Jumping Off the Bandwagon (by Matthew Gallion)
The Internet makes everything from pornography to postmodernism accessible to any and to everyone. Blogs, Wikis, Twitter, Facebook, and the like have significantly challenged hierarchical economies of thought, publicity, and the “celebrity.” Young kids hit it big on YouTube, becoming household names and oft-quoted catchphrases. Movie stars make friends with their fellow Internet-addicted fans. Bloggers gain bigger followings than long-established newspapers, providing commentary on every event from fashion to fascism and pop culture to politics—as if such things were truly so separate.
Postmodernism, like Tom’s Shoes or the iPad, is unfortunately hip. This means that some who deeply desire to be hip like to throw the “p-word” around. It has become the only socially acceptable way to talk about thinking, culture, and even the church. Throw in a digital dash of virtual reality, and one finds an overwhelming amount of postmodern hype plastered all over the Internet.
Oddly enough, the road to popularity in emergent Christianity is lined with flashy billboards with giant smiling faces and speech balloons loaded with postmodern jargon. It is worrisome that the combination of postmodernism and the Internet has been “commodified” through global capitalism into one more way to make a name for oneself. The Internet makes the world smaller; it closes the gap between those who are “famous” and those who are not. Public figures interact on a daily basis with average Janes and Joes. Becoming well known is part and parcel to the American dream, and it is getting easier by the minute.
However, what I find most appealing about Mark C. Taylor’s approach to postmodernism is that it results in the ubiquity of art that is deeply rooted in imagination and creativity. So it seems tragic to me to hop onboard the bandwagon in order to make a name for oneself, particularly at the cost of exploring and creating in one’s own context. I am making an open call to those within emergence Christianity who seek to become blogging celebrities and authors: Stop trying to gain recognition for your creations and just be content to create. Stop selling your religion for traffic and hits. Live art. Love the impossible. Don’t substitute the gleam in the Pan’s eye for subtle forms of consumeristic capitalism that are enamored with a big tent. In other words, escape the big tent and gather around a table instead, however big or small it might be.
Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from the essay “The Postmodern Pan and the ForeverNeverland,” which appears in the forthcoming book The Hyphenateds: How Emergence Christianity is Re-Traditioning Mainline Practices.
Matthew Gallion is a graduate student at Missouri State University where he is pursuing an M.A. in Religious Studies. Matt studies responses to American evangelicalism in postmodern contexts, particularly the emerging church and the emergent conversation, and the intersection of faith and culture, particularly in crossing the “digital divide.” He is the author of “The Price of Freedom: Bribery, the Philippian Gift, and Paul’s Choice in Philippians 1:19-26,” which won the prize for best graduate paper at the annual meeting of the Central States Society of Biblical Literature. He received his B.A. from Southwest Baptist University and currently serves as Pastoral Resident at National Avenue Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Springfield, Missouri. Follow him at www.matthewgallion.com.