LETTER : Suburbia and the Eastern approach

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The Independent Online
From Father Dominic Kirkham

Sir: Though your thoughtful leading article ("Suburbia turns to Buddha", 4 March) rightly identifies several vital questions for Christianity in the West, it is important to realise that the issue is wider than this, or suburbia. The dominant cultural mode in which we now live, that of post-modernism, has moved well beyond what are recognisable traditional values.

With post-modernism has come the rejection of "metanarratives" (the trandescent, universal truths which underpin any civilisation), the radical "decentering" of the rational subject, affirmation of the total inaccessibility of "object- ness", man as the self-constituting "gnostic creature" and the artist as a shaman of merely personal, holistic experience etc. All these post- modern positions are challenging (threatening) enough to the foundations of western civilisation as we have come to know it for critics to see it as "simply the decomposition of the self in an effort to erase the individual ego" leading to nihilism (Daniel Bell).

Though many of these are congenial to a Buddhist view of things, they are by no means self-evident or beyond criticism, not only from the Christian churches but also by the understanding of modern science, the only "metanarrative" to have maintained a popular aura of certainty and credibility. Eastern religions may well offer alternative experiences to suburbia but it is by no means certain we will be any the better for them.

Yours sincerely,

DOMINIC KIRKHAM

Canons Regular of Prmontr

Corpus Christi Priory

Manchester

5 March

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