Not Post Anything

People these days are forever claiming that we live in a “Post-Something” world.

There was talk a few years ago that we might be living in a Post-Racial society, meaning that racial differences don’t matter so much any more. Then the number of white supremacist groups shot up, under various euphemistic titles and disclaimers, while a string of tragic incidents led to the declaration that Black Lives Matter, which in turn prompted the response that All Lives Matter. So it appears that race still does matter, in ways that we all need to face honestly and address more constructively.

It’s also been suggested, more than once in recent years, that we could be on the verge of a Post-Partisan time, when people recognize the folly of tribalism and set aside their ideological differences for the sake of the common good. Instead, we’ve devolved into a hyper-partisan period where rancor separates even tribes within tribes and the danger seems quite real that the center may not hold.

A corollary to the escalating tribalism of our day is the currently fashionable suggestion that we live in a Post-Fact or Post-Truth world. The multiplication of news and information sources, which was supposed to make everyone better informed and strengthen democratic society, has instead produced a market segmentation whereby people can cherry pick whatever they want to believe, immune to countervailing evidence—or any evidence at all, beyond somebody’s mere assertion that gets retweeted and begins to “trend.”

On top of all of these “Posts,” the declining influence of the church has led to the commonplace assumption that we live in a Post-Christian society. As usual, semantics matter and the claim depends on what we mean by “Christian.” If the point is just that the social prestige and prominence of churches has diminished and a smaller percentage of the population participates even nominally in the life of a congregation, then that’s obviously the case. On other hand, a finer parsing of what it means to live a genuinely Christian life raises the question of the extent to which ours ever was a truly Christian society. Slaves, for example, raised that question for a significant portion of our history.

In this month of reflecting on our heritage, I want to suggest that we call a moratorium on declarations that we are Post-Anything, and focus instead on what appear to be our perennial challenges. Race still matters, and we need to keep working on justice and reconciliation. Partisanship is as bad as ever, and it’s manifestly doing us no good. Some things are true and some things are false, and even when it’s hard to figure out which is which, we have to be committed to the truth or else all is lost. And a truly Christian life can still leaven the whole loaf, since we believe in one who promises that “the truth will make you free.”

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