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New Religions and the Theological Imagination in America

Mary Farrell Bednarowski

Publication Year: 1989

"Bednarowski is especially good at elucidating the theological daring of these new American religions.... [She] demonstrates in a very few pages how... theology and group adherence made the individual count, a configuration simultaneously American, un-American, and important." -- Jon Butler

"The cultural confrontation with these `new religions' is very real and usually very misinformed. Bednarowski has gone to great lengths to dispel the ignorance." -- The Christian Century

"A groundbreaking study." -- Syzygy: Journal of Alternative Religion and Culture

Organized as a series of theological conversations about ultimate questions, this book offers a guide to the answers these six religions offer. Drawing heavily on sources from the movements themselves, it presents a balanced comparative account of the emerging theological systems of America's new religions.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Series: Religion in North America


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

In this volume Mary Farrell Bednarowski breaks new ground in the comparative study of alternative religious movements in America. She is among the first to offer a sustained description and analysis of the religious thought of these communities without reflecting the normative bias of an apologist, an opponent, or an apostate. Bednarowski takes very seriously...

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pp. ix-xiv

This book is the product of many years of interest in new religious movements in nineteenth- and twentieth-century American culture. In broad terms, it is an effort to put forth and interpret manifestations of the theological imagination that have emerged in religious movements other than the established traditions, specifically Mormonism, Christian Science, Theosophy...

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pp. xv-xvi

I have received a great deal of help in my research from members of new religious movements, particularly Alice Fleisher and Jack Corley of the Unification Church, Mary Lynf'le Wolfe of the Church of Scientology of Minnesota, the Reverend Barbara Everett of the Aquarian Light Church, the Reverend Carol Parrish-Harra of the Light of Christ Community Church, and...

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One: Introduction: New Religions and the Theological Imagination

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pp. 1-18

This book is a comparative study of the theologies of selected new religions in nineteenth and twentieth-century American culture: Mormonism, Christian Science, Theosophy, Unificationism, Scientology, and New Age thought. It is also a pursuit of the workings of the theological imagination in American culture across the boundaries of the established religious...

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Two: Who or What Is God Like? Concepts of Deity in the New Religions

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pp. 19-44

The theological imagination in the West and in American culture has been dominated by the concept of God put forth by the Hebrew and Christian scriptures and further shaped by what has come to be known as classical theism. Anthropomorphized as "Father," this deity's characteristics have been described in terms of polarities: just and merciful, loving and angry...

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Three: What Does It Mean to Be Human? Views of Human Nature in the New Religions

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pp. 45-74

The alternative concepts of deity and of ultimate reality set forth in the previous chapter give rise to another set of questions that stir the theological imagination to speculate about the possibilities, the limitations, and the obligations of men and women as we live out our lives on earth. How must we understand ourselves, according to these six religious movements, in...

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Four: The Dead Learn Forever: Death and Afterlife in the New Religions

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pp. 75-97

In his book Eternal Life?, the Roman Catholic theologian Hans Kung quotes an excerpt from a play, Triptych, by German playwright Max Frisch. In his play Frisch suggests that there may be an even worse alternative to the secular interpretation of death as simply the cessation of life-----an eternity of boredom. "Nothing is happening," says one of the characters, "that...

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Five: How Shall We Live Our Lives? Ethical Reflection and Moral Issues in the New Religions

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pp. 98-126

Generally, when the topics of ethics and morality and the new religions come together, the concern is about such matters as proselytizing, fundraising, and the integrity of the founder. In this chapter, I am not interested in looking at those issues but at the ways in which the six alternative religious movements in this study apply their insights to various moral...

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Six: Epilogue: Broadening the Conversation

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pp. 127-140

In the previous four chapters I have tried to provide the opportunity for six new religious movements to make their voices heard in theological conversation in as authentic a manner as possible. I have attempted to get at the heart of what these movements have to say about four topics that are vital to the theological enterprise in both Western and American culture. I have wanted, simply, to provide some answers in the cases of six...


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pp. 141-163


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pp. 164-170


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pp. 171-175

E-ISBN-13: 9780253114464
E-ISBN-10: 0253114462
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253311375

Page Count: 192
Publication Year: 1989

Series Title: Religion in North America