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In the year 2000—and beyond—what will the church be like? What challenges will it face? Will the church be able to provide a strong sense of community? Will it be an ethical force in the lives of Americans? And what role will religion play in politics and in the marketplace?
In Christianity in the 21st Century Robert Wuthnow reflects on these provocative questions as he seeks to identify changes that are taking place now in American society that churches must address if they are to remain vital in the future. He foresees five critical areas—institutional, ethical, doctrinal, political, and cultural—in which major challenges will arise, then meets the thorny issues head-on. How will churches' resource bases, their very identity, and their capacity to carry on their spiritual traditions be altered? till they continue to function as sources of caring in a needy world? What impact will the resurgence of fundamentalism have, and how will moderate and liberal congregations react? How will the political activities of churches influence their capacity to be heard in the public arena, and what will the impact be of pluralism and the prevailing materialism of our society?
Drawing on a wide range of first-hand observations and research, Wuthnow demontrates that in each of these five areas people of faith have strong reasons to enter the next century with confidence in their religious institutions. But he also highlights worrisome signs, and points to specific areas that need to be addressed to ensure the continuing vitality for Christianity in America—not least among these are the rampant individualism that erodes spiritual communities and the religious infighting that diminishes the Christian sense of unity.
The onset of a new millennium affords a historic opportunity to take stock of the present situation and to plan for the future—in the years ahead, much reflection is likely to occur about all our major institutions. Christianity in the 21st Century aims to contribute to those reflections by offering a sobering, realistic, and ultimately hopeful assessment of where the church is now, and where the church is headed.