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.
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