DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Convergence

Written by: on April 26, 2021

In the fall of 2019, I needed some space to breathe and be, so I went to the Portland Art Museum. The instillation, “All Things Being Equal,” by Hank Willis Thomas was on display. As I walked past Thomas’ photographs, prints, videos, quilts, and mixed-media two-dimensional (often) interactive works, I felt disoriented, forced to see the world in a new way.

Hank Willis Thomas “is a conceptual artist working primarily with themes related to perspective, identity, commodity, media, and popular culture.”[1] Thematically, he tackles “the human toll of gun violence, the impact of corporate branding and the commodification of individuals, and the ways advertising plays to myths and stereotypes of race.”[2]Thomas also applies “strategies of appropriating and reframing texts, images, and materials to connect historical moments of resistance and protest to our lives today as a call to continue moving toward greater social justice.”[3]

Thomas’ creations exemplifies postmodernist artwork, shaped by centuries of cultural, lived realities, and decades of philosophical influence. He does this by highlighting the social world and its realities, mixing artistic styles to counter stylistic integrity, adhering to a narrow focus of reality (race, gender, and class) over universal focus, and employs “ruthless nihilism…dealing with important themes of power, wealth, and justice.”[4]

In Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault, Stephen R. C. Hicks explores the evolution, inherent weaknesses, and inconsistencies of postmodernism. Postmodernism is a philosophical premise that follows the age of pre-modernism and modernism. Pre-modernism is a time in human history where super-realism, mysticism/faith prevailed. Human nature was predicated on the concept of original sin and God’s will. Altruism and Feudalism were the ethical and political/economical frameworks of the day. In contrast, Modernism (Enlightenment to 20th century) embraces naturalism and objectivism, which was comprised of experience and reason. Tabula rasa and autonomy shaped the human condition. Individualism and capitalism dominated the ethical and political/economic landscape.[5] In contrast, postmodernism (late 20th century to present) “rejects the reason and the individualism that the entire Enlightenment world depends upon.”[6] It advocates anti-realism and linguistic social subjectivism. For human nature, postmodernists believe in social construction, conflict and oppression. It calls for “communalism, solidarity, and egalitarian restraints” over individualism in “values, markets, and politics.”[7]  Socialism is the political and economic platform postmodernist embrace. For postmodernists, “objectivity is a myth, there is no Truth, no Right Way, to read nature or a text. All interpretations are equally valid. Values are socially subjective products. Culturally, therefore, no group’s values have special meaning. All ways of life…are legitimate.”[8]

While Hicks situates our place in history in postmodernism, I’d argue we are actually standing at the convergence of the pre-modern, modern, and postmodern streams of thought, as evidenced by the far right, moderate, and far left camps of belief and practice in America. This convergence creates tumultuous waters where people try to find their footing in the various philosophical, political, theological, and economic systems. I wonder how we will make our way down river into the ocean of God’s abundant grace when some don’t experience a river and others don’t believe there is any water?

In addressing the accusations against him regarding blasphemy, Jesus said, “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.”[9] In attempts to understand our human existence and surroundings, we have placed ourselves in the position of God. We have rationalized, systemized, and conceptualized the mysteries of life in such a way that we have fragmentized our way of being, both individually and communally.

If we, as followers of Jesus, are to follow faithfully in his footsteps, then we must look to him as our example. Though he lived in the world, he was not of the world. He didn’t embody the economic, political, or even theological constructs of the day. Instead, he embodied the very being of God by abided in his Father at all times.

When we continually slice and dice ideas, we either end up with jagged small pieces that do more harm than good, or worse, we end up with nothing. Our fragmentation of practice and thought is a consequence of our fragmentation of Jesus. Rather than following his lead of abiding in God and having God in him, we have schism-ed our way into a sliced and diced Jesus, who is represented by not one Body, but by thousands and thousands of denominational bodies, all claiming to know the one way. By allowing “comprehensive philosophical and cultural movements” to dictate our steps, we have lost our way.[10]

Jesus modeled a way of being in the world that was counter to the systems of his day. He is the one who disrupts the power systems and flips the tables, extends a hand and sit with the sinner, and heals the lame and gives life to the dead. If our philosophical, theological, economic, political, and societal systems are not moving in the direction of Jesus, we will forever be struggling in the tumultuous waters of convergence, rather than residing in the vast depths of God’s grace.

 

 

 

[1] Bio page. Hank Willis Thomas. Accessed April 22, 2021.  https://hankwillisthomas.com/BIO/1.

[2] “Hank Willis Thomas: All Things Being Equal.” Portland Art Museum. Accessed April 22, 2021. https://portlandartmuseum.org/exhibitions/hank-willis-thomas/.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Stephen R. C. Hicks. Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault. (Ockham’s Razor Publishing, 2011) 257-262.

[5] Ibid., 15.

[6] Ibid., 14.

[7] Ibid., 14.

[8] Ibid., 20.

[9] Mark 3:24-25, NIV.

[10] Hicks, 20.

About the Author

mm

Darcy Hansen

11 responses to “Convergence”

  1. mm Jer Swigart says:

    Darc. Great closing piece. I’m wondering if you could play out a bit more what you mean by placing us “at the convergence of the pre-modern, modern, and postmodern streams of thought.” If it’s true that we stand there, what is a challenge and opportunity for leaders of being in that location?

    • mm Darcy Hansen says:

      When I read through the chart on pg 15 of the Hicks’ book, it struck me that I know people who hold all or some of those perspectives. Some cling tightly to some more than others. But rarely does any one person fall squarely into any one philosophical category, because the philosophy collides with economics and theology and social structures. While philosophy was often birthed by thinkers in academic settings, those thoughts didn’t stay there. They made their way into the world, the world we inherited, and the lines are not clear cut, this or that. That makes the convergence of waters super messy and tumultuous. The challenge for leaders is to know what ground we stand on, and then how best to lead people into the flow of water that is Jesus. The task seems overwhelming, but knowing the source of where the waters originated is helpful in discerning which waters are life giving and which ones aren’t. I think Americans have short memories; our understanding of history is limited. So history from a wide range of voices and perspectives is needed to discern what is true. But I also think there will always be people who reject all of what ever “it” is. Knowing when to let them be is critical to the survival of others.

  2. mm Greg Reich says:

    Great final blog. I think we will alway be faced with a intellectual convergence fo ideas. I see within myself influences from all three views. I personally don’ see them as conflicting one another ,as much as,, I see them a links in a chain. Each one has played a vital role in culture and each one has had it’s pitfall and potholes that needed to be maneuvered. As leadersI think we have a responsibility to be aware of the good, the bad and the ugly of each philosophy. I also think it is possible to try to see the best in each one and apply it.

    • mm Darcy Hansen says:

      Agreed. I suppose the challenge exists when others don’t subscribe to the same mode of operation, and instead choose to pick the bad or the ugly and apply that to their leadership contexts.

  3. mm Dylan Branson says:

    It’s kind of crazy how our culture is a hodgepodge of different views and practices spliced together in a kind of Frankenstein’s monster. We rarely have the full picture of the views we ascribe to, but only tiny out of context glimpses. I wonder what that process would look like of dissecting the monster and putting the pieces back in their proper place.

    • mm Darcy Hansen says:

      Can you write a novel in this regard, please? It would be amazing! Sort of like that graphic novel on critical theory we read-is long ago, but make it way more interesting and reader friendly:)

  4. mm Shawn Cramer says:

    Our fragmentation of practice and thought is a consequence of our fragmentation of Jesus.

    This is one of your most insightful lines in these blogs. The propensity to reduce (Yeah, but who exactly is my neighbor) is damning.

    • mm Darcy Hansen says:

      It stems as much from reading Holland as it does from this text. When we break down Jesus into religion and right belief for the sake of maintaining control and power, we open ourselves to the breakdown of a host of other things. We take his redemptive work, meant to restore and reconcile, and reduce it to fragments. These past few books have been hard for me to read. It breaks my heart in so many ways. How do we lead in such a time? Is there a way to reconcile the fragments to make a whole? This makes me think of “Kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery by mending the areas of breakage with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum, a method similar to the maki-e technique. As a philosophy, it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kintsugi). Seems imagination and innovation are required to make that happen.

  5. mm John McLarty says:

    I touched on this a little in my comment on Shawn’s post. We may very well be in a postmodern age, or at a confluence of pre, post, and modern eras. But there are many organizations, mine included, that have no clue how to exist in anything but the era in which it was established. I’m trying to figure out how to translate before we talk about how to adapt. The problem is, by the time we have that part figured out, it will be time to move on to the next thing.

    • mm Darcy Hansen says:

      For me, all the philosophical eras were just a bunch of “-isms” that I could never quite wrap my brain around, nor did I really understand why they were important. Like learning church history, reading through even this brief historical recap has been helpful. Is there a way to weave a broader range of history into sermons or other teaching formats so people can begin to understand where we are, how we got here, and possible ways of moving forward? And agreed about the pace of change and trying to keep up with the next thing.

      • mm John McLarty says:

        It’s difficult to put all of that into context in a sermon and still keep it interesting and engaging. That’s part of the challenge as well. People lack the ability to recognize what’s happening or to critically view events of today through the lens of history or even accept that their narrow perspective of something is probably not the whole picture. For Jesus, there was at least a common starting point with the Jewish religious leaders, but even then, what he offered was so far beyond their comprehension.

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