There's no question that Modern Orthodoxy is looking for an over-arching theme to describe its raison d'etre. The Yeshivish community has Torah Uber Alles, Chasidus has its singing, dancing and rioting mixed with Tzadik worship and the Dati Leumi have Zionism and its religious implications but Modern Orthodoxy? It's just sort of there, isn't it.
It's not a small thing either. Consider the Off the Derech phenomenon. Within Ultraorthodoxy it's usually due to a strong rejection of the comprehensive worldview presented to the person. In Modern Orthodoxy, however, people seem to leave through attrition. They just lose interest in their practice and drop it quietly.
Then there's movement the other way. One rarely hears of someone Ultraorthodox embracing Modern Orthodoxy with gusto but there are lots of baalei teshuvah within the UO community that come from the MO world, people who were looking for something more, something missing in their own background.
Jewish Action has a piece that is now widely circulating through the Jewish blogsphere on a trend that might be trying to change all that. Called Neo-Chassidus, it's an embrace by MO's of some Chasidic behaviours and rituals like growing a more Jewish haircut (read: longer peyos), more active Torah learning and, most importantly, more intense prayer ritual behaviour.
On one hand this is very encouraging. Modern Orthodoxy, for many, is a system of religious behaviours devoid of any larger, deeper meaning. The idea of dveikus is limited, prayers are done by rote and outside of actively Jewish environments like a shul there is little that an MO does that is actively Jewish. After all, they dress like everyone else, hold down jobs like everyone else, often take in popular entertainment (albeit limited (hopefully) to appropriate venues) like everyone else. A trend towards increasing specifically Jewish behaviour in all facets of life is something that might develop a positive sense of Jewish identity and improve one's connection to the Ribono shel Olam.
On the other hand, there's something missing in the entire activity. I can speak from personal experience, living in a small community where, amongst other things, the local Rav has decreed that all Kabbalas Shabbos services will be done in the Carlebach style complete with the extra singing and dancing. What have I noticed? That there are lots of folks who otherwise don't come to shul who will go to those services and have a grand ol' time. But then they get in their cars and drive off home so what impact did the "davening" really have?
As a kiruv professional I once heard speak said, it's not about the fun stuff, the programs and the signing, it's about getting the person to show up on a cold dark weekday morning for Shacharis that marks real acceptance of Judaism in one's life. If everything is done just for fun then once the fun is over you lose the person but really, you never had them.
Having read the article, that's what this Neo-Chassidus strikes me as. Real Chassidus, after all, isn't just about the singing and dancing but about an entire system of religious and spiritual belief that expresses itself constantly through one's dress, speaking and activities. It isn't something you turn on when you go to daven and turn off afterwards when you return to the real world. It's also something you persist with even when times are tough.
But Neo-Chassidus seems to be cherry-picking from the best of what Chassidus has to offer without taking on the hard stuff. Lots of fun at shul but no shreimls or long, dark outfits in the July heat, for example. Not much Yiddish either, it seems.
Why is this? I would suggest it's because in North America there is a strong cultural trend towards selfishness that has extended itself into religion. We don't ask what we can do for God, we rather want to know what He's offering us now to keep us interested in Him. This trend has certainly infected Judaism. The Reformatives and Open Orthodox are more blatant in their expression of this selfishness but it permeates all to way to the far ends of UltraOrthodoxy and certainly through Modern Orthodoxy. We see it in the UO community in those fanatics who listen to the "Gedolim" when they want to but ignore them when they don't. We now are seeing it in MO with Neo-Chassidus.
I'm looking for a better davening expreience. I want something more interesting to learn. I need more spirituality. All these are laudible desires but when the "I" determines what a person does, not his sense of obligation to the community, not the call of duty from Sinai onwards but a desire for novelty and "authenticity" (hint to those who call Chassidus "authentic Judaism": Rambam and Ramban were't Chasidim) then there is something very wrong.
In the end I doubt Neo-Chassidus will spark a mass movement in MO the way real Chassidus did amongst the masses of the alte heim. In fact, once it loses its novelty it'll become a fringe group in MO we read about in Mishpacha Magazine instead of Jewish Action.