The End of Christianity? Metanarratives 3

Read the previous ‘Metanarratives’ posts: 12.

In my first post on metanarratives, I said that one of the defining features of postmodernity was the suspicion of metanarratives. What I never wrote about was why the postmodern is outright hostile to the giant stories. In a historical sense, it could be that postmodern philosophy was born from the disappointment of ex-communists with the student rebellion of the 60’s. But the more reasoned answer is because of the inherent violence in the application of a metanarrative.

Now the postmodern conversation uses violence in a slightly different sense to how we might common speech – it’s pretty much any time that someone is forced into something they would not freely choose, whether through actual injury, implicit force and threats or just the weight of a system pushing them into compliance. I’m sure I don’t need to explain how communism was violent in its desire for revolution. Freudianism tries to explain all human behaviour and thought in one single system, and in this reductionism does violence to the multiplicity of impulses and desires that we have. The metanarrative of romantic fulfilment that I wrote about before does violence to both parties as they use each other to ‘see if they’re the one’ and are then broken by the failure of the night. Without exception, metanarratives are seen as bringing violence as they try to eliminate ‘the other’ who is not part of the plan. It appears to be a side effect of their ‘totalizing’ nature, the fact that they claim to explain all human behaviour, everywhere in one simple rule.

And so to Christianity – the violence of Christianity is seen by many as its biggest failing – how can I be part of a religion that excludes women/gays/racial groups, that caused the crusades and the inquisitions, that inspired George W Bush? Just look at the Bible, it’s full of violence, even genocide at the call of God – not to mention the way hell is portrayed as the ultimate violence and exclusion of the other!

As a Christian, I can humbly confess that my faith has been used in horrifically violent ways, it deserves to be called out on every single one of those. Where repentance is required, it must happen and we must reject the violence of the ways the Christian story has been used. However, there are two points to be made about the Christian story and violence. Firstly, the Scriptures themselves challenge the use of Christianity (and Judaism for that matter) in a violent manner. Secondly, while the violence of the Cross is central to the uniquely Christian message, it is an inversion of violence, which must change how we view the bigger story. I’ll fill in some more details of what that means in another post.