DryErase Girl and the wonder of postmodernity

elyse porterfieldA host of reputable internet news sites and just about everyone on FaceBook was suckered by a story of a young woman who quit her job by means of messages drawn on a dry-erase board, and supposedly sent to the whole office. Her resignation involved exposing her boss’ sexism, body odour and hypocrisy, most tellingly ridiculing him for wasting half his work-week playing Farmville. You can see the original post here: The Chive

This creative and funny resignation made ‘Jenny’ an over-night hit, but very soon it was uncovered that it was all just another attention-getting scam. Her real name is Elyse, she is an actress, and the boss from hell doesn’t exist.

Although the creators of this post claim it was merely aimed at entertainment, scamming people in this way is a betrayal of trust. That is a good thing in some ways, because it at least teaches us that we should not believe everything we read. Some skepticism is essential, as it alerts us to the danger of trusting someone who stands to gain from our trust. And yet on the other hand, society is founded on a degree of mutual trust. A default basis of trust is important to most of the transactions within society, and betrayal of trust is destructive of that basis. This, I take it, is one reason why we send people to prison for theft, rather than just forcing them to repay what was taken. The damage done to society by abusing trust is greater than the individual loss of an item. So it is stupid for hoaxes like this to be propagated, because they engender skepticism where it doesn’t belong, and they breed a sense of alienation from our world and each other. Like the boy who cried wolf, the lie is easy to sell, because it is of such minor benefit to the liar, but it starts a precedent that is ultimately of severe harm to society.

Will postmodernism please just go away now?
TechCrunch reported about this DryErase Girl scam after securing an interview with its creator, serial hoaxer Leo Resig. In true postmodern fashion, he told them that people “want to believe.” He continued:

The purpose of the hoax was to entertain and inspire, not to inform, so what difference does it make if the story has a single ounce of truth?

Postmodern thinking is comfortable in belief that is divorced from reality. I wonder how it is possible to root belief in a known lie. What is Leo asking me to believe exactly?

Beyond that, the entertainment value of this post lies in the humiliation of an evil boss who (among other things) monitors office internet use, but hypocritically spends half his week on lame internet games. If it’s not true, there is no quick-witted Jenny, no humiliation, no Farmville abuse, and none of the consequences for any of this that a real-life version would elicit. What we’re left with is a snap-shot of a sitcom cliche. It’s extremely doubtful that many of us find sitcom cliches entertaining at all, but I’m certain even fewer of us would find this concoction funny if we knew that it was fiction.

And really, Leo, the purpose was to inspire? Even if we had bought into this as fiction, ‘Jenny’ is not especially inspirational. But having set it up as reality, as an act with human consequences, its ability to inspire depends entirely upon it’s having loads of ounces of truth.

Once again, postmodernism gives people the vocabulary to babble about not needing to connect a person’s inner world with the world outside us, and it’s complete garbage. Let’s do each other a favour today and kick an emperor’s-new-clothes postmodernist in the shins.

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Corals, Kings and Conservatism

Ours is a world infatuated with progress, novelty and consumption. We don’t make things to last, because who wants the pressure of buying something that’ll last forever? Are those who bought shoes with flashing lights in them glad that they fell apart two years later? I certainly hope so. We want to move forward, not look back.

The Christian world is not exempt from this mood. Doctrine, orthodoxy, heresy, liturgy and the like have all become dirty words for younger Christians. It is fashionable for us to be suspicious of the authority of tradition, the received wisdom of our parents and their parents before them. We don’t want the Doctrines Of Our Forefathers when we can have the vital, lively experiences of life in Christ in the present.

Well, as with mullets and moustaches, regrettable fashion mistakes have a habit of repeating. The last few centuries have witnessed a constant stream of battles in ink over so-called Liberal theology, which also patterned itself as a fresh update of stale religion. There’s nothing new about a clash between those who have a conservative disposition and those who like change and progress. Nevertheless, Christianity needs both.

Seeing as the fresh and the new are in the ascendancy in the church, and conservatism is the musty, cheese-scented side of the battle, it is worth considering afresh why we need to appreciate the old. Continue reading

Velvet Elvis overdose

velvetPostmodern-Christian writers are strange animals. They’re the first to speak about how impossible it is to connect truth and language, and how language fails when it comes to communicating anything about God. Yet they’re never short of words to tell the rest of us about God, and they expect us to understand them. They’re the most cynical about the misuse of language, and yet they engage in more rhetoric and manipulation than anyone, without regard for genuine argument or logic.

We’re having a postgraduate seminar about the ’emerging church’ tomorrow. The student paper on the subject looks at Rob Bell’s Velvet Elvis (2005), and I got upset. So I thought I’d share.

*Note: Having just had the seminar, it is clear that the student has misinterpreted Bell in some respects, and at least not fully demonstrated his thesis that Bell is leaning on Brian McLaren’s thinking. So let me not take it for granted that Bell is fully in the Emergent line. Nevertheless, there are some worrying tendencies. Continue reading

Putting the X back in Xmas

There has been considerable furore in local Christian circles about the intentional secularising of the public face of Christmas. When quizzed about the absence of nativity scenes or even the word ‘Christmas’, shopping centres admit to actively de-Christianising the ‘Holiday Season’, much to the chagrin of Christians. I, for one, fail to see what the fuss is about. Continue reading

Growing Genuises

Government has long claimed that education is the key to a prosperous future for our country. Whether they’re doing their part is debatable, but it’s clear that the rest of us don’t believe that education is important. If we did, would we tolerate the drek that passes for kids’ TV?

Our apartheid past made it a virtue to keep in line, and avoid thinking or asking questions. Lack of education was a major tool in the subjugation of black South Africans. One would think, then, that having awoken from our stupor, we would fling off our dull shackles and breathe deeply of the fresh air of free thought. Given our past, it is surprising that education has not become a banner of triumph in our democracy, but it is thoroughly disturbing that South Africans seem more interested in the warmth and gloom of their old blankets.

We’re in need of thinkers who can steer the country wisely, and we’re in need of entrepreneurs, artisans and problem solvers who can create jobs and combat poverty. We know this, but what are we doing to nurture future leaders? South African kids’ media reveals what we think they ought to enjoy, and how we’re training our kids to play and learn. Consider this brief sample from our national broadcaster’s morning line-ups: Continue reading

Religion as the Enemy of Worship

A SERMON FROM AMOS 4

Introduction

In Amos 4 & 5, we look at God’s take on Israel’s worship. For us, worship is a subject of some confusion. When we speak about worship in the church, people are always very quick to point out that worship is not just singing, it’s our whole life. This is good and true, but the fact that it is necessary to have such a dictum reveals that we know that we’re often confused.

And of course, even when we remember that worship is a lifestyle, there’s still the question of what part our music and our church ceremony plays. For example, consider these two book titles:

  • Prophetic Worship – Releasing the Presence of God
  • (Winning Edge Min.) Worship Music in 3D: How to Sing Down the Presence and Power of God

Does our worship achieve this lofty end or not? Does God really need our permission to be ‘released’ or ‘present’?

And then what about lifestyle? We might say that our life is worship, but how widespread is this idea, and how seriously to we take the challenge? Continue reading

Postmodern theology’s age-old mistake

Brian McLaren’s lamentable book, A New Kind of Christian, argues that the Christian church needs to adapt its theology to keep pace with changing cultural values (i.e. postmodernism). He proceeds to demonstrate what he means by engaging in some of that revision himself. Of course, some of that work is helpful (he can only conceive of a modernist church as an alternative to a postmodern one, and so finding weaknesses there is a bit like the proverbial shooting fish in a barrel). However, he trims away far too much, including nearly everything that Jesus meant when he said, ‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life’.

Oliver O’Donovan’s Resurrection and Moral Order includes a passage on Karl Barth that reveals that this theological revisionism is not new and not clever: Continue reading