Modernity

One of my professors is from a remote part of Northeast India .  The British attached this area to their Indian colony, but the folks there are ethnically much closer to Chinese than Indians.  They don’t look like Indians and don’t have the culture that we associate with the subcontinent.  But, thanks to British colonialism, they’re now “Indian.”

Christian missionaries came into his native area in the 1890s.  His native language never existed in written form, until missionaries reduced it to writing.   In his native area, the only education available was through schools run by Christian missionaries. 

So as he proceeded with his education, which ultimately brought him to Princeton for his Masters and Ph.D, he was stunned to learn that modernity was perceived to be anti-Christian.  To him and his people, Christianity was modernity.

Later, in another context, he suggested that the rise of secularism (or put differently, the antagonism between Christianity and modernity) might be traced to the Peace of Westphalia.  After the horrors of the 30 Years War, with much of Europe destroyed and millions dead, people could not be faulted for wanting to rid themselves of religion–which had come to manifest itself primarily in war and terror.  Science and reason were an alternative, through which humanity might know peace and progress.

Of course we know the sad continuation of the story.  Modernism and the rise of nationalism eventually produced world wars that exceeded even the 30 Years War in death and destruction.  Modernism seemingly meant more even powerful and deadly weapons and ideologies, war and genocide.

So what will a postmodern world look like?   Will our dominant culture be cynical and self-absorbed?  Or will we finally get back on the course from which we took a tragic wrong turn 1700 years ago?

As our false economy collapses around us, I am optimistic. 

Love Wins