The Postmodern Impasse

  A recent poll asked people what kind of neighbors they would most like NOT to have to live next door to: Drug dealers? Used car salesmen? No. The number-one choice was fundamentalists, by which they meant any devout Christian. This perception about Christians is especially sad, because the people most hurt by this attitude are the ones most in need of the difference the Gospel can make. Rod Dreher, a columnist for the New York Post, recently learned how true this is when he went for a stroll with his wife and infant son in their New York City neighborhood. A woman stopped to admire their son and struck up a conversation. She told them about her son, a senior at an expensive private school, and she said she was worried that the boy is drinking and possibly doing drugs with his friends. She had lost sleep worrying about him. She also voiced frustration over the lack of support from other parents, and even her own husband. "My husband and I have fought about this for years," she told the Drehers. "He keeps telling me we can't ask too much of the boy.... I just don't understand why he's so permissive." Then she asked the Drehers where they planned to send their child to school—a question you can't ask too early in a city where people put their kids on waiting lists as soon as they conceive. When Dreher's wife said they planned to home-school their son, the woman exclaimed that it would be difficult to do that in New York, "unless you're right-wing Christians or something." Dreher told the woman that they indeed are Christians, and that it was the moral concerns she had just expressed that made them turn to home-schooling. The irony of that conversation stuck with Dreher. On the one hand, the woman was "broken up about the lack of discipline and morality among kids these days." Yet, the way she said "right-wing Christians" expressed disdain for the very people who are raising their children with discipline—the thing she most wants. It was a case of a drowning woman refusing a life jacket. While, as Dreher notes, she "wants to have good kids," she's terrified of being like those conservative Christians. What happened to the Drehers has probably happened to you. Your unbelieving neighbors want the kind of life that Christianity makes possible. But, like this New Yorker, they can't see past the stereotypes. It's what I call the postmodern impasse. We want moral order, but we reject the one thing that gives it to us. But this kind of situation presents a wonderful opportunity for us to show our neighbors the flaws their own thinking. What they're really admitting is that a secular, value-neutral worldview doesn't work. And they see the negative consequences. Only a worldview that affirms the existence of moral absolutes can create the cultural climate our neighbors say they want. And that's, of course, what Christians believe in and are trying to bring back. Not because we want to impose our values on people, but because we love our neighbors, and want what's best for everyone. Which ought to make us exactly the kind of people others, if they understood, would want living next door.


Chuck Colson


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