Naming something is the first step to dealing with it. Thanks to Terry Mattingly for teaching me a new word: Flexidoxy.
Every Saturday, journalist David Brooks and his family can choose between three services at their synagogue in Washington, D.C.
Rabbis lead a mainstream, almost Protestant, rite in the sanctuary. Then there is an informal “Havurah (fellowship)” service led by lay people, including a 45-minute talk-back session. The erudite leaders often pause to explain why the Torah’s more judgmental and dogmatic passages don’t mean what they seem to mean.
Finally, throngs of young adults pack the wonderfully named “Traditional Egalitarian” service, which features longer Torah readings, a rigorous approach to liturgy and what Brooks called a “somewhat therapeutic” seminar blending spirituality and daily life.“It can get pretty New Age-y,” said Brooks, at his Weekly Standard office. “It’s as if you’re in an Orthodox shul and then Oprah Winfrey comes on.”
It was a rabbi in Montana who gave Brooks the perfect word — “Flexidoxy” — to describe this faith. This is what happens when Americans try to baptize their souls in freedom and tradition, radical individualism and orthodoxy, all at the same time. One scholar found a Methodist pastor’s daughter who calls herself a “Methodist Taoist Native American Quaker Russian Orthodox Buddhist Jew.”