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Would Jesus Embrace Postmodernism?

A burgeoning movement of evangelical Christians is breaking away from the fold
by Maura R. O'Connor

Evangelical Christians are starting to get nervous, and it’s not because the secular left has miraculously regrouped and formulated a radical and foolproof plan to take back the White House. No, they’re nervous because some within their own ranks are beginning to embrace—believe it or not—postmodernity. These postmodern Christians, or “pomos” as they are often being called, are the newest spice in America’s diverse religious soup. According to bestselling author Brian McLaren, the informal spokesperson of this postmodern demographic, what distinguishes pomos from evangelical Christians is that they are able to transcend dogma to “talk about spirituality” and “mystery” as well as “explore synthesis and systems thinking.” They’re not as concerned with control, power, and certainty—signifiers of modernity—because, as McLaren suggests, “there’s something better than control, power, and certainty out there. Maybe that something is love, stewardship, faith.”

A number of recent statistics indicate that more and more young people are captivated by McLaren’s message and the burgeoning movement he represents—sometimes called the “emerging church” by the news media. For example, the unfailingly hip guide to Christian living for twenty- and thirty-somethings, Relevant magazine, saw their annual revenue increase from six hundred thousand to 2.1 million dollars in 2004, and their book sales grow by four hundred percent. In what’s becoming true pomo style, many of the Relevant Media Group’s books have resolutely unorthodox titles, such as The Naked Christian: Taking Off Religion to Find True Relationship and the ambiguously satirical Pocket Guide to the Apocalypse: The Official Field Manual for the End of the World. Proving that pomos are gaining tremendous buying power and increasing cultural influence, a study on religious books by Publisher’s Weekly found that the average age of buyers was a youthful thirty-eight and that the largest group of buyers fell between the ages of twenty-five and thirty-four. Of course, this new breed of Jesus’ followers is not without its critics, and some of these traditional evangelicals are beginning to call themselves the “mods,” for “modern.” Convinced that pomos are merely truth-deprived, the mods’ solution is age-old: pomos, they say, are in need of “more doctrine, not less.”


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