The Evangelical Habitas or how to be Orthoprax

Here is a link to a cute video on how to be an Evangelical. It is similar to the books and spoofs on how to act and speak yeshivish.

However it is quoted on a religion blog to discuss how religion is learning to follow set patterns of speaking according to its habitus (in Bourdieu’s sense) rather than its doctrines. Meaning a year in Israel is about learning to speak a certain way. Now, that is not the end of the story. The blog has a commenter

While it is worthwhile to consider the extent to which a cult, sect, denomination or ecclesia can be identified by its various styles of habitus, it is also useful to consider the concept of “ortho-praxy.” Every collectivity, sacred or secular, has its subtle aspects of orthodox social action (social behavior, G. H. Mead).
Ortho-praxy (orthopraxy) is a concept frequently used in the study of religions and spiritualities, including comparative religious studies as an inter-disciplinary field and the sociology of religion as a section of the ASA.

The way he is using the term orthopraxy in a GH Mead sense is as an acquired was to speak and conduct social interaction. People we call believers are those who have learned to have the correct acquired way to talk. The one who learns catch phrases like “baal teshuvah” “your not yotze”“it is against the mesorah” “it is a kiyyum” “one has to do teshuvah” are the orthopraxy, since they have correctly learned how to practice a way of speech. On the other side, those who stop speaking like that and don’t accept that way of labeling are not the orthoprax since they are no longer speaking correctly.
From a sociological perspective, Orthoprax is not about keeping halakhah but about acting and talking like a believer. Those correctly acculturated are orthopraxy, those who stop speaking correctly even if they keep halakhah would not be orthoprax. Skepticism, rationality, liberalism or disinterest all cause one to speak differently to other people. When discussing Evangelicals, researchers like John G. Stackhouse, Jr. consider orthopraxy part of the correct beliefs, when one no longer believes then one is not orthoprax.

2 responses to “The Evangelical Habitas or how to be Orthoprax

  1. If a community as a whole (like modern orthodoxy) is possessed by a high degree of “skepticism, rationality, liberalism or disinterest” which then affects its speech and behavior, then doesn’t this become its distinct mode of orthopraxy reflecting a weaker commitment to the metaphysical ontology that performative ritual and orthopraxy in general is meant to reinforce?

    • let me try and unpack what you are saying. This may take another round.
      The question is what are the various orthoprax speech patterns in the community? For example, I was recently reading about the evangelicals and one of the dividing lines in Christian rock is about the Christian faith of Bono and U2’s religion. It is a different speech pattern to follow U2 say “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for” then to say “I heard God’s word in my heart.”Both of them are weak metaphysical commitments and both are certain and corrigible forms of orthopraxy. That was your point, I think. But my point was that those who reject U2, the language of U2 is not orthoprax even if they still follow all the other precepts and praxis. My point in the little video provided was that in sociology we usually label the more “ortho” group as the orthoprax.
      For example, in the study of meditation – monastic life is called orthoprax. Do you adhere to the meditation practice? Someone who became more modern and no longer accepts the metaphysical parts of the practice is now less orthoprax. Even if they keep the original practice like the Dalai Lama, he is seen as an adapter or a syntheiszer, not as the orthoprax.

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