Remember the culture wars in Modern Orthodox Judaism between 1995-2002? The age of Edah, the founding of YCT, the promulgating of the doctrine of mesorah, ban of WPG and furthering women’s role in the synagogue, the decline of the Orthodox Caucus and RCA Roundtable, and the tehillim rallies against the new President. Did anyone record the events week by week? Did anyone produce a book by 2003 delineating the struggle within Orthodoxy?
I recently discovered that the similar struggles within Southern Baptists were immediately documented by Barry Hankins in his well received book Uneasy in Babylon in 2003. The book had several good reviews here and here. His book explains to the moderates that the new conservative forces were not a throwback to some Fundamentalism, and he explains to the conservatives that the moderates were not liberals rather they expected a broad accepting Church. He explains the differences in various liberal and conservative positions seeking to inform his readers that they are not all the same. Most importantly, he shows how a leadership role for women was the wedge issue that divided the groups. Let me know if any of this sound familiar in Modern Orthodoxy.
The books starts with the once upon a time story that In 1967 southern Baptists were at ease in their enclave as Southern, Christian, Baptist- subculture “it was the catholic church of the south. ” However, by the end of the twentieth century it was no longer homogeneous (1) During this era there was a grand compromise of placing in control neither right or left. No one was seen as excluded, and their were various emphasis by congregations on mission to others, truth, service, and personal conversion (6)
In 1979, there were conservative appointments that were portrayed by moderates as a start of a takeover- originally seen as mild violation of grand compromise. (7) In the 1980’s conventions and meetings grew n size as each side began to recruit organize and mobilize. Liberals were seen as not believers and conservatives seen as power hungry. Both sides focus on worst case scenario of the other’s position. (12) Hankins to avoid the conflict avoids using the words fundamentalist or liberals but conservatives and moderates.
Many tried to tarnish the conservatives as Fundamentalists, but Baptists were not fundamentalists in 1930’s. They have a denominational independence, they use different terms, are active missions, (Compare Modern Orthodox vs Ultra-Orthodox split). Conservatives start in the 1980’s with rhetoric that they are the only true church (15) Prior to the 1980’s, Baptists have a negative view of evangelicals as narrow, card-carrying, and anti-denominational. Evangelicals are Yankees, Lutherans, or those preoccupied with Orthodoxy. (16-17) Yet, by the end of the 1980’s there was a growing sense that they are becoming evangelical, reading Schaffer, and Christianity Today. (21)
Hankins has an interesting point on the difference between those groups like SBC or RCA/ YU orthodoxy that is full service, in contrast northern Evangelicals and Artscroll/Community Kollel are interdenominational in their publishing, in outreach work, in colleges (and yeshivot), and in periodicals.
The real story starts in 1996 when Albert Mohler takes over the seminary in Louisville Kentucky and turned it sharply right, accomplishing in three years a decade worth of turns. A turn to the right with a speed and velocity that overtook most students and faculty (28, 81) (Was it like this in Judaism?)In 1996, Mohler made women’s issues as the sole litmus test of hiring and firing, it left only a hardline group. Can a women be a preacher? He asked all incoming faculty and he made those faculty sympathetic to women clergy uncomfortable enough to leave. All speakers, authors, and affiliate personal could not affirm women clergy.
Hankins points out, and I have been saying it for years, that you can be hardline without being sectarian or fundamentalist. (or Haredi) (85) Moderates could get phd but not speak in the university, now one should not read wrong authors in class, guest speakers now needed an ok. (28)
At the start of 1996, moderates called conservatives who didn’t accept critical theories morons. (33)The moderates had a false sense of academic elitism. They saw themselves as conduits of college and graduate school study but Hankins points out that their sense of themselves was inflated and ideologically driven (Think of the Torah uMadda advocates).In reality these moderates or liberals faculty were rather conservative by ivy league standards . (97, 104) Moderates say the right as combative in an un-Christian way against liberals, women’s roles, gays, and democrats (98) This process removed the diversity of evangelicals (104)
The conservatives also started to portray America as a Christian country and to see state, university and media as against religion. (119-120)
The seminary did not turn for inspiration to the new generation of believing philosophers such as Alvin Plantinga, Keith Yandell, nor did they turn to Evangelical defenses and rebuttals of historical study.
Albert Mohler embraces post-modernism to argue that (1) truth is not universal or objective but socially constructed, hence one only knows it through the Church ( AB- compare halakhic man’s Kantian constructivism to only knowing the text though mesorah of authorized Rabbis.) (2) There is no metanarrative that all are bound to, so one should accept the Christian narrative. (3) The text has lost its meaning in Western culture so we can affirm the inerrant Bible without worrying about historical research.(47-48)
The book concludes that no Baptist congregation was ever punished for its stance on women’s leadership or participation, the only ones that were punished were those allowing same sex marriage (226).
After remaking the seminary, between 2003 -2010 -Albert Mohler turned outward and became an outspoken leader in American Evangelical religion whose positions are to the right of his colleges, but this does make him a return to Fundamentalism or superstition.
So where was this like Modern Orthodoxy circa 1996-2002? After?
(Let me know typos in comments and I will correct them.)