Clashing Symbols: the New Christian Right as Countermythology / Symboles en opposition : la Nouvelle Droite Chrétienne comme «contre-mythologie». - article ; n°1 ; vol.59, pg 153-173
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Clashing Symbols: the New Christian Right as Countermythology / Symboles en opposition : la Nouvelle Droite Chrétienne comme «contre-mythologie». - article ; n°1 ; vol.59, pg 153-173

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Archives des sciences sociales des religions - Année 1985 - Volume 59 - Numéro 1 - Pages 153-173
21 pages
Source : Persée ; Ministère de la jeunesse, de l’éducation nationale et de la recherche, Direction de l’enseignement supérieur, Sous-direction des bibliothèques et de la documentation.



Publié par
Publié le 01 janvier 1985
Nombre de lectures 34
Langue Français
Poids de l'ouvrage 1 Mo


Donald Heinz
Clashing Symbols: the New Christian Right as
Countermythology / Symboles en opposition : la Nouvelle Droite
Chrétienne comme «contre-mythologie».
In: Archives des sciences sociales des religions. N. 59/1, 1985. pp. 153-173.
Citer ce document / Cite this document :
Heinz Donald. Clashing Symbols: the New Christian Right as Countermythology / Symboles en opposition : la Nouvelle Droite
Chrétienne comme «contre-mythologie». In: Archives des sciences sociales des religions. N. 59/1, 1985. pp. 153-173.
doi : 10.3406/assr.1985.2351 Sc soc äes Rel. 1985 59/1 janvier-mars) 153 173
Donald HEINZ
La thèse centrale de auteur dont la perspective méthodologique
emprunte la sociologie herméneutique est la suivante appari
tion de la Nouvelle Droite Chrétienne New Christian Right dans
la vie politique américaine est interprétée comme étant émergence
une coalition de mouvements sociaux engagés dans la remise en
cause de la signification mythologique attribuée épopée améri
caine par les élites au pouvoir
La télévision école et la famille sont la fois les arènes et les en
jeux majeurs où se joue ce conflit au niveau politique Investis
une valeur symbolique en eux-mêmes ils sont aussi les canaux
privilégiés donnant accès la production et au contrôle des sym
boles facteurs de socialisation
Aux mythologies de humanisme séculier et du christianisme libé
ral la Nouvelle Droite Chrétienne oppose sa contre-mythologie
la construction de son propre univers symbolique
Several interpretations have emerged to account for the rise of the New
Christian Right as significant social movement in the United States The most
common sees the movement responding to widespread anomie and systemic de
cay in American society by scapegoating selected enemies and imposing its own
closure on everyone else Scapegoating is psychologically satisfying because it
fixes blame for pain and loss of meaning It is politically effective because it mo
bilizes disaffection against convenient targets of anger and frustration and orga
nizes around such anger and frustration Thus the movement seizes the issues
which will bring it to power The New Left came to visibility and power over
Vietnam Some would argue the Christian Right chooses resonant sym
bols to disguise new prohibitionism in which pro-life really means anti-choice
pro-family means the crushing of the movement pro-marriage means
the jailing of gays and pornographers and pro-American means the suppression
of dissent It is worth noting that liberals scapegoat the New Christian Right for
what may in fact be national shift toward conservatism shift for which libe
rals wish to accept no responsibility
The weakness of the scapegoating hypothesis is that it uses pejorative la
bel in way which tends to obscure other dimensions of social conflict Like de
privation theory this tends not to generate empirically disconfirmable hypothe
ses The subjects under consideration are labeled the disinherited the disen
chanted the disaffected the paranoid occasionally with reference to Nazi
Another interpretation sees the New Christian Right as naive and socially
regressive in its response to modernity It simply wants to go home again to
simpler day The reversion to an idealized earlier period is called an escape from
freedom There is no little truth in such hypothesis but is should not go unno
ticed that its location is often an Enlightenment liberalism which allows itself to
assume that the current public meaning of America is an expression of cultural
pluralism at its best that any assault on such pluralism is disengagement from
what is best in the American experiment or what is the assured heritage of the
Enlightenment and that present accomodations to modernity are to be applau
ded Behind such hypothesis there may lurk the following assumptions The
modern complex world is the result of evolutionary progress opponents are
therefore regressive The present situation of American pluralism and of moder
nity is normative all non-adjustment to it are therefore maladaptive and inap
propriate Our adjustment to the modern world is the only fitting one This hy
pothesis then is obviously rhetorically satisfying but may not be clarifying
Any ideology of modernization as inherently redemptive with Norman
People for the American Way playing the role of cargo cult needs to be
examined Berger 1973 has described homelessness in the cosmos loss of
integrative meanings situation in which roles hide rather than disclose the
self dilemma of excessive and random choice Any interpretation which sim
ply calls the New Christian Right de-modernizing has not yet made its case that
the movement is inappropriate or an evil In offering socialism as its own ans
wer to homelessness the left provides an implicit critique of li
critique of the New Christian Right
Other interpretations judge the New Christian Right because they assume
that evangelicalism in particular or religion in general is maladaptive or outmo
ded Warner 1979 has shown that intellectuals tend to respond to evangelicals
based on class liberal and evolutionary biases Martin Marty has many times
observed that XXth century liberals typically respond to religion in ways which
are historically uninformed which may be reactions against childhood faith or
which are unwilling to recognize the varieties of religious experience They ope
rate inside curious syllogism which assumes that all religious certainty is mur
derous all religious tolerance heretical and only fundamentalist faith has inte
grity Thus on their own terms they exclude the possibility of religious faith
and keep it at safe distance
Enlightenment figures like Thomas Jefferson and much of modern socio
logy has viewed religion as outmoded In review of Dumas biogra-
phy of Jefferson Gordon Wood 1981 has commented on Jefferson in old
Ordinary people in whom Jefferson placed so much confidence were not
becoming more enlightened superstition and bigotry with which Jefferson identi
fied organized religion were reviving released by the democratic revolution he
had led He was incapable of understanding the deep popular strength of the evan
gelical forces that were seizing control of American culture in these years He was
confused secular humanist in the midst of real moral majority While Jefferson
in 1822 was still predicting that there was not young man now alive who would
not die Unitarian Methodists and Baptists and other evangelicals were gaining
adherents by the tens of thousands and transforming American society All Jeffer
son could do was blame the defunct New England Federalists and an equally be
wildered New England clergy for spreading capitalism and evangelical Christia
nity throughout the country
The expectation that religion will soon die out dies hard among the children of
the Enlightenment Bryan Wilson 1979 suggests the founders of sociology saw
sociology itself as an alternative to religion Daniel Bell 1977 remarks that du
ring the first half of this century almost every serious sociological thinker expec
ted religion to disappear from industrial society before the year 2000
Counter-mythology and the politics of lifestyle
In this article the New Christian Right is interpreted from the methodologi
cal perspective of hermeneutical sociology The movement is analyzed through
an attempt to enter into its own intentionality concept of St
and concept of the symbolization of society as the sacred are used
to illuminate that intentionality The central argument is that the New Christian
Right is an emerging coalition of social movements engaged in contest over
the meaning of story The American story refers to how Americans
choose to understand and interpret their beginnings their historical experience
their cultural and spiritual meaning and identity and calling and destiny
Crucial to the story is how the American enterprise is legitimated In this con
test public symbols play crucial role as the instruments through which over
arching systems of meaning called symbolic universes Berger 1969) are cons
tructed maintained and enforced The generation transmission and control of
public symbols is powerful tool for world-view construction and socialization
and therefore also major arena for political conflict
The role of symbols myth and countermythology can be seen already in
the fundamentalist-modernist controversy in recent American church history
Marsden 1980) in the XIXth century war against modernity fought by Pope
Pius IX and in the contests between Yahweh and Baal recorded in the Old Tes
tament above all the heroic Elijah stories in Kings 17ff Robert Bellan 1975
has argued that almost from the moment of origins two myths have
contested for dominance liberal utilitarianism and Puritan covenantalism
Today Norman Lear has already set up People for

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