Is there a Post-Orthodox Judaism that Corresponds to Post Evangelical?

Many of those who were raised as Evangelical in the recent Great Awakening of Religion are not returning to the Evangelical Faith of their parents. Statistics vary from 25%-80%. The Great return to religion is winding down.  Those raised with an intense Evangelical faith don’t naturally blend back into  mainline liberal Churches. They are specifically ex-evangelicals who have adapted liberal position.

So too in American Judaism, despite the triumphalism of orthodoxy Judiasm in the last quarter century and phony online statistics – Orthodoxy is witnessing similar phenomena.  We also have a large number of people who are ex-Orthodox, not believing in what they were taught, and adopting liberal positions but that does not mean they are comfortable with liberal Judiasm. Read the following and ask yourself: how many of them also apply to someone distancing him/herself from his/her Orthodox upbringing? How many are being argued on the Jewish blogs?

Post-evangelicalism is a term used to describe former adherents of Evangelicalism. includes a variety of people who have distanced themselves from mainstream evangelical Christianity for theological, political, or cultural reasons. Most who describe themselves as post-evangelical are still adherents of the Christian faith in some form.

Post-evangelical critiques of the evangelical church concern include but are not limited to:

  • Individualism and lack of theological depth
  • Anti-intellectualism
  • Narrow or excessively partisan political views
  • Lack of engagement in art, media, and society
  • Materialism and consumerism
  • Insensitivity toward homosexuals

Christianity Today explains that post-evangelicals have become willingly disassociated with the mainstream evangelical belief system over difficulties with any combination of at least the following issues:

1. Questions over Biblical innerrancy. Questions may relate to the Biblical record of history, contradictions between scientific and scriptural explanations of the nature of the Universe and humanity (e.g., the origin of the Universe, homosexuality) or the discrepancies in descriptions of the personality of God in the different books of the Bible. Shrouding these issues, are are how the cultural understandings and lingustical limitations of the written word have influenced the way Scripture has been recorded and handed down throughout the ages.

2 The moral failure of prominent evangelical leaders. Such failure has cast doubt over the entire evangelical movement.

3  Many post-evangelicals have come of age during times of increasing multi-cultural awareness in Western society. They are presented with the educational lessons of the validity of all cultures and necessity for a pluralistic world-view.

Publications identifying as post-evangelical include the blog Internet Monk

Now that was fun. How many sounded familiar? Any to add in the Jewish case? Do you think they have played themselves out in the same way in the Jewish community?

h/t –Here  is a recent blog post from the blog InternetMonk on the topic.

Update- please see this blog’s continued discussion on post-evangelical here. This one is important for the discussion of post-orthodox, and further discussion here on post-Orthodox, <a
And on the idea of labels and  “post” see here
And here on some of the changes within the evangelicals that may play itself out among Jews.

Update Dec 2012- After three years, the concept of a post-Orthodox moment still seems valid. Here are some later posts on the same topic.
A continuation of this post defining post-Orthodox- here,
A 2011 update on erosion- here,
the history of the term- here.

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11 responses to “Is there a Post-Orthodox Judaism that Corresponds to Post Evangelical?

  1. Sounds familar ,can we get some real statistics ? those who leave are not comfortable with liberal options due to cultural reasons

    • It is hard to get statistics of a live phenomena with no external signs. We know that after the 1960’s and 70’s there were 45 % less Orthodox Jews. Right now, it is hard to tell when someone is out of the community- some declare they are out at 22, others at 32 and others at 42. We will look back in 2025 and see the losses. We will also see how many of those who leave orthodoxy join mainline forms of liberal Judiasm and how many create some new limbo approach.

      Unreliable Statistics on Young Evangelicals Are Deserting

      • A recent TIME Magazine article points to research that found 61 percent of the adults now in their twenties participated in church activities as teens but not now.
      • A study from UCLA found that only 29 percent of college students are still involved in church activities by their junior year.
      • Josh McDowell estimates, ‘over 69 percent of youth are leaving traditional church after high school.’
      • Mark Matlock finds, ‘Depending on whose numbers you use, 58 percent – 84 percent of graduating youth from church youth groups are not returning.’
      • Glenn Schultz at LifeWay Christian Resources estimates that 75 percent of young people leave church in their late teens and aren’t reconnecting later.
      • Ron Luce in Battle Cry for a Generation estimates ’88 percent of kids raised in Christian homes do not continue to follow the Lord after they graduate from high school.’
      • Evangelical pollster George Barna says, ‘Now only 33 percent of churched youth say that the church will play a part in their lives when they leave home.

  2. Everyone seems to be using these arguments against the group to it’s right. First against charedim by strict MO, then by the left of MO against the right. The Conservatives bang away at the Orthodox in the name of historicism and liberalism. Now I see the eminent Rabbi Jacob Neusner has become Reform and is ranting at the Conservatives, for similar reasons.

    It’s a lot like dog bites man.

    Why must going to the religious left always end in more and more liberalism?

    • evanstonjew-
      A variety of disconnected thoughts – not to be joined. I am not sure that there are similar reasons. there seems to be many things going on. Internal Orthodox debates are not occurring for the same reasons as Neusner’s op-ed.. People are forever switching right and left. People often go back to the faith of their youth. Arguments need a fertile ground.- when Herman Wouk renounced his Orthodoxy for right wing Conservatisim- it did not make a splash because of the orthodox triumphalism of the time and becuase the Conservative movement was becoming liberal and had little use for a 1950’s right wing author.e are in an age of turning liberal that is reversing the course of the 80’s and 90’s.

  3. These numbers do not address the Emergent Church movement which allows its members to reject Megachurch Evangelism, but accept some for of Orthodox-ish Christianity.

    I suppose that Minyanim play a similar role for many ex-Orthodox.

    Also, as Christian Smith points out in American Evengelicals, many people who are described as “ex-evangelicals” still have Orthodox beliefs, but just don’t attend Church.

  4. Alan: Herman Wouk renounced Orthodoxy for right-wing Conservatism. Really? When did this happen? I consider myself fairly knowledgeable, but never heard of it.
    Not only did it not make a splah; it did not make a whisper.

  5. 84-86, It was connected to Inside-Outside, he wrote a few op-eds about Orthodoxy not solving agunah, misogyny, and not what he expected with Leo Jung and Emmanuel Rackman. This was during the WPG battles. He continued to attend the mehitza minyan in Palm Springs, but was disapponted. Maybe I will dig up some of the op-eds.

  6. Hi Guys, perhapa a few words from a Christian might help? 🙂 There is a serious move afoot in Christianity, worldwide, to reject what they may call “the establsihed church.” This would include, denominations, non-denominations and the emergent church. I guess to put it into plain language, those who have had a real encounter, an epiphany so to speak, with God, no longer are able to stay within mainstream Christianity. Are these people orhtodox in what they believe? Very much so. Yet, they have found that they have nothing in common with what may be termed “Cultural Christianity.” The reason 80-90% of college kids walk away is because they only had tradition, they only had what their parents raised them with. Yet, unless one can cry with King David “As the deer panteth for the waterbrooks so my soul longeth after thee,” then one is walking away from a mental assent to an abstract truth. There is a coming reformation of Christianity which will redefine what it means to be Christian. It will be based on a hunger and thirst for the presence of God. A seeking of the “shekinah glory,” or the manifest presence of God. Nothing else will satisfy.
    Psalm 51:11 Cast me not away from Your presence, and take not Your Holy Spirit from me.
    Psalm 51:12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.

    People are seeking the reality of God. And while tradition has its place, if one only has tradition and not relationship, then what does one really have?
    I understand that this is a Christian comment, yet perhaps we may see some parrallels?

  7. appolus- thanks for your comment. I have some future posts in mind on the emergent Church.
    When there was an arranged meeting back in 2006 between Emergents and what looked like their Jewish counterparts – the Christian side noted that the Jews think they are entirely still within the institutions and that the Jews were not interested in theory and theology to explain what they do and feel- they just wanted music and experience.

  8. Interesting. I grew up Orthodox and am still mostly observant, but more and more, I identify as simply “observant” or even post-Orthodox. This is due to many reasons, but one important one is the Orthodox community’s different social values from mine. The gap is particularly big in NYC and environs. I also take issue with the materialism, anti-intellectualism, and halakhic dishonesty that I see. It’s not even like those things are balanced by a warm, loving, or caring community, as far as my experiences go.

  9. I learned in Machon Meir for three years, so I had a lot of contact with converts and 18-35 year old ba’alei teshuva. A lot of them bought the general Hardal party line, and I won’t speak about them.

    But there’s another section of them. These people are committed to strict Orthodox Judaism, but they are most dissatisfied with either the lack of intellectual depth, or with the offensive positions taken by mainstream Orthodoxy.For example, many of my friends were extremely disgusted by the Hardal attitude on Christianity, finding it akin to racism and bigotry.Others are repulsed by any number of other issues. For example, many are disgusted by the lifestyle and opinions of the Haredim, and how the Modern Orthodox and Hardalim are inching ever closer to the Haredim.

    I have a friend that she wanted to be Orthodox ever since she was a little girl, and finally, when she became an adult, she was able to do so. However, she quickly realized that for many, Orthodoxy is an excuse to defenestrate your brain and surrender your free will, and she wanted none of this. In the end, my friend has a rather individualistic and eclectic approach to halakhah. Don’t misunderstand; she does strictly keep halakhah. But after seeing so many rabbis out there make so many ridiculous and absurd rulings, she is skeptical of her obligation to asei lekha rav. She definitely learns halakhic texts very sincerely and seriously, but in the end, she accepts what she herself finds personally reasonable.

    Other friends of mine find their own path. Several people I know, for example, have realized that most rabbis out there haven’t a clue, and so they’ve instead turned to the Rambam and chosen the Mishneh Torah as their qitzur. If no one today has his head on straight, then they find someone who did.

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