Wednesday, May 03, 2006

How not to do it (Pt II)

Yesterday in mentioned two ways the Christian chruch in the past has dealt with periods of decline, that I consider harmful. In a way one can say that the purpose of this blog is to explore other alternatives. There are some that can be found in history that can function as an inspiration, but I think ultimately one has to reinterpret Christian doctrine anew with this context in mind.

Why? After all today, what we see is more of a tendency to avoid such reinterpretation. However, this too is a reaction.

I think a conservative religiosity in general can be a reaction against insecurity and fear caused by decline. You glorify the past when the future dries up, as Bono sang. Religious people have a tendency to project their feelings on their religious milieu: when they feel stress caused by environmental or political factors, they experience it as corruption of the faith: thus they might end up blaming the liberal theologians for what is wrong in the world.

Conservatism is a rather complex term when used on religion. One should separate between moral conservatism, doctrinal conservatism and conservatism when it comes to religious traditions. A person that calls him or herself a conservative Christian can mean it any of these meanings or any combination of them. And it should be noted that Christianity as a whole in a way can be considered conservative: it is after all in all its forms basing its teaching on a very old book! But what I call conservatism here is the placing of the ideal religion somewhere in the past, be it 50, 500 or 1500 years in the past. While such an ideal form of religion rarely is found using historical methods, it can be a very powerful idea in the religious mind. And it will lead to the idea that the solution to today’s problems is to try to emulate this ideal form of religion.

I think the massive growth in relevant strength of conservative religious movements in the recent decades can be seen as a indication of that there is much hidden fear over the future. I would not like to disregard the possibility that some kinds conservative religion can be a constructive thing in a declining culture, by providing continuity in a rapidly changing world. But it seems to be clear that it can be very harmful, because it often is combined with a disinterest in parts of life that are not considered to belong the religious sphere, which can make it vulnerable for manipulation. I think this is the case when religious conservatism is combined with political conservatism. This is something I’d like to explore further in another post.

So, when I speak, as I did in my first post, about religion as a key to survival in a culture in decline, I do not speak of it in the senses discussed above and in the post before this one. I hope this discussion has made my purpose for this blog a bit more clear.


James said...

Excellent start to your blog!

One comment, though. I am, myself, an American who spent a year studying in Scotland. There is a clear difference between what Europeans call "conservative" and what Americans call "conservative." For example, while many Americans who call themselves (religiously) conservative, they are actually borderline fundamentalists. This is a scary revelation because these are the communities who publish non-sense like the "Left Behind" series. So, perhaps a distinction from this side of the pond: European conservatives often appeal to tradition, while American conservatives tend to cling to outdated (even pre-modern) beliefs. Just an observation.

Patrik said...

Yes, you are right, I wanted to adress this too. American conservatives have a great amount of influnece of (some) european conservatives though. And what I'm really getting at here is the conservative attitude rather than particular doctrines. But yeah, there are lots of differences.