All in the Family featured the curmudgeonly Archie Bunker. Archie was television’s most famous grouch, blunt, blustering, straightforward and untouched by the PC crowd. He was the archetype of the conservative male. Michael desprately tried to reeducate him, but he persisted in his breviloquence.



Looking back at the last 40 years, we realize: ARCHIE WAS RIGHT!

7/09/2014

Reactionary Religion

For sometime now I've been toying with an idea that I've being thinking of as "Reactionary Religion".  The premise behind this idea is that mankind's thinking on religious topics is frequently formed in reaction to some other religious idea.  The term "reactionary" as I am using it, refers to the reaction of a person to an existing religious idea.  This is different than the traditional use of "Reactionary Religion", which generally held to be; "a person who holds viewpoints that favor a return to a previous religious position".

For my purposes, "reactionary religion" is defined as; " a concept that accepts the supposition that religious thought, doctrine and belief is influenced by previously examined religious positions".  This definition can be both in a universal sense and in  an individual sense.  For example, a person may be an adherent to a traditional 5 point Calvinist faith.  By definition however, Calvinism is reactionary to the Roman Catholic and various protestant faiths of its day. In our example of the Calvinist, he may never have heard of the Roman Catholic church, or any other denomination.  He may have only been exposed to the teachings of his one local church and may not even know that other ways of thinking exist.  None the less, his particular set of beliefs would be reactionary even though he has never been exposed to the ideas that helped form them.

I think that as a concept "reactionary religion" helps explain various trends that have developed in the religions of the world over time.  I'm beginning to believe that the concept can explain how we have arrived at the religious and philosophical positions that people hold today.  I'm not sure what practical application this has beyond my own intellectual curiosity.

I would be interested in getting input on:

  • The term "Reactionary Religion", might there be a better name for this idea?  Although I think its accurate, it almost has a confrontational ring to it.  I'm not sure I like it.
  • Is there a better way to express/talk about the idea than the definition I've used?
  • Is it accurate to view a person who accepts some but not all of a belief system as "reactionary"?  If it is, at what point does that individual's belief system change from being an adherent to a semi adherent?
  • Is it realistic to see "world view", "philosophy" and "religious position" as essentially the same thing?  In that case are all of mans intellectual positions "reactionary"?
As always any other thoughts you may have are appreciated.

22 comments:

Susan said...

I am not sure I would call this reactionary, but I have held the opinion for a while that God knows when I am ready to receive new knowledge about His word.

I don't know if that fits the definition of reactionary, but when I consider that I have read certain passages for years, and then one day all of a sudden a lightbulb goes off in my head, and I finally get what is meant, I guess I am adding and building on my previous knowledge with God's help.

Is that what you mean by reactionary? My apologies for my wording. I find your post fascinating to think about.

Res Ipsa said...

No that's not what I'm talking about. I'm thinking in more formal theological lines. What you are experiencing is revealed truth. You are enjoying what Jesus said was part of the work that Holy Spirit would do in believers in John 16.

A person who is a protestant is by definition "reacting" to the formal theology of the Catholic church. That person may NEVER have set foot in a RCC building but the theology they profess is a reaction to the beliefs of the RCC.

In protestant circles there has been a move form formal "High Church" Calvinism to Evangelicalism. In Evangelicalism there are movements that claim to be "back to the bible" or a return to New Testament Christianity. These groups claim a desire to be "Reformationist" or "Restorationist" depending on which seminary they come from. In reality though what they are doing is reacting to an existing theological position. The "Restorationsit" comes closest to fitting the traditional definition of "reactionary", since he is claiming to want to go back to a preexisting situation. But what every denomination I've looked at is doing is a reaction to some doctrine that they experienced that they don't like/agree with.

I'm not saying they are always wrong. I'm a reactionist myself. I'm not implying any value judgment in the word "reactionary". I'm pointing out that people react to and change belief systems.

Susan said...

Ahh, ok then. I guess I am a back to the Bible style evangelical type Christian.

I would not need to be a member of any religion to have a "not good" reaction to RCC policies and doctrines.

With all due respect to Outlaw X, I am not going to go into detail other than to say that I have my reasons. Good ones too.

WaterBoy said...

"The term "Reactionary Religion", might there be a better name for this idea? Although I think its accurate, it almost has a confrontational ring to it."

The original usage of the word "reactionary" is as you described it in your opening paragraph: one who favors a return to a previous state. It would be best to maintain that sense and not confuse the issue by repurposing it in the sense of "reacting" to -- and attempting to change -- the current state, when it is in fact "reacting" to a previous change that is wished to be undone.

The corresponding term from the political arena to indicate the desire for change from the present state would be "radical". However, "Radical Religion" also has extreme negative connotations that you probably want to avoid. I also think it best to not use a term that has existing political connotations, so as to avoid further confusion.

The idea of a religion changing form is what you wish to impart, which brings to mind "reform" and "transform". "Reformed" already has a usage within a religious context (also with the Reformation), so I'm not sure that would work here...though it seems like the better of the two.

You could coin a new term, such as "postform". Just as "preformed" is how it was shaped before the change, "postformed" could be how it is shaped after the change. Or "paraform", indicating a new form beyond or past the old one.

"Reformed Religion"
"Transformed Religion"
"Postformed Religion"
"Paraformed Religion"

Any of those grab you?

Res Ipsa said...

The response doesn't have to be either positive or negative, it just has to be a response. After Roe V Wade it was the RCC that lead the battle for the unborn, not the evangelicals. The RCC has taken the blunt of the battle against homosexual marriage and mandatory abortion insurance coverage too. In both of those cases the protestant church was spurred to the correct action because of the zeal of the Catholics.

"Reactionary Religion" doesn't necessarily involve responding to a negative influence. It can be positive.

WaterBoy said...

"Is there a better way to express/talk about the idea than the definition I've used?"

The definition you provided:

"For my purposes, "reactionary religion" is defined as; " a concept that accepts the supposition that religious thought, doctrine and belief is influenced by previously examined religious positions"."

...doesn't really clarify that it is a reaction to a change from those previously examined/held positions -- if you wish to continue using "reactionary".

Imparting the idea of a schism within a religion which leads to a split between two (or more) factions is not reactionary, it's radicalism; someone within the new branch who wishes to return to the original one would be the reactionary. Again, though, I would advise avoiding the political equivalents for those negative connotations you previously noted.

Res Ipsa said...

WB,

That is more along the lines of what I'm thinking. "Reformed Religion" and "Transformed Religion" all ready have a common usage too.

"reactionary" is the correct word but I need a synonym that conveys the correct idea without the emotional connotations that most people would bring to the table.

Res Ipsa said...

I'm also trying to avoid the word "evolution".

WaterBoy said...

"Is it accurate to view a person who accepts some but not all of a belief system as "reactionary"? If it is, at what point does that individual's belief system change from being an adherent to a semi adherent?"

I would say yes, they could be a reactionary, even if the tenet(s) they didn't accept were changed long before their joining that faith, from something with which they would have agreed.

I don't know that semi-adherent really is the best way to describe such a person, though. If they accepted the majority of the tenets of the faith (especially all of the major ones), I think they could reasonably be considered an adherent of the faith. There will always be disagreements on issues within a religion, and a Protestant can be an adherent of Christianity as easily as can a Catholic.

Res Ipsa said...

I agree with that concept. Here is my dilemma: A person who attends church religiously on Christmas and Easter and for weddings and funerals isn't the same level of "Christian" as a person who goes 3 times a week and has a bible study in their home every week.

I think the level of devotion to ones faith plays a role in determining how relevant someone's beliefs about that faith are. A person who says " I believe whatever my church believes" without having a clue about what the church believes isn't in the same league as a person who studies the catechism of their denomination.

WaterBoy said...

(Not ignoring you, Res, just trying to address each of your original four questions first...)

"Is it realistic to see "world view", "philosophy" and "religious position" as essentially the same thing? In that case are all of mans intellectual positions "reactionary"?"

Though they have overlapping elements, they are not precisely synonymous.

"Religious position" is the most narrowly-focused. It would predominantly cover matters of spirituality and morality.

"Philosophy" is a little broader, and covers a wide spectrum of topics from logic and reason to metaphysics and knowledge. As noted above, there's overlap with religion, too, such as ethics.

"Worldview" would be informed by both of the above elements, plus other subjects such as politics and economics.

So no, I would not consider them all essentially the same thing.

As to the second part of your question, I would say that yes, most of Man's intellectual positions could be considered "reactionary" (in the sense you are currently using the term), if they are informed by changes to the status quo.

Not really sure that helps with the question, though.

WaterBoy said...

"After Roe V Wade it was the RCC that lead the battle for the unborn, not the evangelicals. The RCC has taken the blunt of the battle against homosexual marriage and mandatory abortion insurance coverage too."

In this example, the RCC is being reactionary.

The status quo was no abortion, no homosexual marriage, and no mandatory insurance coverage for contraception.

Via Roe V Wade, laws permitting gay marriage, and Obamacare, the status quo was changed in each of these three areas.

The RCC reacted to the new status quo, and is trying to roll them all back to their previous states. Theirs is a reactionary stance.

WaterBoy said...

"Here is my dilemma: A person who attends church religiously on Christmas and Easter and for weddings and funerals isn't the same level of "Christian" as a person who goes 3 times a week and has a bible study in their home every week."

You know I'm in no position to be quoting Scripture on this particular matter, but it occurs to me that there are very few criteria to being "Christian", largely hinging on faith: you either believe in Christ as your Lord and Savior, or you don't. Level of devotion as judged by church attendance and Bible study doesn't really enter into it, IIRC...unless that Faith/Works issue counts somehow.

"Levels"? Can you quantify them? Does that Catholic priest who fooled around with a woman in his parish, then left the priesthood and married her count as a higher level Christian than my mother, who goes to church every Sunday, studies her devotional each night, and is obedient to her husband? After all, I'm sure he is far more studied in the Bible and has spent far more many hours in church than she has.

I understand what you are saying. But that sort of measurement amongst adherents of a faith seems to be rooted more in the Vanity of Man than in the Divinity of Christ. IMHO; coming from a non-Christian, though, take it with a big bag of salt.

WaterBoy said...

"I think the level of devotion to ones faith plays a role in determining how relevant someone's beliefs about that faith are. A person who says " I believe whatever my church believes" without having a clue about what the church believes isn't in the same league as a person who studies the catechism of their denomination."

As far as knowledge of the tenets of their faith, yes, you are correct.

But that is the same difference as a 5yo child reading "See Dick Run" and a PhD philosopher reading Dostoyevsky. Both are readers, are they not?

A child baptised into a faith, with only as much knowledge of it as what his parents have told him, is as much an adherent of that faith as the most devoted apostle. That some grown-ups choose to remain children (faithfully speaking) does not render them a non-adherent (or semi-adherent). It just means you can pay as much attention to their opinion as you would a child's.

WaterBoy said...

""reactionary" is the correct word but I need a synonym that conveys the correct idea without the emotional connotations that most people would bring to the table."

Triggered Religion.

:)

Res Ipsa said...

But that sort of measurement amongst adherents of a faith seems to be rooted more in the Vanity of Man than in the Divinity of Christ. IMHO; coming from a non-Christian,

You would be correct if I was making a value judgment on their faith. I'm not. Everyone has an opinion about a topic. Some opinions are more informed than others. If I say I believe X, Y, & Z to be true because I've studied N, O, & P and I've rejected the position of A, B, & C., that in my opinion is a more informed decision making process than "what ever the Pastor says is good with me".

I don't accept most RCC doctrine. However I have a great deal of respect for Outlaw X. The reason is he knows why he believes what he believes. There are people I attend church with who may parrot similar beliefs as I do but who have never cracked their bible outside of church.

In one case I come to a different conclusion but respect the person. In the other, it would seem we have come to the same conclusion but I don't respect the person's thought process.

Where this ends up going is some people who never have cracked a bible profess a understanding of "truth" that is not informed but the believe they are equally valid in their belief structure because their world view says that they are.

My thoughts aren't entirely formed on this topic, which is why I'm putting it out there. I think that there is a way to discuss and explore the topic, without dividing people into different camps, but I need to develop a neutral yet descriptive terminology to talk about it.

WaterBoy said...

" If I say I believe X, Y, & Z to be true because I've studied N, O, & P and I've rejected the position of A, B, & C., that in my opinion is a more informed decision making process than "what ever the Pastor says is good with me"."

I do get it. I just personally don't see an awful lot of difference in "this is what I have read in the Bible myself" and "this is what Bible scholar XYZ read in the Bible and put in his book, which I read". Remember, any English version of the Bible you are reading is already somebody else's translation of the original Greek/Hebrew/whatever. They're only going one step further away from the original source documents than you are.

There's also reading ability and comprehension to consider, too. Some people simply have more confidence in the ability of others to actually read it correctly in the first place than they do in their own. Especially considering how education levels -- notably reading ability -- have fallen over the years in public schools. And I expect this problem to get worse over time.

"I have a great deal of respect for Outlaw X. The reason is he knows why he believes what he believes. There are people I attend church with who may parrot similar beliefs as I do but who have never cracked their bible outside of church."

I think we can agree that many parts of Scripture can be interpreted in different ways, whether any particular version is valid or not. The discussion on Calvinism at Vox' blog was that way, for example (yes, I followed it, though I did not participate). There are those who can figure it all out for themselves, and those who cannot and who rely on others to interpret it for them. I would hesitate to label anyone's beliefs less valid merely because they are following their pastor's lead.

I think a lot of RCC doctrine can probably be seen this way, and that may be the biggest fault with it as you see it. I can not disagree on doctrine, per se, only on why some people may accept it uncritically.

Double Minded Man said...

Derivative might be the word you are looking for. You might define derivative theology as looking at positions and determining how those ideas were reached over time.

Others that might fit the bill, contingent, subsequent, consequent. Relational also popped into my head, but I am sure people would think you are talking about something else entirely if you used it.

Res Ipsa said...

DMM,

Thank you that is useful and probably more descriptive without the distractions that reactionary seems to have.

WaterBoy said...

Going back to one of those earlier suggestions (Transformed Religion), I found this book: TRANSFORMED RELIGION: MATTHEW ARNOLD AND THE REFINING OF DISSENT.

At the beginning, there is a quote from Matthew Arnold (distinguished English poet):

"I am persuaded that the transformation of religion, which is essential for its perpetuance, can be accomplished only by carrying the qualities of flexibility, perceptiveness, and judgment, which are the best fruits of letters, to whole classes of the community which now know next to nothing of them, and by procuring the application of those qualities to matters where they are never applied now." --Matthew Arnold, Preface to Last Essays on Church and Religion

It appears that Arnold may have looked at the history of religion and its transformation over time in the same way as you are seeking to do. Perhaps Transformative Religion would be suitable in this context.

Res Ipsa said...

Thanks WB,

I'm going to have to check out his POV and see if we are barking up the same tree.

WaterBoy said...

And hey, if you still want to use the original term "reactionary", you can just change it slightly to "Reactive Religion".

Hopefully, people won't read that and think in the nuclear reactor sense. "Radioactive Religion" definitely sounds like something to avoid, too.