I'd like to address an issue that Phil S. raised in a comment to my recent post, A Meditation on Post-Modernity.
Phil S. wrote in response:
What many Christians are doing (including me) is to use the post-modern critique of modernism to show it to be just another meta-narrative and that its claims to universality are either greatly exaggerated or, worse, intended to submerge other meta-narratives by taking the high ground.I am aware that many Christian theologians are now attempting to make this claim, and that is the entire reason for my original post, because I find this type of claim to be a real stretch. Post-modern philosophy when pushed to its extreme like this appears to me to break down.
Yes, we all have meta-narratives, but as human beings NO ONE can live without them. We might spend the majority of our lives unconscious of our meta-narratives, and unaware of their orientations of power, but we would live in utter chaos and dissociative states without them. For scholars to try to erase them from our reconstructive histories, or we from our persons, borders on the impossible. What would be the practical purpose anyway?
I think that we are stuck with meta-narratives and all the ugliness (and beauty) they bring with them. We can never have a narrative that is completely inclusive of the world. Nor we can ever escape their power, although I would like to think that we might be able to transcend the abuses of that power.
Saying this however does not mean that all meta-narratives bring with them the same abuse of power, or the same "universality." Most of our meta-narratives don't even attempt to apply to our common experience as human beings, an experience that transcends the views of any of our religions, social systems, or politics. The humanist or modernist meta-narrative came into being largely to escape the religious meta-narratives and their stranglehold on truth, their abuse of the power that their narratives fed (and still feed) them. In my opinion, the humanist or modernist meta-narrative is not "just another meta-narrative." Not all meta-narratives are "equal." It is the "higher ground," not for reasons of power or superiority or submersion of the "other", but because it is a narrative that allows for us to reflect critically as autonomous individuals and form more inclusive narratives of our world. For me this meta-narrative is essential to adopt as a historian of religion, because it allows me to operate critically, autonomously, and without religious prejudice or preferencing, creating a reconstuction of history far closer to what "happened" than any theological reconstruction might lend us.
Religious meta-narratives are particularly dangerous because they legitimate the oppression and violence as a divine ordinance, or a divine will, or a divine retribution.
Let me use an example that I personally experience: sexism and misogyny. The subjugation of women is woven throughout the Christian meta-narrative and its biblical texts beginning with chapter 2 of Genesis. The biblical passages have been used by mainstream Christians in our not-so-distance-past to keep women from having the voting rights of full citizens of the U.S. The Catholic Church still tells us that women cannot be priests because Jesus only selected male disciples and because women do not have male bodies necessary to represent Jesus as male priests do. Protestant denominations (and here I am not even thinking about marginal sects of Christianity, but the Southern Baptist Convention and other mainline Christian groups) recently revoked ministerial positions for women, or continue to exclude them from these leadership roles based on scriptural passages from Paul and the Pastoral letters. Women continue to be taught in mainstream denominations that God gave them "equal" but "different" roles from men, and that they should be satisfied with this because it is his will. Women continue to be taught in mainstream denominations that their voices should be silent, that their manner submissive to the men in their lives because Eve ate of the fruit not Adam (a reference that is made to 1 Timothy).
Certainly I am not naive enough to think that sexism in our society is completely to blame on Christianity, but Christianity's meta-narrative is the main meta-narrative in our society today that fosters and continues to feed the sexism as divinely sanctioned. And this is dangerous and morally bankrupt. It also holds the potential of becoming a "handmaid's tale" given the right social and political environment. And to me, a woman, this is utterly horrific to ponder.