A Crisis Theology
by O. Kendall White, Jr.
The sociology of religion examines religious beliefs within their social contexts. Certain social conditions are conducive to specific religious beliefs: while the affluence of upper classes encourages religions which legitimize the existing social order, the poverty of lower classes inspires ethical and salvation religions. Social or cultural crises often function as midwives for the birth of theologies which project human hopes onto another world, promise future rewards for present suffering, vigorously defend existing dogmas, and deny any possibility that humans may overcome their predicament. For the purpose of my analysis, these will be classified as “crisis literature.”
This book describes a contemporary theological development in Mormonism—which I have called Mormon neo-orthodoxy—and examines the cultural milieu out of which it emerged. Affirming the fundamental doctrines of the sovereignty of God, the depravity of human nature, and salvation by grace, Mormon neo-orthodoxy may be closer to Protestant fundamentalism and neo-orthodoxy than to what I and others esteem to be traditional Mormon thought. Like these Protestant movements, Mormon neo-orthodoxy is a response to the experience of “modernity”—the secularization of society and culture. Thus Protestant neo-orthodoxy and Mormon neo-orthodoxy are crisis theologies.
O. Kendall White, Jr., is a Professor of Sociology at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. He received his B.S. and M.S. degrees from the University of Utah and his Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University. He is the author of nineteen articles, primarily in the sociology of religion. His essays have appeared in the Canadian Journal of Sociology, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, the Journal of Ethnic Studies, Journal of Negro Education, Journal of Religious Thought, Review of Religious Research, Sociological Analysis, Sociological Spectrum, and Virginia Social Science Journal. He lives with Arlene Burraston-White and their son C. A. Wood in Lexington, Virginia.