Christianity Without the Church?


In his 1985 book, Habits of the Heart, Robert Bellah and Richard Madsen introduced the world to “Sheila Larson.” Sheila described her belief system this way: “I believe in God. I’m not a religious fanatic. I can’t remember the last time I went to church. My faith has carried me a long way. It’s Sheilaism. Just my own little voice . . . It’s just trying to love yourself and be gentle with yourself . . .”

Bellah and Madsen called “Sheilaism” a “perfectly natural expression of current American religious life.”
A quarter century later, there’s another word that those seeking to understand American religious life should add to their lexicon: “liminals.” That’s the phrase used by Robert Putnam and David Campbell in their recent book, American Grace.
Putnam is best-known for his 2000 book “Bowling Alone,” which described the decline of civic and social engagement in American life. The title came from the observation that while the numbers of bowlers had risen, the number of people participating in bowling leagues had declined. Putnam saw this as a metaphor for how Americans were increasingly going their separate ways.
This individualistic approach to American life depleted what he called “social capital”-the trust and willingness to cooperate that makes strong communities possible.
In American Grace, Putnam and Campbell examine the increasing reluctance of younger Americans to identify with a particular church or religious tradition. Contrary to what you may have heard, these people are not atheists nor agnostics: many claim to believe in a “higher power” and even a personal God. A quarter of them want a religious funeral!
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SOURCE: Christian Post
Chuck Colson