The Christian Humanist Podcast, Episode #118: Metamodernism

General Introduction
– Listener feedback
– We talk about Mike Tyson for awhile

What Is Postmodernism?
– Modernism without the anxiety
– Incredulity toward metanarratives
– Playfulness and literary production
– Local subjective truths
– Ontology, not epistemology
– Historicism in biblical studies
– Postmodernist architecture
– Whose metamodernism?
– Smiling nihilism

Postmodern Irony
– The hermeneutics of suspicion
– Postmodernism without irony
– Advertising becomes self-conscious
– The dismissal of the postcolonial
– Corrosive postmodern cool

What Killed Postmodernism?
– The three murderers
– Pushed toward reflection and progress
Love Actually and the post-9/11 romantic comedy
– Precursors
– The change in Emergent Christianity
– 9/11 and the Death of Irony
– Existence in the as-if

Defining Metamodernism
– Both/neither naivete and irony
– Oscillation between ironic and fanatical
– Dialectic vs. oscillation
– Wishing and hoping
– Postmodernism as a luxury

Cultural Artifacts
– Recovering sincerity from nihilism
– Wallace’s commencement address
– Metamodernist architecture
– An heir to Wallace
– On quirky

Let’s Fight
– What makes Nathan so angry?
– Redefining postmodernism
– The central decentered confession
– What do you do with the lie?
– The dangers of combination
– Living in hope and despair
– How consumerist is this?
– Neo-Romanticism and commitment

Metamodernist Christianity
– Metamodernist all along
– The Obama moment
– Something to resist, or appropriate?
– The third space of confession
– Don’t be a tool
– Back to hope

Our in-and-out music this week is Okkervil River’s “Down Down the Deep River,” from their latest album, The Silver Gymnasium.

12 thoughts on “The Christian Humanist Podcast, Episode #118: Metamodernism

  1. I was listening to this episode this morning and wondered
    if my thoughts on resurrection and the eschaton might reframe the argument on
    hope at the end in a way that is more helpful.
    I understand a desire for resurrection and a
    good-conquers-evil eschaton as an enactment of the type of hope that Michial
    was arguing for.
    When I read someone such as John Shelby Spong or Marcus
    Borg making an argument against a bodily resurrection of Jesus (and a future
    resurrection of others) on scientific and historical-critical grounds I can
    accept that argument as well-made, plausible, and possibly true. I think the
    argument and their insights in light of it are something we should take into
    account when studying the New Testament and early Church. At the same time the
    Church currently and historically has confessed the bodily resurrection of
    Christ and future resurrection of a greater humanity.
    With this in mind I think we can accept the Spong/Borg
    position as scientifically likely and still: 
         1. Desire Jesus’ bodily resurrection,
    and act in response to the proclamation of this reality, and
         2. Desire and work towards a future
    resurrection as an embodiment of the hope that is at the heart of both of thes                          confessions.
    (Side-note: this is why I think the arguments around the
    historicity of Jesus’ resurrection and future resurrection are not as important
    as our responses to the confessions of these events.)
    This is I think the hope that Michial is talking about:
    the acceptant that a stated reality or narrative cannot me true (i.e. accepting
    that the confession of resurrection is false or at least logically
    unreasonable), while at the same time accepting and whole-heartedly grasping it
    anyway in a desire to enact it and thus see it come to pass (i.e. working to
    live out resurrection and the Community of God here and now as an alternative
    to dominant narratives such as capitalism and consumerism).
    I think this is the proper response to either
    understanding. If Jesus’ resurrection was bodily we should testify to it by our
    actions and words, and if it was metaphorical as Spong or Borg argue then we
    should seek to live and enact it as the fulfillment of the confession we make.
    I realize that is a lot and I hope I didn’t just start
    the conversation by jumbling the argument that was in progress.

  2. I loved the bit in this episode about Parks & Rec. I had never thought of it before, but as soon as you spelled it out, it seemed obvious, which is one mark of a solid truth. Thanks for increasing my enjoyment of that show.
    In your talk about postmodernism and “seeing through” instead of “seeing by,” I started thinking about the Dune series by George Herbert — which you should do an episode on, at least the first book! (Cf. http://www.moongadget.com/origins/dune.html.)

    As I read Dune, the focus is on power, including abusing power and being the villain for the greater good, and religion, as obviously untrue but useful tool for controlling the masses. The Bene Gesserits, an order of Jedi-like nuns, send out missionaries to seed religious ideas (like a coming messiah) that they can manipulate later if needed, or not.
    Would you consider this a modern or a postmodern take? In one sense, it seems like sci-fi generally fits the modernist frame and the uses and creation of of religions fits with Marx, et al.  In another, it seems like all “will to power” and seeing through religion etc. which strikes me as more postmodern.

  3. Likewise, would you say that most political reporting by the New York Times, Politico, etc. is postmodern in the sense that they always try to “see through” rather than “see by” the statements and events in a political cycle? They don’t just report that so-and-so went to such-and-such town and gave a speech about thus-and-such (an account of events that is still not neutral of course). Instead, they impute motives and try to read between the lines: “So-and-so, seeking to shore up his support among some group, traveled to such-and-such town and said this but really meant that.”

  4. Like Michael, I find lost cause mythologies (for lack of a better word) deeply compelling, though, being Minnesotan and thus rather suspicious of Southern culture, I’d identify it far more with Ragnarok than the American Civil War or Southern culture more generally – and I also think Michael was quite right to reference the Myth of Sisyphus, because the Existentialists and especially Camus are so big on that straining against something they can never defeat. But I’ve never seen how to meld that with Christianity; it seems anti-christian since it seems to deny the eschaton (excepting some Process thinkers, I guess, who might hope that all things will be made new but who don’t affirm the inevitability). And granted, the eschaton is something hoped and prayed for, not something known, but it’s still pretty much the polar opposite of Ragnarok. So I was quite intrigued by Michael’s talk about lost causes in a christian context in the podcast, and also very intrigued by what you were saying above, NedEdmund, about hope and faith in something that you can’t believe in because rationality and everything scientifically known about the world says otherwise. I don’t have any great responce to your comment, but it’s something I’m going to ponder.
    I was also intrigued by the discussion about consumerism. Contra Nathan, I don’t see metamodernism as defined in the podcast (I haven’t read the article (yet?), so I’ll go with the definition I took away: an oscillation between sincerity and irony) as necessitating consumerism, but I also don’t see how it does anything to combat it. Which is, mind, a great failing of our age (*the* great failing?) regardless of whether you’re modern, post-, meta-, or something else. Many social movements that could possibly be described as metamodern, such as the new sincerity or the various crunchy foodie philosophies seem to be just consumerism focused on consuming different things. Those movements would say they’re being *better* consumers, and I think they’re often right – eating produce from the farmer’s market and humanely-raised meat from a local farmer is probably better than eating food produced by industial agriculture, but it’s still centered around defining oneself by consumerism. So how are we to combat consumerism? Perhaps this is where lost causes come into play again…
    And btw, Nathan, Michael was right: what you said about truth is possibly the most anti-postmodern statement ever,.
    Thanks for the (very enjoyable and thought-provoking) podcast!

  5. NedEdmund That’s pretty much what I was getting at–you have articulated it much better than I was able to. Christianity is, in the 21st century, believing what is almost literally unbelievable–but it must be believed anyway.

  6. Undercat Agreed. I certainly would not claim that metamodernism offers any particular defense against consumerism, but I remain baffled that Nathan identifies it so strongly with consumerism. In truth, the hypercapitalism of the Western world will co-opt any expression of anything for its own purposes; our task is to recognize this and remain faithful to our doctrines, ideologies, hopes, dreams, etc., anyway. And don’t worry about my name. I wasn’t even going to correct you. 🙂

  7. QuintusPublius I think explorations of power probably belong to modernism as much as to postmodernism; having never read “Dune” myself, I will studiously avoid answering that part of the question.

  8. Great comments and great episode.
    1. I see postmodernism as conservative–the move of Marxism and
    critical theory from the streets to the academy. 
    2. I liked Michial’s distinction about postmodernism and postmodernity
    3. Still not sure about the difference between–irony, cynicism, satire
    and sarcasm. For instance, when I think of irony I immediately think
    of 4 writers–Swift,Gibbon,Waugh and Joyce. Through in Juvenal too.
    4. I think you should do a follow up episode where you punt Metamodernwhatever and put Modernism and Post-Modernism in dialogue
    I would suggest Marshall Berman and David Foster Wallace. Pick the 
    introduction of All that is Solid or the chapter on Faust(Can I interest you Mad Dog?) from Berman
    and the essay by DFW you mentioned in the episode. Why? They both write
    well!  Also I think they are searching for Paradox, irony as a way to
    order your life in these dynamic times–Resurrection?

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