Response to Sarah Moran (by Ben Bennett-Carpenter)

Among other insights, Sarah Moran asks the question, “[Can] ideographs such as ‘new evangelization’ serve to sharply differentiate and even heighten polarization among some ideologically divergent groups ([e.g.] of ‘traditional’ and ‘progressive’ Catholics) even as it unites”?  This is an excellent question that deserves more sustained attention.  For now, I would say we should keep in mind that we have been discussing the “new evangelization” (NE) as a “specialized and “second-order” ideograph rather than first-order, if you will.  With specialized ideographs we can expect that there will be an effect of differentiation and polarization as she has suggested.

But then there is, too, the issue of how to really determine what justifiably could be called first-order vs. second-order.  To settle this at least for the sake of a particular analysis would be to determine what “theaters” are at play.  For example, in regard to McGee, how would ideographs such as “liberty” or “freedom” operate in a Chinese context rather than in an American or European context?  With this kind of a scope, one could argue that the ideographs are always specialized to some extent.  We’re never going to have everyone on Earth – at least not for the foreseeable future – assuming one term and finding that no one is ostracized by it.  With all the competing interests among people globally, at every level, it seems unlikely, probably undesirable, and perhaps dangerous to have no differentiation and no polarization anyway.

A couple things I think of, too, in this context are keeping in mind the NE ideograph as a strategy versus the NE ideograph as it is employed in actual practice at various levels.  How is the NE ideograph operating at various levels (e.g., international, national, local)?  And how is it operating in various locales, including various “microcosms” within those locales?  Of course it really remains to be seen how all this is playing out.  The case could be made that “evangelization” minus the “new” could (again) become the more important buzzword (cf. Pope Francis thus far, beginning with his final conclave speech before his election).  There is also the important distinction between analyzing the rhetoric of the NE (as in the ideographs) versus the actual practice of the NE.  While rhetoric and practice certainly overlap, of course they can be distinguished as well.

I look forward to Ms. Moran’s further exploration of this excellent question in the coming days.  Thanks for the attention to our work and for asking me to reply.

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