Post Orthodoxy and Post Evangelicalism again

Since many did feel there is something to the comparison between Post-evangelical and Post-Orthodoxy, I will continue exploring it a bit more.

Sometimes there are moments that capture a certain feeling. 1946-7 was the feeling of the returning GI not going back to his hometown. 1959-was the threat of nuclear attack, 1968 was the sexual revolution and the counter-culture, and 1984 was the year of the Yuppie.None of these moments create a denomination they affect all denominations. The returning GI’s created all the suburban congregations of all denominations.

And the social mood of the returning GI’s- should not be quickly conflated with Film Noir and French Existentialism of the same years. Different trends and mood can occur at the same time.

This year is a sense of the post-Evangelical era. (There is also post-Mormonism)  It may not really kick-in for another few years. (The same way that those people who watch MadMen are able to see that things are unraveling toward the late 1960’s.) Evangelical religion was driven back by a variety of things such as the Scopes trial and Elmer Gantry in 1926. It retreated and then in the 1950’s wanted to be modern, educated and relevant. It wanted to show that it does not have to be seen as backwards, rather it should be seen as intellectual and modern. It started growing again as a reaction to the 1970’s. By the 1990’s they were seen as mainstream. They could show themselves as doctors, lawyers, and politicians; they are no longer backward.

Traditional Orthodoxy was Yiddish speaking and seen as not modern, not scientific, not family oriented, not democratic, not educated. Post WWII Modern Orthodoxy responded to these limits with concern for the modern. Then, with the return to religion in the 1980’s, Centrist Orthodoxy embraced conservative positions on social and cultural issues combined with an identification with Yuppie values (The latter point itself is big and important topic). And like the new Evangelicals, it effaced history and had a non sacramental approach (mizvot no longer change the worlds and performance is not cultivated). It shared a dispensational eschatology with evangelicals, Biblical promises are happening now but only as applied to Israel.

To return to the original Post-Evangelical post. The Christian Blogger IM in his post What Do I Mean by Post-Evangelical? August 7, 2006 notes some the history outlined above. He notes that Evangelicals were “Attempting, and largely failing, to establish a non-fundamentalist identity.” He offers a variety of thought of new turns of thought including: there is more possibilities in the classic texts and more relevant interpretations than currently taught; the boundaries of in and out matter less and the current boundary may not be true, creed is important but it is not to be used in an authoritarian way, show respect to those of other denominations; interpretation only occurs in a complex human matrix; the meaning does not fall from the sky in a magical or timeless way; He also notes that he does not worry if some post-evangelicals are heretical or out of step- it will sort itself out over time. He states that the clergy’s role is not to define who is right and wrong. We need to return to the sources and to the spirit (experience, prophecy, intuition).

We must be aware that there is far more in the Bible than the Reformation dealt with, and that many of our problems today are addressed by those hitherto unnoticed or undeveloped aspects of the Bible.

Those who want to bang the drum for a 450-year old tradition are dooming themselves to irrelevance. Our only concern is to avoid being beat up by them as they thrash about in their death-throes. I mean that I do not recognize the boundary lines of American evangelicalism as the boundary lines of true Christianity. I mean that creeds and confessions have positive and defining roles, but do not function as popes and unassailable authorities.

I mean that it has become virtually impossible to practice any form of Christian community that does not interact in some way with the larger church in history and reality. (I salute those who attempt to practice pure forms of fundamentalism, etc. They have my respect.) I mean that I do not share the hostility and suspicion of all things Catholic or catholic that is endemic to evangelicalism. I mean that I recognize that Christian belief emerges from a matrix of the text of Holy Scripture, the history of interpretation, cultural and sub-cultural presuppositions, the use of reason, the place of experience, the wisdom of the teachers of the larger church and the work of the Holy Spirit in revealing more light. I embrace this more complex understanding of Christian belief as part of the great stream of Christian existence, and I reject any notions that Christian belief falls from the sky as a magic book that exists apart from other components of human experience.

I mean that words like “postmodern,” “emerging” and “missional” are in the process of being defined and filled with meaning, and are not to be ridiculed and rejected out of hand because some who use them are out of step or even heretical.

I mean that I reject the idea that the primary role of a minister is to define other Christians as wrong. . I mean that the death of evangelicalism opens the door for a return to the sources…I mean that our reverence for previous epochs and events in church history must be tempered with an awareness that the work of the Holy Spirit in the church continues, and what was believed in the past is not immune from the light that may break forth in the ongoing present.

Full version here.

And in the article on the Emergent Church that I posted here “The Emergent Church and Orthodoxy” the author listed at least four points worth considering: Prophecy, greater focus on worship and ritual, not being worried about boundaries, and liberal politics.

I ask the Gen-Y/Millennials out there: How do they see themselves different than Centrism? What do they think are the sins and excesses of Centrism?

I ask again: How much of this is applicable to changes within Orthodoxy? Does it sound familiar? Are their differences? Is this change inevitable? Which of these will change Orthodoxy more and which will change it less?

If I wanted I could collect the Facebook answers to the info line “Religious Views” to show that something is up. I have hundreds of examples of those raised Orthodox defining themselves in all sorts of convoluted ways. Don’t worry I will not do it, but a such a listing of self-identifications bespeaks a mood.

Remember, this is a moment or a mood – not an ideology or denomination. Post-evangelical is like Yuppie or returning GI – a set of values that will play itself out in a variety of diverse ways. How will these winds blow over the face of traditional practice? What will be the VARIED responses? I await details from those in the field.

Copyright © 2010 Alan Brill • All Rights Reserved

8 responses to “Post Orthodoxy and Post Evangelicalism again

  1. You cite IM:
    I mean that I reject the idea that the primary role of a minister is to define other Christians as wrong.

    Interesting. Are there some people who see their minister’s role that way? IM was obviously trying to talk about the gatekeeper role of clergy in their respective faith communities. That is indeed important (think of the role of batei din and city rabbinates in establishing who is a Jew). But is it anyone’s primary role? And is IM objecting to the gatekeeper role altogether, or only to the stern gatekeeper type who acts with vengeance, rather than kindly and filled with love and empathy for the other?

    Practically applied: we do see groups that no longer choose a rabbi or possek, but have a halakhic advisor, instead. But do post-people really abhor the function of authority, or would they identify with the following reformulation: the idea that the primary role of a [clergy member] is to defineshow other [adherents of the faith] as wrong what is right?

    Now a little curious question. You wrote:
    This year is a sense of the post-Evangelical era. (There is also post-Mormonism)

    Is there also post-Islamism? Post-Budhism? If so, how does it compare? If not, why not? By the way, Google didn’t bring up anything useful on these two search terms.

    Does it also happen in the opposite direction, namely, is there post-Conservative/Reform (I am not talking about Orthodox ba’alei teshuvah)?

    • Let’s keep the discussion to Jews and leave what IM thinks alone. he does not need us descending on him.
      They are reacting not to the abstract idea of authority but that too many religious people were creating boundaries, labels. and definition over the last 20 years. Reformulations would already be a next step.
      There is certainly post-Conservative and Reform and many changes happening and about to happen, so I hear. But I limit the blog to the little corner that I live in. And I do not want to encourage Orthodox Jews commentors to engage in their fantasies of what these groups are thinking.
      In America, the other religious groups do not play a role in Jewish thinking. I read a good article on the increase in Hindu religion, but did not post it becuase I was not looking for Hindu commentors.

      • Let’s keep the discussion to Jews and leave what IM thinks alone.

        Ah, but I did suggest this matter of interest within Orthodoxy:

        Practically applied: we do see groups that no longer choose a rabbi or possek, but have a halakhic advisor, instead. But do post-people really abhor the function of authority, or would they identify with the following reformulation: the idea that the primary role of a [clergy member] is to defines how other [adherents of the faith] as wrong what is right?

        Look at the places that adopted Mendel Shapiro’s paper on giving women ‘aliyot, in the Edah Journal as a psak, even though he (claims?) it was never intended that way. (Never mind his intentions, halakhic rulings don’t usually develop straight out of journals.) Those are largely places that have only halakhic advisors or committees, rather than congregational rabbis.

        [Edited by site-owner who did not want to give a bibliography to correct 19th century historical detail.]

      • If you think the post has anything to do with baby-boomers, liberals, feminists, or the 1990’s then you are not grasping the analogy. Better example of loosening of authority is the following by the younger set of Rav Nahman as a dead rebbe. You have no authority but get to dress Haredi and at the same time get to create an artistic, musical, and emotional religion.
        I hear that Limmud-NY had a large Orthodox contingent this year, you should speak to the younger attendees.
        (This was a reply to Arie not Sarah-I am not sure why it threaded this way.)

      • An MO friend from Park Slope has become a Breslover chosid. I think his wife was interested in Reb Nachman, they started studying his writings together, and it spoke to them. They now live in Har Nof.

        He once said to me, “The strength of Breslov is that anybody can become a Breslover. But the weakness of Breslov is that *anybody* can become a Breslover.”

      • R’ Brill:

        >In America, the other religious groups do not play a role in Jewish thinking.

        Are you so sure? There’s a lot of alignment with over-arching politico-religious groups among the Jews. E.g., many Centrist and RWMO identify with the Religious Right, even though a careful examination of the Jewish vs. Evangelical/Protestant positions on political pivot issues like abortion and homosexuality reveals that they aren’t really so aligned.

        One yeshivish rav, and only one that I know of, endorses the pro-choice position because he feels (as I do) that the various Christian positions on abortion vs. life of the mother do not line up with Halacha on this matter, and we don’t want the goyim telling us when we can & can’t have an abortion. Halacha allows an exception for mental health of the mother (she convinces the rabbi & her psychologist that she’d rather kill herself than bear this baby to term), at least according to some; I haven’t heard of Christians allowing this kind of “subjective” exception. Judaism goes more on a case-by-case basis for these sorts of personal somatic-integrity questions than a law created by Christians would allow.

        And is there no reflexive alignment between LWMO and religio-politically left positions? Other than on Israel, of course, where most serious lefty Jews depart from Leftist orthodoxy.

  2. I appreciated reading this post because it reflected what I have been observing for a while now among my peers. I was at Limmud-NY this past year and was indeed surprised how many a)fellow graduates of YC and Stern were in attendance, and b) how fully everyone participated in the general culture of the event- trying out various davening options, attending post-denominational panels and shiruim, and dancing in mixed circles at Havdalah. It wasn’t really exactly the relaxing of halakhic observance we’ve always seen in places like the UWS, it felt like something else. I attended one multi-denominational panel where there were obvious differences between the panelists, but actually none of these differences really amounted to clear theological disagreements. It actually made the panel kind of boring, I’m not sure inter-denominational dialogue is going to be able to work in the same way in this climate.

  3. Thanbo- I was replying to Arie. I was referring to Hindu and Islam.

    I do not think there are one to one correspondences or complete alignments. But the sort of trends documented already in 1991 in James Hunter’s Culture Wars.

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