Leonardo"s Notebook by Mattheus Mei

I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.

Friday, January 04, 2008

NeoTraditionalist movement in American Religion (updated)

Limits and openness: Welcome to the new, and sometimes bewildering, world of religious traditionalism.

That’s the conclusion of a recent article in US News & World Report (H/T AmP). It’s a fairly interesting article to read that hints around at explanations for the recent shift in paradigms in US Christianity. From Roman Catholicism’s Motu Propio and the growing increase in the Latin Mass, Sacramental Participation and traditional orders and forms of devotion to the move in emergent Protestantism to ‘recapture’ liturgical it’s a complex synthesis of ideas and ideals. As the article states:

Put simply, the development is a return to tradition and orthodoxy, to past practices, observances, and customary ways of worshiping. But it is not simply a return to the past—at least not in all cases. Even while drawing on deep traditional resources, many participants are creating something new within the old forms. They are engaging in what Penn State sociologist of religion Roger Finke calls "innovative returns to tradition." …To some, it is a return to reassuring authority and absolutes; it is a buttress to conservative theological, social, and even political commitments. To others, it is a means of moving beyond fundamentalist literalism, troubling authority figures, and highly politicized religious positions (say on gay marriage and contraception or abortion) while retaining a hold on spiritual truths. In short, the new traditionalism is anything but straightforward. (Emphasis added)

I would argue it is perhaps the next stage in the evolution of the Liberal Tradition, many of the old liberal elites are resisting. To call these new folks conservative I would argue is a bit of a misnomer, look, after all, at the demographic makeup of a majority of the folks involved - young people. It’s a reaction to the failings of going to far to fast for some (at least from the Catholic perspective many young Catholics have been casualties of transitional liturgy and devotion as old elites ‘realize’ the ‘fullness’ of their understanding of Vatican II at the expense of the developing post-modern culture) and for many it’s not a step back, but rather a novel expression built on historical realities that they may never have been physically or experientially connected. Why the need for connection – well that’s the gist of Post-modernism.

People of the postmodern mindset—particularly 20- and 30-somethings—question the hyper individualism of modern culture… The young neotraditionalists also have an almost intuitive attraction to liturgy, ritual, and symbol as forms of knowledge that complement the dominant rational, scientific one. . They search for new forms of community but tend to be wary of authority figures and particularly of leaders…” (Emphasis added)

Hmm, interesting…

Sister Patricia Wittberg, a sociologist at Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis, sees more substance in the new traditionalism. .. She points out that there are two kinds of conservatives (again a misnomer?). "One group," she says, "would like to take things back to the [16th-century Counter-Reformation] Council of Trent, but I don't think the future's with them. I think the future is with a group that is interested in reviving the old stuff and traditions in a creative way. Sisters in traditional orders may wear habits, but they often live in coed communities." Sociologist Finke agrees: "Members of traditional religious orders want to be set apart, to have a more active spiritual formation and a strong community life. But while they are obedient, they are less submissive to authority and want to make more of their own decisions and be active professionally in outreach activities. It's a structured life, but it's a structure they are seeking and not simply submitting to authority."(Emphasis added)

And that’s just a Roman Catholic understanding, even the AEP and other religions are seeing the shift.

"There is a certain kind of postmodern sensibility that loses confidence in the rational explanation of everything," McLaren says. For him, Jones, and others, "doing church" in traditional and innovative ways is a form of theological reflection that leaves behind the fundamentalists’' need to make all religious propositions into pseudoscientific statements, to turn Genesis, for example, into a geology textbook. (Emphasis added)

I believe this statement sums up the reality amidst unreality and the irony of the struggle for form and definition within the post-modern mindset and religion that many people don’t comprehend or see, but rather glaze over as a natural part of the process:

"I would argue that people are looking for a dialectic," says Avi Weiss, senior rabbi of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale in Bronx, N.Y., and founder of a new rabbinical school that trains Jewish leaders in the approach of what he calls Open Orthodoxy. "People are looking for a commitment that is grounded but not one that is stagnant," Weiss says. "The other part of the dialectic is an openness but not without limits."

The key word in that statement is of course dialectic.

An additional example of post-modern counter culturalism can be found at Gashwin's latest post of a video from MTV about a young Nun

And an additional emmergent church is coming from Jim and Tammy Faye's son and can be seen on Sundance.

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Earl Capps said...

As an Eastern Catholic, I have no complaints with this idea whatsoever.

They do raise a good point about wanting structure and tradition, without submission. The Eastern Divine Liturgy, which is done in local languages, instead of traditional Roman Mass, which is done in Latin, also has appeal among traditionalist-minded Catholics ... and others too.

Just like when I did my research in iconography ... things can be cyclical. The more they change, the more they end up the same.

Gashwin said...

The Latin-spelling Nazi is here! motu proprio! :)

St. Elizabeth of Cayce said...

I appreciated this bit of the article:

The entrepreneurial model adopted by so many evangelical churches, with its emphasis on seeker-friendly nontraditional services and programs, had been successful in helping Trinity build its congregation, Anderson explains. But it was less successful in holding on to church members and deepening their faith or their ties with fellow congregants. Searching for more rootedness, Anderson sought to reconnect with the historical church.

You can't just to slide shows for the curious -- you've got to grow up disciples (discipleship is missing from the article.) I hope that those 10-20 years older than I am, whose V2 reactions threw so much of the baby out with the bathwater, will re-embrace the "faith of our fathers", not just use liturgical trappings as another feature to compete with the mega-church next door.

Lizzie, workin' the metaphors...