Wednesday, June 05, 2019

Evangelicals and The Changing of the Mazeways

Anthony FC Wallace (1923-2015)

For years I would see strange opinons popping up on message boards, evangelicals are forgetting the gospel, I was not the first to post one of those messages. I first regarded it as New Atheist slander,.I soon joined the ranks of such prophets, however,  yet no one listened because we  were just cranks on a message board, After what we have seen over the last seven months it seems absurd for anyone to question it, People keep asking how can it be that Evangelicals would forget to be Evangelical?" The answer is provided by historian Wayne Flynt of Auburn University, and the answer is obvious, they are changeling. Flyant his devoted his life to studying his fellow southerners:
Flynt’s answer is that his people are changing. The words of Jesus, as recorded in the Gospels, are less central to their thinking and behaviour, he says. Church is less compelling. Marriage is less important. Reading from a severely abridged Bible, their political concerns have narrowed down to abortion and issues involving homosexuality. Their faith, he says, has been put in a president who embodies an unholy trinity of materialism, hedonism and narcissism. Trump’s victory, in this sense, is less an expression of the old-time religion than evidence of a move away from it....[Flynt says]
'Arguably, what has constituted white evangelical Christian morality for 200 years no longer matters, which is to say we’re now a lot like Germany, a lot like France, a lot like England, a lot like the Netherlands, and what we have is a sort of late-stage Christian afterglow.'[1]
How could people so committed to a value system and way of life, a world view, the Bible,Jesus,change? Everyone I know still talks about how unbelievable it all is,Not just Evangelicals going for and becoming completely sold out to a a man who embodies the antithesis of all that they stand for, not only the election to the Presidency of a totally unqualified clown, not only that he fundies vest this man with an anointing that makes him seem almost divine in their minds, but also the decline of Western civilization, the resurgence of racism and the seeming collapse of ordinary civilizing norms. But we need not be puzzled. it's all explained by going back to my old sociology days.There is a sociological theory, which I will discuss, that accounts for this change, That is explained by a theory in sociology of religion, the theory of "the Mazeways" by Anthony F.C. Wallace.

An Anthropologist, Wallace was born In 1923 in Toronto he died in 2015 in Pennsylvania, where he went to school (University of Penn 1950). Wallace began working on his general theory, the Theory of "Revitalization Movements" (RM) in the late 40s as a student with a paper on the Delaware tribe of native Americans. By the earlly 90s his theory was well developed and largely accepted, having it's major period of development in the 60s. [2]

A RM is a deliberate, organized, conscious effort by members of a society to construct a more satisfying culture. Politico-religious movements arise in periods of great social stress promising deliverance from deprivation, foreign domination, social exploitation,or conflicts over colonialism, economic exploitation and racial conflict; these movements employ new transformations of spirit based upon reshuffling of old cultural  vales, which seem to have failed. The classic example is the native American ghost dance, which Wallace studied. Wallace also studied the Delaware in early fomentation of his theory,[3] [4] 

Wallace's theory began as a theory about native American culture and religious movements. It deal with visionary leaders with ecstatic experiences. But he was not just applying hunter gatherer culture to post industrial society. He also studied Christianity and Islam and used modern examples of American Society. Wallace has developed a full array of methodologies from field work to participant observer,to laboratory experiment, to archival etnohisotry.[5] The result is that he has become of the most commonly sited social scientists, accepted by every major social science field and considered one of the true greats of anthropology. [6] After re-mainspring his theory after all these years I think he is the only one who really explains what is going on in terms of the sense that everything is falling apart. Moreoer in the 60s Luthar Gaqrloch and Virginia Hines applied Wallace's theory favorably to the study of Pentecostalism and Black Power movements, He took a paradigmatic approach from  Thomas Kuhn and studied the effects of technology on modern society.[7]

The Theory in thumbnail

RMs start in times of stress, they occur during times of disillusionment or disappointment.It is a process in which the people involved see their culture as a system that has let them down and is no longer working for them.The classic processes of cultural change are evolution, drift, diffusion, historical change, acculturation and all these produce changes in cultures as systems; however, these changes may not be the result of deliberate intention of the member of that society, but rather a gradual chain-reaction effect. The process cascades effecting multiple other changes and spurring more reaction.

Stages in the movement

There are several stages in the movement I wont bother to go into but I will highlight the crucial stages that I think really speak to our time.  There is a steady state (that's a stage in the theory) where people become depressed, crumble under the new situations and it becomes the new normal. They go through increased individual stress then hit the stage of cultural distortion. The state of cultural  distortion is significant, In that period people are trying to find new solutions and old elements such as values and traditions that were once comforting are abandoned or compete with each other or changed in ways previously thought unimaginable,[8]

Mazeways (yes, one word) are crucial here because it is mazeway change that creates much of the stress and it is mazeway change that people try playing with and manipulating to understand the new situation.For example sex, drugs, rock and roll. But mazeway shift creates more stress.[9] Mazeways are the links that enable the individual to connect with the larger culture through her understanding of daily life. They include things as innocent as table manners to things as serious as the moral code, For example the idea of being a law abiding citizen, having a social time table and career plan, playing by the rules,  seeking conventional rewrds of good behvior. These are marked by things like style and career path all of these are mnazeways,

Mazeway Reformation is crucial and it applies to either secular movements or religiosity. The individual's understanding no longer correlates with that of the culture, appropriate example, someone who believes one goes to hell for being  gay  suddenly sees gay marriages around her.

The leader

Within the context of organization of the movement, Wallace evokes sociologist Max Weber's notion of the "charismatic leader." The prophet is a chrism tic leader endued with special status and abilities, He relates his vision to concerts and they accept him absolutely. "As God is to the Prophet so the Prophet is (almost) the follopwrs"[10] Don't forget Wallace's primary data applies to native American culture so he says the prophet and many of his followers will have ecstatic experiences. But the theory has also been applied to modern secular society. The leader "is regarded as an uncanny person of unquestionable authority in one or more spheres of leadership sanctioned by the supernatural...followers defer to the charismatic leader not because of his status in  an existing authority structure but because of a facilitating personal power."[11]

In Wallace's theory a society is like an organism,Its a living entity meaning it's dynamic,is compassed of  various members and parts which fomentation together and work in certain ways. That dynamic includes tensions and conflicts and times of stress occur there are cascades of effect that lead to social breakdown, When the system is seen not to function the movement begins,

What Wallace calls internal incongruities of the Mazeways it leads to anxiety and loss of meaningful way of life disillusionment with the Mazeways sets in. "This process of deterioration can, if not checked,lead to the death of society."[12] Society is an organism with parlous parts,when when society is seen as  dysfunctional organism and has let people down,they fail to accomplish their preconditioned traditional expectations. I interprit the theory to mean that a given subset of the society can have a revitalization movement or can off, or the same principles could be applied to a whole nation.

Applying the theory to the current situation

RMs promise deliverance from  deprivation, foreign domination, social exploitation,or conflicts over "colonialism, economic exploitation and racial conflict;" these are reflected and named in the literature (fn3-4) These were issues in the last presidential election. America as the colonial power not as the colony  figures into the conflict with illegal aliens and the boarder wall, especially the idea of Mexico to pay for the wall. Fear of foreign domination certainly figured into the campaign.

Certainly the bit about the Charismatic leader applies, supernatural aid. Even though Trump has not had ecstatic experiences he has been vested with sanctifying Grace by his followers and is practically worshiped in some quarters. Televangelists have declared that anyone trying to thwart Trump will dealt with by God and Trump is Gods man. The uncanny acceptance of Trump's unchristian manner  are explained by the e shuffle of the mazeways, the rules are suspended for the leader, he's too important because his mission is so vital, to make the culture work again for the deprived. The talk of make America great again and take America back are indicative of the shift of mnazeways the culture is broken they can/t find their way.

We can explaimn why old people are racist and why they are reacting for Trump, They lived for years in silent defeat by civil rights moment, But why are young people dedicated to alt right and racism? A minority of young people are alienated, and racist. Trump's vocabulary was a statistical fluke spread over a few states.[13]Yet, that minority of disaffected rackets could be virulent, They may have been raised on the reshuffled mazeways  of the Reagan era then we never got a chance to change the educational system,which Trump is understudying all the more.

The issue is not as simple as racism vs democrats. There are lots of overstates who are not racist, I think the revitalization movement theory exclaims the evangelical's change. a lot of middle age to older people who were raised on the model of abide by the law, follow the rules be a church goer and you will get rich, the American dream. That mazeway as been changed shuffled distorted. collapsed and otherwise mutilated. There has been a persist amt substitute growing on talk radio,

In The U.S. We have had a succession of revitalize movements starting with the 60s counter culture,then the Reagan counter revolution then the Obama answer to economic collapse, now the Trump vacation from sanity, That's a lot of Maseway shifting and it has bred anew generation of antisocial people who never knew the old maszeways and there are still a lot of hold overs who are alienated American dream types.


[1] Gary Silverman, "How the Bible Belt Lost God and Found Trump," Financial Times   () On line version (access 9/14/17) URL:

[2] Encyclopedia Britannica,  Volume 8; Vol. 12 (15 ed.)  Encyclopedia Britannica ISBN 0852296339

[3] Anthony F.C. Wallace and ed. Robert S. Grumet,  Revitalization and Mazeways: Essays on Cultural Change Vol 1 Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press  2003, 9-12..

In 1956 Wallace published a seminal paper "Revitalization Movements that really began his theory as a coherent whole, which was at that time a theory about Native American culture.

[4] "The Revitalization Movmeent" The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright The Columbia University Press, no date given, (acess 8/13/17) URL

[5] Robert S. Grumet, "Foreword," Revitalization and Mazeways, op. cit., x.

[6] Ibid,  vii

[7] 5

[8] Wallas 10-16

[9] 16

[10] Wallace, op cit, 21

[11] Ibid

[12] Ibid 16

[13] CHAUNCEY DEVEGA. "Are younger Whites Less Raciost? New Research..." Salon (Dec 20,2016)

1 comment:

Kristen said...

This makes sense but I wish I had some idea what can be done about it, sigh.