Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Progressive Metanarrative

Gradually advancing in extent. Moving toward a goal
A grand overarching account, or all-encompassing story, which is thought to give order to the historical record.
From the bare lexicography of it all, the term "Progressive Metanarrative" could simply mean any concept of history moving toward a goal. In such a case, I would be a "progressive" because I certainly believe that God is moving history toward a defnite goal.

But in common parlance, THE Progressive Metanarrative imagines that the world (or at least the United States) is moving inexorably toward the specific goals of secularism, social libertarianism, pacifism, and socialism (or at least radical redistribution of wealth). According to the Progressive Metanarrative, arrival at the goal is inevitable. It may be delayed or temporarily sidetracked, but it cannot be derailed. Sort of like a doctrine of Perseverance of the Sinners.

Here's the odd thing: You don't have to be a progressive to buy into the Progressive Metanarrative. Progressives may believe that progressivism will inevitably win at which time they will be delighted. Conservatives may believe that progressivism will inevitably win at which time they will be defeated.

Progressives who buy into the metanarrative are often patient regarding delays of the coming of the ideal, but they go bananas when anyone tries to overturn any of their "progress" and restore past conditions. Delays are compatible with the metanarrative, but movement "backwards" is not.

But all that I've written so far is really just prelude.

What fascinates me is the phenomenon of conservatives who buy into the Progressive Metanarrative. Such people think that the best we can do is temporarily to forestall things. They believe, deep down inside, in the inevitability of their grandchildren living in a nation that recognizes gay marriage. They believe that next year's movies must always be raunchier than last year's movies. They believe that today's conservative educational institutions must necessarily slide into liberalism within a few generations. They don't like these ideas, but they don't think that they have any choice. For example, according to this view the 1960s must necessarily be a permanent lamentable slide into moral oblivion, while the 1980s must necessarily be a temporary Dunkirk for conservative morality.

Often, conservatives just don't know how to be winners. They only know how to dominate and live in fear of the day when they will dominate no longer. Winners confidently persuade others to agree with them and thereby build a future. They do so by sharing their own "metanarrative" and giving people a vision. Many conservatives do a great job at this—unlike some I do not believe that defeatism and defensiveness are inherent to conservatism. I only think they are inherent to conservatives who have succumbed to the Progressive Metanarrative.

Sometimes it seems to me that some conservatives almost want to believe in the Progressive Metanarrative.

Some of it comes, perhaps, from the fact that it is much easier to preach about how horrible things are and how horrible they are becoming than it is to kindle in people's hearts a vision for working towards a better future. One of those "curse the darkness" / "light a candle" kind of situations.

Some of it comes, perhaps, from a certain conviction that these are the days of great apostasy leading into a premillennial vision of the eschaton. I would point out that a great many people have thought so in the past, only to see things make a turn and get better. Morality was horrible in the Roman Empire, but Christians turned things around and saw real progress in the direction of Christ. Colonial morality before the First Great Awakening was deplorable, but Whitefield and Edwards and Tennent and Frelinghuysen were used by God to turn things around. I will be the first to echo, "Lord Jesus, come quickly," but I will point out that the Apostle John didn't manage to hurry up the schedule by wishing that and I have no reason to suspect that I will either. Christ will come when He gets ready.

And in the meantime, He has pleased Himself on many past occasions to bring spiritual awakening and to frustrate the grand schemes of sinners. There is a Christan Metanarrative. I opt for it. And I pray that it will embolden us all in our vision for homes, communities, nations, and a world moving closer to God rather than farther away.

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