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A Discussion of Messianic Judaism, the Emerging Messianic Jewish Paradigm, and Related Leadership Issues from the Preoccupied Mind of Rabbi Stuart Dauermann, PhD.

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Monday, December 04, 2006

Review of Robert Wuthnow's "Growing Up Religious: Christians and Jews and Their Journeys of Faith"

Robert Wuthnow. Growing Up Religious: Christians and Jews and Their Journeys of Faith. Beacon Press; New Ed edition (March 10, 2000)

Robert Wuthnow is Gerald R. Andlinger Professor of Social Sciences and Director of the Center for the Study of American Religion at Princeton University, a well respected and published sociologist of religion with over ten books published. In this one he examines and compares how Jews and Christians experience spirituality in the context of their families of origin, He focuses on the factors fostering inter-generational persistence or erosion of religious commitment.

Wuthnow compares the experiences of people in three broad contexts In Part I, "The Sacred at Home," he considers the home--"Family Rituals [Chapter 1], Home for the Holidays [Chapter 2], and Generations of the Spirit [Chapter 3]. In Part II, Going to Services, he considers the impact of communities and houses of worship: Houses of Worship [Chapter 4], The Ties That Bind [Chapter 5], Learning to be a Leader [Chapter 6]. In Part III, Moving Away, he considers what happens when the subjects moved away from home: Points of Departure, Chapter 7], Remembering the Past [Chapter 8], and The Move to Spiritual Practice [Chapter 9].

Finally, in Part !V, E Pluribus Unum, he considers how these diverse communities in America can live together in productivity and peace: Bridging Diversity [chapter 10], and Seeing with Four Eyes, [Chapter 11].

The book was written to discover the nature of the new winds blowing in the spirituality of Americans. As one friend of his put it, "The one thing I am sure of...is that things are changing profoundly--and the clergy don't have a clue that it's even happening" [xi]. He gathered data through a variety of national surveys and interviews, with respondents ultimately numbering two hundred: 107 woment and 93 men, intentionally very diverse in religious background and practice. Forty three of the respondents were not Judaeo Christian in their outlook.

Wuthnow represents his purposes as follows:

My aim is to recapture what it has meant for a significant proportion of the American public to have grown up religious. I am interested in how people conceive of their religious upbringing, and in understanding what seems memorable and significant to them, more than I am in abstract theories of religious socialization. My methodology has been to ask ordinary people to talk at length about their experiences and memories and to encourage them to tell the stories they use to make sense of their spiritual journeys.

Effective religious socialization comes about through embedded practices that is, through specific, deliberate religious activities that are firmly intertwined with the daily habits of family routines, of eating and sleeping, of having conversations, of adorning the spaces in which people live, of celebrating the holidays, and of being part of a community. Compared with these practices, the formal teachings of relgious leaders often pale in significance. Yet when such practices are preetn, formal teachings also become more important.
The past is not static. It is a remembered past and thus one that people are continually revising, making sense of, and reinterpreting. Many people of course hae little in their childhood to remember about religioun. But those who grew up in a religious household continue to have a very substantial impact on the Character of American religion [xxxi-xxxii].


Personal journeys play a significant role in his research, as this is a common and contemporaneously appropriate way of examining religious character-formation and the trajectories of people's lives.

His emphasis is upon "the particularity of religious traditions, paying special attention to the distinctive local practices that encouraged people to fee that is was special to be growing up Jewish or Irish Catholic, or to take pride in being African American Baptists or Asian American Presbyterians" [197]. Despite such pride in one's own way of religious life, pluralism and respect for others is possible so long as people see their way as best for themselves rather than best for all. "Loyalties are thus local, imbedded in th customs of one's family and community, and their localism is evident to participants even at an early age" [197]. He also discusses how his respondents are able to live pacifically with other religions due to a deep pluralistic mindset, something which is uncomfortable to me but seems endemic to the post-modern age. Closely related but more palpable is his discussion of multi-culturalism which he rightly distinguishes from old-line Liberalism [219-220].

In the final chapter, his discussion of fundamentalism and how its adherents regard themselves and are regarded by others is fascinating. While pointing out the stridency of fundamentalist rhetoric, the commitment to holding to and advocating a superior truth, the insularity and tendency to reject the wider culture, Wuthnow points out how popular and media portrayals of fundamentalists are biased and inaccurate. He sees a wider divergence among fundmentalists than is usually noted. In reference to all his respondents and the groups they represent, he neatly parses the inner gyroscopes and ways and means such persons navigate between the own strong convictions and commitments and their ability to both respect and understand others.

Finally he comes to the summation statement that "spirituality has been a significant feature of the American past and that it remains so for many people, albeit in different versions than those of their parents and grandparents. Spirituality has ben most effecive in shaping the values of children when it has been practiced at home as well [as] in formal organizations. In the past, people practiced spirituality at home under the most diverse (and adverse) conditions. The lesson from this history should be that spirituality is likely to survive as a feature of American childhood--if parents and grandparents are committed to its importance" [235-236].

This very readable book is a must-read for all concerned with effectively and faithfully transmitting their religious heritage from generation to generation, or seeking to understand the genesis of their own religious convictions or lack of same. Wuthnow is perhaps America's premier sociologist of religion. Read this book and find out why the title is well-deserved.

At 12/17/2006 2:13 PM, Anonymous kevinsky said...

why did G-d blind the jews

 
At 12/17/2006 2:41 PM, Blogger Stuart Dauermann said...

Paul says that God did this in order to create a context whereby the Gentile nations would be able to become the people of God [see Romans 11]. IIn this sense, the Jeewish people have entered into the mystery of vicarious suffering--just as Yeshua suffered that we might come to God, so the Jewish people suffered--and suffer still--for the sake of the Gentiles. In Romans 8 Paul draws the comparison borrowing language from Gen.22. Just as Abraham "spared not his Son" (Romans 8:32), and thus becamae the agent of blessing to Israel and the nations fo the world, so God spared not His son, and so he has not spared Israel (Romans 11:21). But the blindness--the hardening is redemptive and temporary.

This calls for humility and gratitude. God has mercy on whom he wills and hardens whom he wills, and who are we to complain against God? (Romans 9).

 

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