Welcome My Son, Welcome to the Machine: A Response to Kathryn Tanner's Modern and Postmodern Review of Cultures

The MachineModern approach to defining and understanding culture is a linear systematic approach which attempts to generalize a people group according to hard set boundaries and parameters. As Tanner articulates, “The boundaries of a particular culture become in this way the boundaries of a particular society. Where a society breaks off so does its culture. Cultures tend therefore to be discussed as isolatable units in geographical space.” (Pg.#27) In this way, a people find their culture defined for them through national, political, corporate, and geographical localities.


It is a fashion to which Tanner illustrates through the image of a machine with movable parts hard-lined into a system which operates solely for it's dictated purpose. In other words, “the elements of a culture work interdependently, like gears or bodily organs, for the sake of the whole, in order to sustain its smooth functioning.” (Pg.#34)

Postmodernism dismantles the machine while giving life to the parts which become the seedlings of a new understanding of community and society. The boundaries being less distinguishable allowing culture to develop more organically and relationally. As my friend Daunavan quoted Tanner and bracketed his own thoughts, "Culture is no longer seen as a fixed form or place (with consensus), it is better understood as a whole that can be contradictory or internally fissured (all the parts are not necessarily working for the betterment of the whole)". This meaning that the organic relational developments of social order in the postmodern approach can lead to communal and societal development but, it could also be destructive or detrimental to a societies ability to survive.

Yet the promise of hope for a social order still lies in that, “change is possible because culture and society no longer form, as in the modern understanding of culture, an expressive totality, every aspect reinforcing all the others by virtue of their following the same structures or principles.” (Pg. #52) Hope lies at the centre guiding call of humanity, a meaning found by any and all yet corporately evolved through mutual communal relations.

So what call does the Christ follower have? What mutual relationships does the church foster?