It strikes me that this is the exact opposite of the advice currently being offered many of us in the mainline churches: be everyman, maximize pluralism and eclecticism, raze all boundaries, thin out your own tradition and minimize its identifying geography, be as indistinct as possible and people will come. This program doesn't seem to have much integrity (or more crassly, to work) to me, whereas churches that do what Brooks recommends and "come from a specific place" that has "depth and definition" look to be having a much better time of it, as I can testify from recent experience assisting for some months at one.It makes you appreciate the tremendous power of particularity. If your identity is formed by hard boundaries, if you come from a specific place, if you embody a distinct musical tradition, if your concerns are expressed through a specific paracosm, you are going to have more depth and definition than you are if you grew up in the far-flung networks of pluralism and eclecticism, surfing from one spot to the next, sampling one style then the next, your identity formed by soft boundaries, or none at all....
The whole experience makes me want to pull aside politicians and business leaders and maybe everyone else and offer some pious advice: Don’t try to be everyman. Don’t pretend you’re a member of every community you visit. Don’t try to be citizens of some artificial globalized community. Go deeper into your own tradition. Call more upon the geography of your own past. Be distinct and credible. People will come.
Brooks' comments remind me as well of a few posts by Derek Olsen, who runs the indispensable (and highly "geography of our own past"-aware) St. Bede's Breviary site (try it on mobile....seriously!) and who writes well on the importance of recovering clarity about about the core of Anglican praxis and identity so that it can be taught and lived. (In scanning for posts of his to link here, I see that apart perhaps from Not Quite A Manifesto or this excellent Cafe piece called Non-Negotiables, I'm recalling most recently this moment-along-the-way from a post commenting on an article reviewing a lecture by Diarmaid MacCulloch):
We are not presenting a clear, on-focus message about either Christian maturity or Christian proficiency. And, to be frank, this is one of the huge problems that I have with both Holy Women, Holy Men and the Communion Without Baptism movements. HWHM is a celebration of diversity for diversity’s sake; CWOB is a celebration of the extraordinary channels of God’s grace. What we’re lacking, though is any sense that there is a norm—that there are clear classic disciplines for cultivating the relationship with God, and that there are consistent and ordinary means through which God gives grace to the covenant community. By highlighting diverse routes and a multiplicity of ways, we increasingly lose (and obscure) the sense that the Church offers any firm guidance for those who seek a deeper relationship with God. Just because some have chosen and found their own way does not mean that the Church does not offer a particular well-trod path.