I don’t mind being a little alarmist from time to time. After reading one of the latest Breakpoint Commentaries by Chuck Colson, I feel like sounding one of those alarms. The essay dealt with a now “old” story about rampant relativism among our churched youth. What caused Colson to write this essay was a story that linked that relativism in some middle school kids to their parents and pastor. Speaking for one of their worldview trainees, “Centurions,” Colson relates this story:
Everything was going fine until the group reached lesson 10 [in their youth worldview training course]. Lesson 10 leads the kids through a series of choices to learn to recognize the difference between matters of truth and matters of taste. One of the choices, “believing Islam, Buddhism or Christianity,” flashed on the screen.
Our Centurion—I’ll call her Joanne, told me what happened next: “The students went nuts. All but one of the eight leaders completely balked at the concept of distinguishing Christianity as true and other religions as false.”
Joanne learned that several of the seventh graders had talked to their parents or pastors over night. But the result of those conversations was shocking. One girl had written a paper that night on “why we shouldn't hurt others feelings by claiming our way is right.” One young lady had met with her pastor, who told her no one can be sure of truth. “It is all perspective,” he said. The students agreed that they should not offend others by saying Christianity is true. Only one was prepared to teach it.
I think it is very simple: a person who has lost a sense of truth either becomes the pawn of power or a power-player himself or herself. When the concept of a truth that exists outside a person or a culture is lost, all that is left is propaganda and power.
It is one of the great ironies of postmodernism. Pomos are quick to say they react against the power plays of Enlightenment truth with something more able to listen, dialogue, and flex. Though truth has been used as a concept to oppress in the past, there is absolutely no necessary connection between the concept of objective truth and coercion. Conversely, where there is only culture, convention, or personal conviction to appeal to—as is the case with postmodern relativism—there is only power. As a brief example, I may argue that my view of justice and fair play is superior to yours, and the evidence I muster in support of my claim has nothing to do with who is closer to reality. The only way to implement my view is to become more powerful than the other. There is no convincing or argumentation in a postmodern, relativistic world, there is only emotivism and assertion. As a result, there is a necessary connection between postmodern relativism and coercion.
Young people who grow up with the mush of relativism have doomed themselves to insignificance. They have condemned themselves to being pawns in propaganda games with nothing substantial to appeal to in order to counter the views of others. “I don’t feel that way,” is not a counterview—it is a feeling.