The Church and Postmodernism? What about the Church and Modernism?

Like 200,000 other Melbournians I visited the art Deco exhibition at the NGV. Art Deco was an early 20th century movement which influenced art, industrial and interior design, architecture, film and fashion. In many ways Deco was a decorative reaction to the pure functionalism of modernism. 

The exhibition at the NGV was not so much an exploration of Art Deco in of itself but also of the macro themes of progressive culture in the 20′ & 30’s namely,

  • The Emergence of Urban Culture
  • A growing interest in non-European culture and art
  • The cultural fusion brought about by increased international migration and travel
  • The growth of consumer and commerciall culture
  • A fascination and optimism in the potential of technology
  • An increased emphasis on surface and style
  • The growing influence of mass media on public opinion
  • The influence of non-traditional and thus controversial music styles such as Jazz
  • The almost semi-religious devotion to the celebrity and glamour culture of Hollywood
  • A changing view of sexuality and gender eg flapper culture

mmmm sound familiar? It is interesting to note that many of the issues that we ascribe to our epoch in history have a much longer history than we think. Often in church circles there is a belief that society was chugging along quite nicely until sometime in the 60’s to 80’s then culture changed and postmodernity turned up and now we have to evolve in order to to respond to a changed cultural landscape. That we are in the midst of a hyper paced cultural change, this is true to an extent; however the more I read history the more I believe that we have been in a slow change that has been evolving over several centuries and the church has been struggling to deal and respond to this change for just as long. There has been much written about how the church can respond to postmodernism, but as we study history we realize that the church is still reeling and struggling to respond to modernism.


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