Hi, sorry to have dropped out for a few days (what do you call a guest blogger who doesn’t blog?). A friend from the philosophy department has been helping me (actually, I’ve been helping him) work on a home construction project that is taking longer than expected (proving, I suppose, that between the two of them, law and philosophy can confuse pretty much anything).
I enjoyed the comments. Some thematic responses.
1. The time line for the “spirituality” research is from about mid-1980. At that point, most scholarship began to abandon the “secularization hypothesis,” which posited that as scientific rationalism progressed in its ability to explain more and more, and religious belief would wither away. I think DaveB is right that a better way to think about spirituality is as a restatement of the secularization hypo, rather than a successor, which is how I had thought of it. I would add that while spirituality rubric may apply to other countries–mostly developed, Christian ones–it is largely confined to observations about the US.
2. I apologize to the “false-dichotomy” folks for not posing the spirituality-fundamentalism opposition in a more nuanced way. A better way to have put the question would have been, “How is spirituality manifesting itself within the Church (if at all), and how is fundamentalism manifesting itself ( if at all). On the other hand, there is considerable insight to be gained from disciplined examination of a subject through the lens of a dialectic. My experience with those who cry “false dichotomy” is that they often opt out of the examination because they are not comfortable with the apparent consequences of either prong, though Dan, Lyle, John, and others no doubt have different motivations for rejecting the premises of the question. Still, I’d be interested in how they think the Church responding to these influences, or why they think the Church is insulated from them, or why they think they don’t exist.
3. It seems to me that both spirituality and fundamentalism are evident in the contemporary church. The manner in which (acceptable) roles for women have evolved in the Church is an excellent example of a spirituality orientation, as danithew observed. Church teachings about the role of women during the last 30 or 40 years have roughly paralleled the move towards gender equality in American society. Although the initial Church reaction to the “women’s movement” was fundamentalist–e.g., the anti-ERA initiatives–it is now acceptable for LDS women to go to graduate school and to have careers (though this seems to go down easier with more traditional members if the career is also traditional, like public school teaching or nursing, as opposed to law or business). There has also been a rise in gender equality rhetoric within the Church–e.g., spouses are to support each other as equal partners. It’s possible that this is the result of revelation simpliciter, but it seems more likely to me that it came as the result of tacit recognitions by members and leaders alike that the 1950s single career/stay-at-home mom no longer works for substantial numbers of faithful members–e.g., can a working class family on a single income really buy a home in a decent school district with a decent commute in, say, LA or NYC–imposes substantial personal costs on the wife, and at some level is simply not fair.
On the fundamentalist side, I would say first that the question is whether the Church is fundamentalist now. While it is true that a fundamentalist church in 1890 would never have abandoned polygamy, that says little about our attitudes towards theological change in the church in 2004. I also agree with the suggestion that we have fundamentalized the principle of hierarchical obedience in the Church. Whereas members of many fundamentalist religions prooftext the Bible, we prooftext conference talks and BYU firesides. My experience–as both participant and observer–is that, whatever their substantive origin, member-leader conflicts in the church morph almost immediately away from the substantive origin of the conflict into questions about the member’s willingness to observe the law of obedience by submitting to the leader’s judgment. Even when a leader’s orders are rather off-the-wall, such as the many beard and colored shirt examples that seem always to be with us, there is enormous pressure to conform, and failure to do so is often not excused by lack of substantive merit in the leader’s underlying command.
4. I think I disagree with the suggestion that spirituality is the easy way out; it’s no more accurate than saying that people stay in the LDS Church because it relieves them of the need to think for themselves, since our leaders tell us everything we need to do and know. No doubt there are those who are attracted to spirituality because it lets them have their sins and commit them, too, like there are undoubtedly Mormons who like the fact that they don’t have to think about right and wrong if they don’t want to, but both of these characterizations ignore the complexity of the experience in both instances. Having to decide what is morally right in the absence of authority can be as difficult and complex and undertaking as deciding whether to obey the counsel of a church leader. I have several close friends who are atheists, and I know that they simply do not experience moral or ethical questions as simply adjusting their views of ethics and morality to whatever they find convenient and easy to live by.
5. I use “immanence” to signify the conventional meaning of “internal” or “within the person or mind,” rather than the (also common) “immersion” or “all around us.” The shift from transcendence to immanence would thus be a move from objectively true or real principles, to principles that work or individuals. Many religious people, especially Latter-day Saints, recoil from the idea that our own attitudes can have anything to do with what is true or real. But if one has any sense that hermeneutics captures how we make sense of the past and the present, or accepts that construction plays some part in how we understand reality, then the move from transcendence to immanence is seems to me unavoidable.