Thursday, July 7, 2011

Only Partially Disenculturated

"The evangelical stream, however, was only partially disenculturated, ... At its highest point it aimed to transcend the diversity of cultic practices to establish an ideal spiritual unity of Christians across denominations and cultures. But it was still largely wedded to the Puritan version of the training-code morality, which caught on in Pietist circles also. As the understanding of grace declined in revivalism, evangelicalism erected a stronger shell of protective enculturation to guard it from the world. Not only did it cling to the Puritan taboos, but in the nineteenth century it added more: wine and tobacco, both of which had been consumed by both Reformers and Puritans. The early Temperance movement was motivated by social compassion for victims of distilled liquor during the stresses of the Industrial Revolution, and it really called for temperance. When moderation seemed too difficult a spiritual disciple and too slow a remedy, the revivalists of the 1820s and 30s moved on to redefine temperance as abstinence, to the horror of Charles Hodge, who protested that the replacement of Communion wine with grape juice was an insult to Jesus and to biblical ethics.

A few decades later, coffee and tea were added to the taboo list by revivalist Charles Finney. It is significant that Finney's understanding of justification and sanctification were essentially severed from any doctrine of union with Christ; in effect he taught justification by sanctification and not by faith, and sanctification by will power more than by grace. As succeeding generations of revivalist leaders had less and less grasp of the dynamics of spiritual life, the drift toward training codes and protective enculturation became stronger and stronger.

Worldliness, for the Puritan, had meant 'excessive love for the wealth, affluence and pride of the world.' For the late nineteenth-century evangelical, however, it increasingly came to mean the presence of certain visible habits of behavior which marked the nonevangelical off as nonkosher. At the same time, an insidious process of cultural fusion was going on in which Christianity was gradually identified with Americanism, patriotism and the preservation of the status quo.

By the 1930s the average American Fundamentalist was not, at least, a proponent of theocracy, but he did have a way of confusing America, the Republican Party and the capitalist system with the kingdom of God. He did not practice circumcision, but he did assume that only those who had gone through a certain form of conversion experience was 'born again' and that the salvation of these persons was either unquestionably sure or else maintained by works of personal morality. Sanctification was not a subject he was used to hearing about- at least, not in terms of Pauline doctrine- but he had an extensive behavioral code by which to distinguish dedicated Christians from liberals, the unsaved and the backslidden. He felt that black people, including black Christians, were all right in their place (and that included a separate place of worship), but he was ready to focus all hidden fears and pooled hatreds of his heart on those who did not stay in their place, and also on Communists, Jews and sometimes even Democrats. If sufficiently well-trained, he could recognize the fact that theological liberals were Sadduccees, but very rarely could he see the point of the liberal contention that he himself was a Pharisee.

By this point, it becomes somewhat hard to discern whether the enculturation of Evangelicalism was protective or destructive, ..." (Dynamicspp. 194-95). 

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