Through the 1950s teens were taught that
absolute truth and morality existed. Almost
everyone believed in the traditional
point of view and tried to live
By the 1970s teens were taught a relativist
worldview. It said, “Truth exists, but you
need to find it for yourself. No one can
determine it for you.” Truth was no longer
absolute but relative to you. Still, you
were expected to find and live out a
consistent and mostly traditional
Today’s teens grow up in a postmodern
world. They are taught that there is no
correct point of view. This shift has a
powerful effect. It can kill the natural
human instinct to search for truth. There is
no truth, just opinion. You cannot tell if
any opinion is more right than any other,
and opinions are everywhere.
A teen’s parents say one thing, their
favorite singer another, Hollywood a third,
and their volleyball coach something else.
Who is to decide? Most teen’s own
experience of life seems to validate a world
of opinions devoid of truth. “What I felt
was right last week doesn’t feel so right
this week. Things have changed.”
Truth has been demoted to opinion and
opinion demoted to feelings. Reason has lost
Postmodernism defies definition
intentionally. Defining it would violate one
of its key principles: “no definite terms or
absolute truths exist.” The assertion that
“no truth exists” is a self-contradicting
statement. In response, postmodernism says,
“contradiction is unimportant.”
The acceptance of contradiction is one of
the most distinctive qualities of
In dismissing contradiction, postmodernism
“justifies” never justifying anything. It
also allows an odd answer to this question:
Which of the following is the correct
1) Absolute truth exists
2) Truth is relative to you
3) Truth does not exist
4) All of the above.
At first, it would seem that postmodernism
would answer 3) Truth does not exist, but in
fact, the postmodern answer is 4) All the
above are correct.
Postmodernism accepts the contradiction of
Thus, a politician can assert as a traditionalist
that we should follow the Bible, yet live in
open adultery as a relativist
marriage just isn’t working for him. As a postmodernist
he can dodge taking a stand by saying, “who
am I to judge” and then pass laws he expects
us all to follow as a traditionalist
In the postmodern world, we let him get away
with the contradiction.
Contradiction leads to instability of belief
and morality, and instability is another
characteristic of postmodernism. Oddly,
instability is one of the most stable,
reliable, and permanent things in modern
life. Everything is subject to change, not
just beliefs and morality, but also “place”
Today we move with ease and frequency from
one place to another. We are not grounded
geographically. Our ancestors were grounded
in the village and it did not change very
much. Then the old mom-and-pop restaurant by
the oak tree was replaced by a Big Boy which
has since become a MacDonald's. We have no
stable geographical village.
We also have an unstable relational village.
Neighbors move. We move. Siblings move.
Youth have cousins they have never met, but
might be having Thanksgiving dinner with
their step-granddad and his unknown
grandchildren. Best Friends Forever don’t
last and families break down often.
Adolescence is a time of natural
instability. Our ancestors went through it
also, but they expected to become stable
adults, with stable beliefs, in a stable
village, and that all helped create a stable
identity. That is not the case today.
Instability is the new normal and that makes
it even harder on teens.
Jean Valjean, in Les Misérables
asks the question, “Who am I?” He is
fighting to establish his identity as a man
and not just a prisoner numbered
But when the modern teen asks, "Who am I?"
He answers, "Anyone I want to be!"
Unlike Jean Valjean, who is trying to assert
one, true, integrated, consistent identity,
the modern teen juggles multiple identities
with no felt need to integrate them. This
reinforces a teen’s instability in faith,
relationships, morals, emotions, and
The result is long-term confusion (often
unrecognized) and an inability to make
commitments – one of the best ways to
Postmodernism is a vicious circle, but if
you ignore contradiction, the free floating
world of youth makes a bit more sense.