Thursday, October 06, 2016

Do Not Be Shaped Into This World's Social Imaginary

Bolles Harbor, Monroe
I picked up Robert Joustra's How to Survive the Apocalypse: Zombies, Cylons, Faith and Politics at the End of the World. After looking at some of the contents I thought it would be a good read. One reason is because Joustra is heavily dependent on Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor's ongoing, profound analysis of secular culture.

Joustra is going to use Taylor as an analytic tool to unpack why, after a long day of work, people come home, order a pizza, recline in their La-Z-Boy, and turn on "The Walking Dead?" 

Taylor says all persons dwell, not just intellectually but existentially, in a "social imaginary." This is "a series of pre-theoretical understandings and practices we acquire from the families, communities, and countries into which we’re born that help us navigate the world. It is the “road map” we get from the stories and mythologies of communities in which we grow and live our lives, something that can’t really be explained easily by us. It’s not just “big ideas” about the world; it involves practices, a kind of embedded way we situate ourselves in the culture around us." (Joustra, p. 11)

A social imaginary is the "soup" in which we swim. It is pre-theoretical, prethematic, which means it is unreflected on. It just is; it is the way we just are. Thus, it seems "true," and "obvious." (Like, e.g., "marriage equality" seems obvious, unthinkingly. This is why there was no civil discussion on the definition of marriage, since "marriage equality" implicitly defines "marriage"; thus, case closed, without discussion.)

Part of the secular soup concerns morality. Joustra writes that "the transformations that have taken place in the modern moral order are not neutral; that they are often under-theorized, misunderstood, or simply assumed; and that fundamental to those transformations is a shift in the meaning of religion and secularity." (Ib.)

One mark of this pre-theoretical (pre-objectified) social imaginary soup is "a humanism accepting no final goals beyond human flourishing, nor any allegiance to anything else beyond this flourishing." (Ib., 12) 

This is so significant to understand! Taylor says, "Of no previous society was this true."

Simmer in that soup for a while. 

Think of this in light of the Romans 12:1-2 injunction that followers of Jesus are not to be shaped into this world's social imaginary.