Do you ever feel like we live in a “deconstruction site?” As if we as a culture have dismantled most-if-not-all of the belief systems of the generations who came before us? The radicalism of the 60s may have given birth to this philosophical condition, but my generation is the first to live wholly in the deconstruction site - where meaning is fluid, absolutes are doubtful, and the future is wide open and totally unclear. This has been called postmodernism. But songwriter Conor Oberst observed that it can be said, at this point, “we’re post-everything.”
For the post-everythingist, whatever makes you happiest today is the most important thing. And why not? If there is no ultimate purpose to contribute our lives and our work, why not just have fun?
We see this in my generations expression of patriotism - if we are patriotic at all, it is often with a snarky wink. We see it in how we interact with religion. I read today that 25% of Americans identify as ‘no religious affiliation.’ With no big picture, no ultimate meaning or purpose, who cares about the kingdoms of gods or men?
And yet these strange longings persist.
A while back I heard the song “We Need a Myth” by a band called Okkervil River. In it the protagonist sings,
“We need a myth / We need a path through the mist / Like in our beds, we were just kids / Like what was said by our parents…/
I need a myth / brought back to life by a kiss / Scrape away gray cement / Show me the world as it was again…/
We’re cut adrift / We need a mass uplift / The world is trembling and weeping / Just at the point of believing /
In a myth / I heard the voice of a friend / On Lethe’s banks wading in / And he said, “Before I forget…”/
We need a myth / As we lean in to kiss /To get two nails through the wrist /
To get covered in blood / To get covered in spit / And to forgive /
And if all we’re taught is a trick / Why would these feelings persist? /
And with the truth closing in / I must insist / We need a myth.”
Even though the singer views the gospel as fantasy, he can’t help but wonder, “How can it hold such power over my imagination?” Why do we, even the most skeptical among us, so unconsciously credit worth to these glimpses of another world, of a bigger story that might be the chord connecting all of our stories, to that sense of homesickness for a place we’ve never been - and what is that inescapable sense of urgency the singer identifies: That somehow this ‘myth’ might just hold the keys to life and death?
The rational mind hasn’t explained our desperation.
The collected wisdom of man hasn’t answered our questions.
Unbelievable wealth hasn’t secured our happiness.
All this stuff hasn’t brought us purpose.
The world’s most powerful army hasn’t made us feel safe.
Technology hasn’t cured our loneliness.
And religion hasn’t saved us.
But the voice of God and the human capacity for hope persist.
What is the gospel of Jesus in this post-everything, deconstructed landscape?