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All in Sync: How Music and Art Are Revitalizing American Religion / Edition 1

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Overview

Robert Wuthnow shows how music and art are revitalizing churches and religious life across the nation in this first-ever consideration of the relationship between religion and the arts. All in Sync draws on more than four hundred in-depth interviews with church members, clergy, and directors of leading arts organizations and a new national survey to document a strong positive relationship between participation in the arts and interest in spiritual growth. Wuthnow argues that contemporary spirituality is increasingly encouraged by the arts because of its emphasis on transcendent experience and personal reflection. This kind of spirituality, contrary to what many observers have imagined, is compatible with active involvement in churches and serious devotion to Christian practices.
The absorbing narrative relates the story of a woman who overcame a severe personal crisis and went on to head a spiritual direction center where participants use the arts to gain clarity about their own spiritual journeys. Readers visit contemporary worship services in Chicago, Philadelphia, and Boston and listen to leaders and participants explain how music and art have contributed to the success of these services. All in Sync also illustrates how music and art are integral parts of some Episcopal, African American, and Orthodox worship services, and how people of faith are using their artistic talents to serve others.
Besides examining the role of the arts in personal spirituality and in congregational life, Wuthnow discusses how clergy and lay leaders are rethinking the role of the imagination, especially in connection with traditional theological virtues. He also shows how churches and arts organizations sometimes find themselves at odds over controversial moral questions and competing claims about spirituality. Accessible, relevant, and innovative, this book is essential for anyone searching for a better understanding of the dynamic relationships among religion, spirituality, and American culture.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
American religion should have suffered a significant decline in the last third of the 20th century, according to prolific Princeton sociologist Wuthnow (Loose Connections: Joining Together in America's Fragmented Communities; Acts of Compassion: Caring for Others and Helping Ourselves; more than 20 others). Recent social changes-a rising divorce rate, the loss of "social capital," the increasing secularization of culture etc.-would suggest a dip in religious vitality. Yet the last few decades have seen no appreciable decline in organized religion. Wuthnow finds at least part of the answer to this puzzle in the close relationship between religion and the arts. Many religious communities have been revitalized by increased artistic engagement. Art speaks to the experience of the transcendent, and it offers avenues for personal reflection on the deep questions of life. Artistic endeavors are not, argues Wuthnow, incompatible with active church involvement and serious devotion to Christian practices. In fact, his studies show that "those with greater exposure to artistic activities are more likely than those with less exposure to be seriously committed to spiritual growth." Wuthnow's work breaks entirely new ground, making use of a recent national survey and more than 400 in-depth interviews. As always, he is clear, cogent and thorough. His writing doesn't snap off the page, but Wuthnow has the sense to give us the big picture, and then let his interviewees speak at length and sometimes beautifully about their spiritual experiences. (May) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Wuthnow (director, Ctr. for the Study of Religion, Princeton) has written numerous books on religion in America, including Creative Spirituality. Here he discusses the importance of the arts in spirituality, drawing on hundreds of interviews, extensive surveys, and anecdotal examples. He documents the importance of songs, rituals, and visual arts in the spiritual development of many Americans and notes that clergy, who see preaching and rational explanation as the key to growth, often overlook this phenomenon. He also sees what he calls a "profound cultural shift" in American religion: "It is a move away from cognition toward experience and toward a more complete integration of the senses into spirituality." Wuthnow calls for a more open approach to the arts in churches to allow spiritual self-expression in whatever artistic form it may take. He gives examples of churches that have experienced substantial growth by using this approach. Recommended for public and academic libraries.-C. Robert Nixon, M.L.S., Lafayette, IN Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520237698
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 5/5/2003
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 300
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.88 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert Wuthnow is Gerhard R. Andlinger '52 Professor of Social Sciences and Director of the Center for the Study of Religion at Princeton University. His most recent books are Creative Spirituality: The Way of the Artist (California, 2001), Growing Up Religious: Christians and Jews and Their Journeys of Faith (1999), After Heaven: Spirituality in America since the 1950s (California, 1998), and Loose Connections: Joining Together in America's Fragmented Communities (1998).

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Table of Contents

List of Tables Preface

1. A Puzzle: The Question of Religious Vitality
2. Contemporary Spirituality: Seeking the Sacred in an Era of Uncertainty
3. A Blending of Cultures: The Arts and Spirituality
4. Personal Spirituality: Art and the Practice of Spiritual Discipline
5. The Joy of Worship: Expression and Tradition in Congregational Life
6. Redeeming the Imagination: The Arts and Spiritual Virtue
7. The Morality Problem: Why Churches and Artists Disagree
8. The Artist in Everyone: Faithful Living in a Spiritual Democracy

Appendix: Methodology Notes
Index

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