Some bible scholars suggest we should argue from the metanarrative to the particular and many not of God’s kingdom know this well. They know the essential need of the metanarrative by human beings. That is, we all need a story to belong to, to shape our lives and to help us find our place. Some argue that the whole nature of postmodernism has refuted the idea of the old metanarratives and subliminally and secretly engaged with a new one called ‘the global market’. But is this true? I think it is. You might disagree but I’m finding the arguments in Colossians Remixed (2004) again resonating with my heart.
I find myself teaching a history course in school about the “wonder of reason, exploration, the discoveries of the industrial revolution, a history of scientific discovery and the ‘fabulous’ story of how we built empires.” These topics are symptomatic of the courses available. It’s not that this information is, of itself, intrinsically bad and it’s important for children to know their history. And, as the teacher, I refine it and set it in an appropriate context.
It’s more that, within the material, is hidden an underlying story that’s supportive of a cultural mythology or worldview, with which I can now state (with a modicum of certainty) I don’t agree. (Of course, this idea isn’t my own. I got it from becoming a citizen of a different country (to use Lewis’ words and imagery).
Digory and the Mallorn
Then I got some more understanding from ‘Colossians Remixed’. (There are a few books out there that have shifted my paradigms so completely I hardly recognise myself as my mother’s daughter. This was one.) As I come back to it now, the paradigm is still valid.
CR’s authors argue that the mythological story Western Man now subscribes to is one of human progress. This is a metanarrative I was brought up with… My mother was a great believer in it and that education was the driver that made it happen. In so many ways, education IS a good thing but I believe a different story now. Education cannot change a human heart. It might change some minds by enlarging them or influencing them, or even revealing things, but it cannot change our hearts, which in my new metanarrative is the key, and as we are finding out over and over again, are deceitful and wicked. Often, education can just show people how the system works and how to be more wicked within it…Sad.
Is it true that the hidden metanarrative we propound in education today is a myth designed to support a society that is full of injustice? Our Father, on the other hand, progresses us by challenging us to humble ourselves and become living sacrifices. Whether we engage with it is also a choice. And our choices affect our hearts which affect our characters. The story we’re telling in schools, of a human race that is constantly progressing to better things is creaking at the seams. It is, itself, a lie that requires faith to believe with economic growth and individual prosperity as the god. The question is asked “Can we justify the assumption that the story of progress is the answer to the world’s problems?” I don’t believe we can.
To coin a phrase from the book, we’re “in a conundrum within our cultural analysis”.