Interview with John O'Keefe of ginkworld.net
1) gw: How would you define the "postmodern movement?"
sg: "Postmodern" is an extremely
difficult term to define, largely because the word carries so many
levels of meaning. It is simultaneously a significant intellectual
development and a broad cultural phenomenon. And it carries both
critical or negative and constructive or positive aspects. But perhaps
where all these strands meet is in the widely-held realization that
the guiding principles and aspirations that characterized Western
societies in the modern era no longer can claim--nor are worthy
of claiming--universal allegiance. This realization, in turn, leads
to both the strong rejection of several aspects of modernity evident
today and the quest we find among people to retrieve some of the
values that they sense were lost during the modern era, such as
"soul," "spirituality," and "mystery."
2) gw: What do you see as the top three elements of community in
a postmodern age?
sg: "Community" is, of course,
a postmodern buzzword, and a term that I have used extensively in
my own writings. Postmodern people do indeed "crave" community,
but unfortunately they so often settle for "lifestyle enclaves,"
largely because the only way they know how to relate to others is
as "consumers." The postmodern condition, therefore, offers
a great opportunity and a grave temptation. The opportunity is to
introduce true community (as far as it is possible in a broken world).
The temptation is to settle for the consumption of lifestyle enclaves
indicative of a consumer culture. True "community" emerges
when people find themselves connected to a group which functions
as a community of memory (i.e., that tells its past narrative) and
a community of hope (i.e., that anticipates a glorious future).
This, in turn, leads to the kind of on-going fellowship that we
all so strongly desire. Naturally, as a Christian I am convinced
that only the community of Christ can ultimately serve as a true
community in this manner and therefore foster true fellowship.
3) gw: Community is key to a postmodern mind and life, how does
evanglism fit into the whole postmodern lifestyle?
sg: Well, I think the answer is quite
simple. In a postmodern context, evangelism and lifestyle are reciprocally
connected. Whether we like it or not, the way we live is a "commercial"
for the claims we make about Christ. this means that our lifestyle
as a community of those who live out our faith in our relationships
to each other and to others around us is the most effective evangelistic
program we have. For this to happen, we must live in a manner that
both sets us apart from the superficiality so indicative of life
today and yet endears us to postmoderns who are looking for "the
4) gw: To put a twist out there, who do you say Jesus is and why
sg: As the advent season through which
we have recently moved suggests, Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us.
That is, Jesus is the revelation of the eternal God. But at the
same time, he discloses to us what God created us to be, and thus
in him we find true humanity as well. Not only does Jesus model
for us true humanness--what it means to live as persons before God--he
also is our Savior, for he opens the way for us to live as persons
in community with God and each other.
5) gw: What is the place of "the evangelical" in a postmodern
sg: If by "the evangelical"
you mean Christians who call themselves evangelicals, then I would
say that the postmodern world provides a great opportunity to be
truly evangelical. An evangelical is a person who is convinced that
God is in the transformation business. This message is not only
precisely what postmoderns need to hear, it is what postmoderns
long to hear. The postmodern turn has laid bare the pretensions
of modernity, but postmodernism lacks a message of hope in the midst
of the realization that we live in a fallen world. In the midst
of the apparent triumph of pessimism we are experiencing today,
evangelicals are a people of hope, because we have faith in the
God who raised Christ from the dead and therefore can, by his Spirit,
transform our lives and our world.
6) gw: "American christianity" is filled with "stuff."
How do we get past all the "stuff?"
sg: Unfortunately, American Christianity
has in many respects bought into the consumer mentality of contemporary
society. But the Christian faith is not another commodity that can
be bought, sold, and marketed. Rather, it is the life of true relationships--fellowship
with God, with one another as participants together in Christ's
community, and with all creation. Realizing this and acting on this
realization is, I believe, the way forward.
7) gw: Looking into the future, what "shape" do you see
the church taking in society?
sg: The postmodern world is one in
which diversity is celebrated. Diversity, however, is not merely
a postmodern value, but a Christian value that arises out of the
biblical vision of the church. I think the postmodern context, therefore,
affords us the opportunity to recover this glorious vision of the
church. The church of the future, I am suggesting, will be truly
multi-ethnic and multi-generational--not merely in terms of the
people who show up to its public meetings, but in the very way it
lives, worships and serves.
gw: Any closing thoughts?
sg: Many people rightly point out
that we are living in perilous times. Yet these are interesting
times, challenging times. I believe that as Christians we can take
heart, knowing that the Holy Spirit is active not only in our lives
but also in our world. Let us therefore pray for wisdom and courage
so that we might live as Christ's disciples and serve our generation
to the glory of God.