From conservative anti-intellectualism to liberal anti-intellectualism

Taken from an emergent Church blog in which the author is frustrated by the new form anti-intellectualism of the emergent Church. It is no longer the right wing rejection of college,liberalism, and ideas, rather now it is a new liberal anti-intellectualism. Does it ring true about Jewish circles? Can one only preach to the choir for a short time before it is anti-intellectual? Does communal experience and anecdote trump coherent articulation among modern Orthodox Jews?

From conservative anti-intellectualism to liberal anti-intellectualism:
This one has me the most frustrated. I was drawn to the emerging church conversation because I saw vigorous questioning and thoughtful exploration… And certainly there are several young, postmodern emerging/emergent theologians who are making rigorous arguments and thoughtful claims. But I’ve become more and more concerned at a creeping anti-intellectualism among some of the loudest voices who rest on rhetorical questions, anecdotal evidence, and communal experiences over philosophical and theological articulation and argument. This, I believe, follows from the previous inversions because your don’t have to really say anything or land anywhere because we are all merely in an endless conversation. Essentially, everything is a rhetorical display without any real substance. And really, you can only score so many rhetorical points before you are only preaching to the choir (which is a form a fundamentalism itself, is it not?). I have been a part of numerous conversations that only go so deep before an implied anti-intellectualism takes over.
When a certain form of radical questioning takes the well worn paths of protestant liberalism, or mirror forms of Hegelianism, it does not good to just assert that “we” aren’t doing that old thing, you have to actually show how things are different, you have to defend and articulate what is going on.
This is the role of an ‘organic theologian’, to both articulate within a community what is happening, and express to larger communities why it makes sense. To only do the former without the latter is to perpetuate a fundamentalism on the other side of the equation. Hence my claim of an inverted anti-intellectualism. Fundamentalist, Evangelicals, Hippies, the Seeker-Church, and now many Missional/Emergent types play this card as a way of calling into question the power of the establishment. Now I’m not saying there aren’t issues of power going on, but have faith in your ideas and practices, show the world, make your case, and make a difference. Don’t just claim that the powers are keeping you out without even actually making an argument so saying that others won’t understand. Taken from here.

2 responses to “From conservative anti-intellectualism to liberal anti-intellectualism

  1. The problem in my opinion is less anti -intellectualism than time. No one has the time to study new philosophers to any degree of depth. So after the superficial summary is put out and some analogy is established, that’s about it…onto the next hot thing.

    It’s the same with theologians who offer facile analogies to modern physics. These cliff notes do more harm than good.

    In yeshiva we are all taught not to run, but to stay on the daf until the sugya is laid out with some clarity. The same here. In post modern philosophy especially the European variety, bekius is the enemy of understanding.

    One solution is never to refer to a proper name as if the doctrine associated with that name is obvious. I do the same and I associate my own obscurantism with that flaw.

  2. Intellectualism certainly is not being versed in the modern philosophy, etc. what is “intellectualism”?

    For example an average American knows a lot about baseball and spends time on it. Does it make him an intellectual? I think it does. In other words it is about being curious about something.

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