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The Dominant Motif Of Our Age is Denial
The Kew Continuum ^ | 4/11/2005 | Richard Kew

Posted on 04/12/2005 8:25:20 AM PDT by sionnsar

[Long, but a good read IMHO. --sionnsar]

I was driving home in a blinding rainstorm the other evening, my brain having clicked onto an idea during a fallow moment of the gathering I had been attending. The result was that I found myself trying to think things through as well as keep the car on the road! Just before leaving the house earlier that evening I had read an article by Paul Krugman fed to our local paper from the NY Times that suggested that liberal academics were the folks who were much more in touch with reality than many Christians.

While I could not, and did I wish to deny some of the evidence he was coming up with, the article was a robust attack on all those whose understanding of research (and the systematic accumulation of knowledge) is interpreted through the lens of God's self-revelation. We are condemned as irrational. I would hazard Krugman had been reading the recent book of Dick Taverne, a veteran British politician, that says much the same point, but a great deal more viciously.

Now I know liberal academia pretty well having lived in and around universities and colleges for my whole adult life. I am also married to a woman who teaches in a State University, so can vouch from personal observation that liberal academics are influenced by the same forces of irrationality that shape our culture -- and are no more likely to be rational thinkers and realists than anyone else. If anything, some of them because of their love affair with deconstructionist attitudes are even more detached from reality than the average run of Americans, Christian or otherwise.

The Krugman article came on top of something I heard said by the Roman Catholic theologian and observer, George Weigel. He suggested that Descartes should be spinning in his grave right now because the enlightenment process of reasoning that he pioneered in an attempt to help people think rationally has deteriorated into subjectivity and wishful thinking. I think Weigel is right, and I also share his conviction that it is within the church that we are more likely to find the rationality and objectivity that the postmodern world has abandoned -- except, of course, in the thinking of those in the church who have reinterpreted both life and gospel with postmodern presuppositions.

My subconscious mind had been working on this melange of data, and it hit me during that rainstorm driving home that perhaps the dominant motif of postmodern culture is one of denial. As the rain lashed the windshield and the wind shuddered the car, I found myself trying to remember details of a book I had read several years ago. It was "Life the Movie," by Neil Gabler, writer and movie oficienado.

Gabler's thesis is that entertainment has taken over everything. "After decades of public-relations contrivances and media hype, and after decades more of steady pounding by an array of social forces that have alerted each of us personally to the power of performance, life has BECOME an art, so that the two are now indistinguishable from each other" (page 4). He goes on to quote Daniel Boorstin, who observed that the techniques of theatre have been applied to politics, religion,
education, literature, commerce, warfare, crime, literally converting them into branches of show business. He describes this as a cultural Ebola virus because that has so infected our cultured that the temptation is now to interpret all life through a veil of make believe.

If, as many think, postmodernity is the outcome of the decay of the enlightenment mindset, then it is inevitable that style and image should be thought more important than substance and objectivity. Neither should we be surprised that today fiction and fact have become so intertwined that increasingly we are unable to tell the difference. We watch docu-dramas as if they are fact, and are used to good-looking movie actors playing rather ordinary-looking people like C. S. Lewis and Joy Davidman Lewis. Celebrities who are famous for being famous are fawned over more than accountants (most of whom work to keep us honest and real), and narcisistic college basketball coaches take home paychecks far in excess of that which is paid to the President of the USA. Yes, there is little doubt that life is mediated to us through the gauze of entertainment, and we are losing touch with reality.

The dark underside of all this is that when reality, rationality, objectivity do assert themselves, denial (often passionate) is the response. Klugman's article makes the assumption that those who listen to revelation have by their faith been programmed to deny the reality of observable fact. I suppose if you believe that the world was made in six 24-hour periods 6,000 years ago the case can be made that you are not looking at all the evidence, or are interpreting the evidence that is contrary to this through a grid of your own contriving, but I am not sure this is a mainstream Christian mindset.

Therefore I must take issue with Klugman's suggestion that those of us who take God's self-revelation seriously are per se irrational deniers of reality. Indeed, I would line up with George Weigel and say that because we worship an infinite God who is supra-rational that we have a much better chance of thinking in an objective and rational manner than those who deny such a Creator.

Let me ground this assertion in recent experience. Although I could take a dozen other instances I will focus on the shenanigans that is the Episcopal Church, for they are familiar to many who participate in this listserv. A friend has repeated to me several times in the last few weeks that one of the basic components of good leadership is its ability to correctly view, assess, and respond to reality, taking in the whole picture -- both good and bad. This is as true of business and statecraft as it is of church-craft.

However, we are "blessed" with leaders who are in denial that ECUSA is in a mess. The statistics tell us that we are in deep trouble, but these are spun. The departure from our ranks of some of the brightest and best tell us we are in deep trouble as a denomination, but these folks are written off as troublemakers rather than men and women of principle. The financials tell us we are in deep trouble, but while there are endowments that can be raided. Here among those who read their faith under the influence of the prevailing culture, is the motif of denial hard at work.

I find it interesting that having admitted that as many as one-third of the congregations in his diocese are close to non-viability, the Bishop of Newark has decided announced his impending retirement. While he has excellent personal reasons for doing this, it does mean that he won't have to deal with the problem. It is also highly unlikely that the diocese, probably in denial of many of the realities, will elect a successor who is capable of dealing with the mess, or who will be acceptable to the mainstream of Anglicanism.

I am certain that one of the reasons those of us who are orthodox and biblical within ECUSA have been SO depressed the last couple of years is not just the blatant unfaithfulness of a denomination as it has taken the path of least resistance to the culture, but because we can see the consequences of the actions take. One of the ways in which reality is denied, by the way, is to refuse to accept that actions have consequences. Those of us who have pointed out that this emperor is wearing no clothes are being virulently attacked and hounded out of ECUSA for suggesting there are some fundamental truths that are being ignored (or rewritten).

This means that when most of us who are orthodox look at the reality of all that is going on around us shake our heads in frustration and disbelief. Can't they see, we say to one another, that ECUSA isn't like the Titanic that merely grazed an iceberg, but that our leaders in 2003 steered the boat straight at the thing -- and at full speed! Neither have they changed course since then. When we point this out denial steps in and we are told we are naysayers and troublemakers. Some of our number are even being turfed out because we say the compass needle points north, and not north, south, east, or west, depending on how you want to deconstruct and reconstruct the words on the face of the compass.

To say, "We have acted prophetically," is to live in total denial. Prophetic actions should build up, these are tearing down at a terrifying rate. Prophets speak the truth and point in a true direction, false prophets do otherwise -- and God says to false prophets, "Sorry, guys, I do not know you."

Every successful business executive I have ever come across works the numbers avidly. He/she wants the facts because their future depends on it. They get alarmed at even the slightest downturn in sales, profits, or whatever, and want to know why, and whether it is possible to put things right. Sometimes the only answer may be to totally remake the company. Nevertheless, what we are being treated to is the churchly equivalent of having produced an Edsel. Instead of saying, "Hey, folks, we laid an egg," our executives deny this fact and say, "Oh, we were right, the rest of the world will catch up with us. We are going to win this one in the end."

This is denial on a gargantuan scale, but it should not surprise us given the sort of world in which we live, and the fact that those who function in this way have uncritically sold out to the cultural drift of our times -- and the prevailing motif of that society is denial. I am not saying that those of us who are working to face reality from a setting of orthodox presupposition are without our own little denials, but I do think we are less willing to kid ourselves about reality's consequences than those who are at present behind the wheel of this vehicle as its downward plunge accelerates.

I could have chosen any number of other illustrations of the motif of denial in our society. We see it in Washington where federal budgets are managed, let's say, creatively. We see it in the inability of Boomers to accept the realities of aging. It is easier to deny the possibility of global warming than face up to the possible consequences. There is also always this irrational hope that some deus ex machina will appear that will magically straighten out the situation created by our inability to face the facts -- like in the movies.

Forty years ago Francis Schaeffer wrote an extremely helpful if turgid book entitled, "Escape from Reason." It was a great tool that I used with intelligent college and early career types early in my ministry, and it certainly shaped my thinking profoundly. Schaeffer was saying that the alternative approaches to living and believing that people choose other than the self-revealing God and his Son, Jesus Christ, are all when it comes down to it escapes from reason, and he illustrates this using a reasonable procession of arguments, ideas, and observations in light of revealed truth. It is only when we live within the ambit of the revealed Truth that we actually find ourselves capable of thinking rationally.

In the period since then we have seen the chattering classes and opinion formers in the church doing a Houdini-like escape act. First they escaped from Scripture and its authority over them. More recently they have said that they haven't done this but that there are more ways of interpreting the words than we had seen up until now -- however, contortions are needed to get there.

Then there has been a massive escape from Tradition. It has seemed to this onlooker as if everything that belongs to the past has been discarded. Hymns, liturgies, old-fashioned values and way of thinking, that which roots and grounds our faith and thinking in the life of the communion of saints has been surrendered in favor of what Leander Keck called "the banal and the bizarre."

Finally Reason went and the prevailing motif of Denial took over completely...

TOPICS: Mainline Protestant
KEYWORDS: angpost4

1 posted on 04/12/2005 8:25:20 AM PDT by sionnsar
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To: ahadams2; Peanut Gallery; tellw; nanetteclaret; Saint Reagan; Marauder; stan_sipple; SuzyQue; ...
Traditional Anglican ping, continued in memory of its founder Arlin Adams.

FReepmail sionnsar if you want on or off this moderately high-volume ping list (typically 3-7 pings/day).
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Resource for Traditional Anglicans:

Speak the truth in love. Eph 4:15

2 posted on 04/12/2005 8:25:43 AM PDT by sionnsar (†† || Iran Azadi || Where are we going, and why are we in this handbasket?)
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To: sionnsar

What I find interesting is the insistance on materialism coinciding with quantum theory which challenges many of its assumptions and suggests ways to investigate spiritual realm, scientifically.

3 posted on 04/12/2005 8:51:56 AM PDT by ClaireSolt (.)
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To: sionnsar

Interesting piece- thanks for posting.

4 posted on 04/12/2005 8:59:38 AM PDT by SE Mom (God Bless those who serve.)
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To: sionnsar

***...Instead of saying, "Hey, folks, we laid an egg," our executives deny this fact and say, "Oh, we were right, the rest of the world will catch up with us. We are going to win this one in the end."***

I'm afraid the author has a bit of reality disconnect here also. I don't think he fully appreciates the nature of these radicals.

It seems Orthodox Episcopals have been comfortable in the presence of liberals for so long that they don't recognize them for the demons they are.

These people are not misguided executives, they are destroyers and ideological enemies of the truth.

5 posted on 04/12/2005 9:05:42 AM PDT by PetroniusMaximus
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To: sionnsar

Not only is this a keeper, it should be printed out, framed and read each day. Ironically, as I was reading this, I was also listening to Jon M. Huntsman (appearing on Cavuto), who has written "Winners Never Cheat." He talked about the loss of our moral compass. Not all of us have lost it, but it is becoming harder to convince others what "due north" means.

6 posted on 04/12/2005 2:03:32 PM PDT by sageb1
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