Thursday, September 07, 2006

Thoughts on Christian Folklore

When I speak of folklore, I do not necessarily speak, as some might suppose, of fiction, myth, superstition, or the like--although these can definitely become part of it. Here I will follow the definition of folklore described by R.M. Dorson in Folklore and the Old Testament by J.R. Porter: "the study of traditional culture, or the unofficial culture, or the folk culture, as opposed to the elite culture." Folklore, therefore, is popular as opposed to official. It is a living thing that changes according to the specific culture, group, or environment in which it is found and the time in which it takes place. This is to be distinguished from that which is orthodox--although it can be influenced by, perpetrate, or become folklore in its own right. It is especially distinguished from that which is professional or scholastic. Folklore will usually have far less in common with the professional or scholastic as it will with the orthodox.

When a Christian sits in a pew, he/she is preparing themself mentally, emotionally, and spiritually for folkloric instruction and initiation. To be part of a church involves taking on and supporting folkloric behavior and thought processes to the same extent that getting one's Master and PhD involves taking on and supporting the professional or scholastic behavior and thought processes. In both situations, when someone approaches a subject according to the agreed behavior pattern or thought system, such a thing is praised and modeled, which reinforces that community. Deviations are corrected or coerced toward standard compliance.

Many Christians move into the professional or scholastic world insofar as orthodoxy extends into it. Orthodoxy provides the means to remain fixed in the folkloric world, while extending oneself out into the professional one when it is comfortable, agreeable, or beneficial to the folkloric one. Rarely, if ever, is the professional or scholastic position the basis of one's behavior pattern or thought system. Rather, one sits securely in the guarded domains of either folklore or orthodoxy.

What happens when one abandons the folkloric base in favor of the scholastic and only the orthodox insofar as it is supported by the scholastic? This is the situation I find myself in. I no longer fit into the folkloric world because I don't operate accordingly and there is little that the folkloric world can do to benefit me since any good it brings would be shaped by its own base and try to incorporate that into my own. If I attended a church service, the pastor would likely teach on some subject related to scripture. The scripture would be interpreted in light of the folklore. Ultimately, the sermon would give information and help only useful to those within a folkloric Christianity. It therefore falls apart and becomes pointless to me. I have found my community or want of it shifting drastically from the folkloric to professional. I crave the food that is fed to the professional. The food fed to the folkloric is almost inedible. Perhaps this is a bit extreme, but it is also deep, serious, and empowering instead of superficial, naive, or dependant.


Blogger Thomas said...

Slaveofone, Interesting thoughts. this is Tom from Critical Realism... I responded to your post, my blog has been dormant, (not violently killed) hopefully I'll be keeping up with it. I've added some posts.

9:56 PM  

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