The other day I once again read through The Call to an Ancient Evangelical Future, which in my opinion overuses the term narrative. For those unfamiliar with postmodernist lingo, the narrative is our worldview, our belief about the world and our place in it, the story in which we are “merely players.” Postmodernism says that there is no meta-narrative, no all-encompassing story in which we live; all such propositions are merely attempts at control.
The Call states:
Today, as in the ancient era, the Church is confronted by a host of master narratives that contradict and compete with the gospel. The pressing question is: who gets to narrate the world?
This is an interesting question, especially in light of postmodern suspicions about the control aspect of narration. Who indeed “gets to” narrate the world?
Lately I’ve been spending a considerable amount of time reading and blogging about the various issues of theism vs. philosophical materialism; obviously, both present meta-narratives which are mutually exclusive. Personally, I think the pressing question is not “who gets to” narrate the world, but rather, who does narrate it. If either worldview is correct, then obviously that narrative controls, whether we acknowledge it or not. But, if the concern isn’t ultimate truth, but rather is merely present power, then the question truly is, “who gets to control the world” and the postmodernists raise a valid concern. Philosophical materialists, by the way, hate postmodernism even more than theists.
Within Christendom, there are various factors with their own take on the narrative; in America, the most notable (with regard to this discussion, anyway) are those known as the Religious Right. My personal opinion is that many of these folks have lost sight of any grand narrative and have opted for control; I can only presume that this somehow justifies or explains their use of political clout to try to achieve their goals, which I again presume involves some sort of enforced morality and/or legalism.
The philosophical materialists, on the other hand (including the New Atheists, neo-Darwinists and self-proclaimed pagans), are resorting to the same forms of political and informational manipulation to attempt to enforce their proposed narrative. The philosophical materialist narrative completely disallows any non-material factor, including any non-material aspect of the mind or emotions, resulting in nothing more than biological determinism. We, including our psyches, are merely the product of natural selection. It has even been proposed that we cannot be held accountable for our “sins” as we are only acting according to our genetic mandate. We, therefore, have less free will than the machines of The Matrix.
Many philosophical materialists are content to live according to their story, and let others believe in whatever story they wish. The majority of Christians, specifically excluding the “radical right” wing, hold to a meta-narrative that says God is in control, and therefore there is not only no need for us to control the story, we couldn’t if we tried. However, as these people are not in the fight to control the story, they are largely ignored.
When you get into the fray, the place where ideologies collide, the issue has little or nothing to do with the Big Picture. In the Fray, the issue is who gets to narrate the world; it’s not about the real narrative, its about control vs. the right to not be controlled. I personally resent the notion of being controlled by a philosophical materialist narrative; on the other hand, I have no desire to force my worldview on others. I’ve no need to narrate the world. It doesn’t matter to me personally whether others believe what I believe or not; as Morpheus said, “what I believe doesn’t require them to.” The Meta-Narrative stands on its own.
In the meantime, however, I’d rather not be controlled by anyone else’s narrative.
I should clarify, for clarification’s sake, that when I say I’ve no need to narrate the world, what I should have said was, “I’ve no need to control the narration.” I’ll narrate all day long (as I do on this blog); I just don’t have a need to force it on others to be secure in my worldview.
“It doesn’t matter to me personally whether others believe what I believe or not . . . however, I’d rather not be controlled by anyone else’s narrative.”
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
—Yeats, The Second Coming