Has the term “orthodoxy” lost its meaning? It means “right belief,” or “correct doctrine.” But among Christians it has become a fighting word, and the media has misconstrued it–especially in the contested Catholic context–as a pejorative or, worse, a secular seal of fidelity to belief.
G.K. Chesterton might disagree, or just be appalled. But he’s not around. So Peter Steinfels explores the topic with sharp insights in his weekly NYTimes column, “The Audacity of Claiming the Last Word on This Word.” A good bit:
When it comes to nomenclature, writing about religion is of course a minefield. Terms like “conservative” and “liberal,” “traditionalist” and “progressive” are almost unavoidable shorthand, though they suffer from their origins in political categories and almost inevitably oversimplify and dichotomize religious realities that are multifaceted.
But “orthodox” is a special case, because it suggests a sharp boundary between those who properly belong and those who are properly excluded, the way that “patriotic” can suggest a boundary between loyal citizens and something verging on traitors. Religious leaders have a hard enough time wrestling with such matters. Journalists should not get in their way.
It will be hard, especially in the last weeks until Election Day. Orthodoxy is a sacred mantle to many politicians.