding in literature, art, and music.

The Spirit of French Resistance

It is curious today, after the centuries of struggle to discover a better understanding of our universe, that there are those who seek to reject the methods of science and seek to return to belief rather than what is proven.  We still have conflicts between religious dogma and scientific 'proofs'.

The methods of science choose  a phenomenon to study- devise experiments to determine if something is supported by evidence - It can be said that science can not prove anything to be 'correct' - the best we can do is to not be able to disprove it... All scientific 'theories' are always open to future tests... This does not diminish the fact that such things as the "theory of gravity" and "the germ theory" have overwhelming evidence to support them.  Currently, there is also overwhelming evidence that we are  undergoing a time of intense climate change brought about by human effects on the atmosphere...and some refuse to consider what has been learned.

 The effect of historical period affects  much more than science - The visual arts and music have taken on the flavor of their time.  We can imagine the Gregorian chants of prehistorical Europe, the grand works of Beethoven and Dvorak in the modern period and the atonal music of Phillip Glass and John Cage as typically post-modern... in a sense we can say that Madonna and Michael Jackson are also Postmodern musician

During the "modern period"  intellectual authority moved away from the church, and  toward politics (governments, kings, etc.) and centers of secular learning.   Scholars, professors, scientists, philosophers, and artists took over as the primary sources of authority. At times, a religious perspective was included  into these modern authority sources, but the church no longer enjoyed the privileged power position it once held.  

"Perhaps we are too close to the issues of our time to see where we are going." 

The western cultural emphasis on reason and logic as the solution to all human issues ended due to several causes in the 20th century. Postmodenism had its roots in the recovery from the horrors of the second world war…  (starting in the late 1940'2 - 1950's); but also due to the growth of globalism, the end to colonialism, and a disillusionment with technology as a solution to all our 'problems'.  This is the time we live in now - and is is marked by quesioning previous approaches to knowing. Our time is noted for an openness to other sources of knowledge such as Eastern Thought, indigenous people's insights, meditation, intuition, relational, and spiritual...  There is often a cynicism in postmodernism - a rejection of what is past and didn't work - and a seeking for something that fits your  modern reality better... There may  still be a willingness to consider revelation, science, and reason... but in a more critical way.  Historical sources of authority sources and power are  being reexamined as they were not previously.

Some of the movements that embodied the ideas of early post modernism were the growth of Beatniks in the 1950s and later the Hippie movement in the 60's...challenges to the government contesting racial and sexual orientation policies, challenging our foreign policies, issues of collective rights v. individual rights, response to world terrorism, opposition to colonialism, struggle between the rights to life , liberty, and the pursuit of happiness and the right to oppress workers ... In terms of religion there has been the emergence of Progressive Christianity that emphasizes social policy based on the life of the pre-Easter Jesus and a connectedness with the concept of the ever present spirit of God...There is a premise in the new church that "questioning" can be more productive than "accepting outdated dogma"
Post modern art often challenges us to connect with the obvious in the new way - to see  what our brains are not used to seeing... If your first impulse is to reject this painting off hand - you are being asked a question..

Naturally there have been 'back lashes' to each of the challenges - the old South wants to protect their way of life; gun advocates want to be able to own, carry, and use their weapons without restrictions; the religious right wants to advocate their sexual policies on others, the Republican party wants to protect the interests of business to make profits.  This is the ferment that we are in today...

Europe after WW II

Some would like to go back to what they perceive as  simpler times ...but that can not happen - the genie will not - can not - return to his confinement.  Us humans, the world over, have one united future... The only future that can lead to survival is one based on cooperation and collectively opposing greed and corruption among those that want more than their share!



-or this...
Our best hope