Flexidoxy

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.”

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • organshoes

    People are proud of their nonaffiliation, thinking it proves them to be openminded and fair, rather than doing what it really does: exposes them as faithLESS.
    One has to wonder what drives people to attend church at all in such circumstances, beyond simply affirming oneself, and one’s tastes and prejudices.

  • organshoes

    People are proud of their nonaffiliation, thinking it proves them to be openminded and fair, rather than doing what it really does: exposes them as faithLESS.
    One has to wonder what drives people to attend church at all in such circumstances, beyond simply affirming oneself, and one’s tastes and prejudices.

  • Bruce

    I remember sort of sliding into Christianity, twenty-some years ago. It was as if I couldn’t look the basic tenets of the faith full in the face, but needed to just have them slowly massaged into my worldview. So I chose a nice campus ministry and got involved. Five years later, I was ready for something a little more substantial. So I walked into the closest church from my house, which turned out to be a Lutheran church.

    Obviously, at some point I had to shed a host of really contradictory ideas to get to confessional Lutheranism, but I’m sure I would never have walked into a Lutheran church to begin with if I hadn’t had a few stepping stones in between.

    I throw this out because it may give some perspective to these watered down forms of Christianity (mirrored by the watered-down Judaism in your quote). While we would never ourselves devise such a system, still they may act as “safe” introductions to the faith; anchor-points that allow the Holy Spirit to latch onto the strayed, wandering Elect.

    Notwithstanding that this was my personal experience, I offer it up as merely a theory.

  • Bruce

    I remember sort of sliding into Christianity, twenty-some years ago. It was as if I couldn’t look the basic tenets of the faith full in the face, but needed to just have them slowly massaged into my worldview. So I chose a nice campus ministry and got involved. Five years later, I was ready for something a little more substantial. So I walked into the closest church from my house, which turned out to be a Lutheran church.

    Obviously, at some point I had to shed a host of really contradictory ideas to get to confessional Lutheranism, but I’m sure I would never have walked into a Lutheran church to begin with if I hadn’t had a few stepping stones in between.

    I throw this out because it may give some perspective to these watered down forms of Christianity (mirrored by the watered-down Judaism in your quote). While we would never ourselves devise such a system, still they may act as “safe” introductions to the faith; anchor-points that allow the Holy Spirit to latch onto the strayed, wandering Elect.

    Notwithstanding that this was my personal experience, I offer it up as merely a theory.

  • http://www.brandywinebooks.net Lars Walker

    This is a classic conundrum, Bruce. A man moving away from Christianity and a man moving toward it will, at some point, be in the same place. It’s probably a mistake to condemn that location categorically. On the other hand, if you see a lot of people moving out of the Faith and very few moving toward it, it is cause for concern.

  • http://www.brandywinebooks.net Lars Walker

    This is a classic conundrum, Bruce. A man moving away from Christianity and a man moving toward it will, at some point, be in the same place. It’s probably a mistake to condemn that location categorically. On the other hand, if you see a lot of people moving out of the Faith and very few moving toward it, it is cause for concern.

  • Carl Vehse

    The flexidoxists in the Lutheran Church may be referred to as “Lufauxrans”.

  • Carl Vehse

    The flexidoxists in the Lutheran Church may be referred to as “Lufauxrans”.

  • Ken

    How about a hoary word, “syncretism”? That certainly describes what the Methodist pastor’s daughter is into.

  • Ken

    How about a hoary word, “syncretism”? That certainly describes what the Methodist pastor’s daughter is into.

  • CRB

    Lars,
    You state, “if you see a lot of people moving out of the Faith and very few moving toward it, it is cause for concern.” I think you are absolutely right. “Cause for concern,” however, is an understatement, especially
    when, in my own synod, the avg. church attendance is only around 30%! The numbers in the Evangelical churches, however, are rising!

  • CRB

    Lars,
    You state, “if you see a lot of people moving out of the Faith and very few moving toward it, it is cause for concern.” I think you are absolutely right. “Cause for concern,” however, is an understatement, especially
    when, in my own synod, the avg. church attendance is only around 30%! The numbers in the Evangelical churches, however, are rising!

  • Greg

    “One scholar found a Methodist pastor’s daughter who calls herself a “Methodist Taoist Native American Quaker Russian Orthodox Buddhist Jew.”
    Another word for such syncretism is apostacy.

  • Greg

    “One scholar found a Methodist pastor’s daughter who calls herself a “Methodist Taoist Native American Quaker Russian Orthodox Buddhist Jew.”
    Another word for such syncretism is apostacy.


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