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All in Sync

How Music and Art Are Revitalizing American Religion

Robert Wuthnow

Publication Year: 2003

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.

Published by: University of California Press

Title Page, Copyright, Quote

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-x

List of Tables

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pp. xi-xii

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pp. xiii-xvi

...For more than three decades, my work has focused on Americans’ changing interests in spirituality. I try to make sense of these interests and to learn how they are shaped by the culture in which we live. I do this mostly by keeping my ear to the ground. Through interviews and surveys, I listen to people talking about their lives. I pay particular attention to their struggles and their discoveries...

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1. A Puzzle: The Question of Religious Vitality

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pp. 1-20

...At a Presbyterian church in southern California, a shadow falls across the pastor’s face as he reflects on his denomination. “Our worship styles are archaic and our belief systems are inflexible,” he laments. “We are pushing people away.” Down the street, a Methodist minister shares this concern. “People are spiritual but not necessarily religious. We’ve become such an institution that we forget...

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2. Contemporary Spirituality: Seeking the Sacred in an Era of Uncertainty

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pp. 21-55

...Sitting in church one Sunday, eight-year-old Susan suddenly felt a warm glow spreading from the top of her head down across her face, into her chest, and then throughout her whole body. She flattened the folds in her new pink taffeta skirt. Maybe it was the dress. Or the straw hat she was wearing for the first time. They made her feel good about herself. So grown up. Like her mother, almost...

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3. A Blending of Cultures: The Arts and Spirituality

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pp. 56-78

...For Susan Brock, a career in interior design has provided ample opportunities to bring a lifelong interest in the arts together with her search for spirituality. Although she created and enjoyed art and music as a child, this relationship between spirituality and the arts has emerged gradually over the years. In her early thirties, she began experimenting with ways to make home furnishings more conducive to self-expression. Too often, her customers bought what...

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4. Personal Spirituality: Art and the Practice of Spiritual Discipline

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pp. 79-133

...Sandra Lommasson is a tall, brown-eyed brunette with delicate features and a warm smile. She lives in Davis, California. When Sandra got married, the minister officiating at the wedding urged her and her husband to join the church. Sandra had attended another church as a child but hadn’t participated since fifth grade. At nineteen...

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5. The Joy of Worship: Expression and Tradition in Congregational Life

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pp. 134-182

...Whatever else it may be, American religion is a vast network of congregations and meeting houses, fellowship halls and temples, cathedrals and chapels. And in these places of worship, just as in the private devotional lives of individuals, the influence of music and art on spirituality is becoming increasingly apparent. Church members, recognizing the spiritual implications of the arts, are overwhelmingly...

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6. Redeeming the Imagination: The Arts and Spiritual Virtue

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pp. 183-212

...“The church has been known throughout history for sucking creativity out of people,” says a Presbyterian pastor in Pennsylvania. “We need to repent of that attitude and do everything we can to encourage people to be imaginative and creative.” In Boston, a Baptist minister explains that using one’s religious imagination means being able to “sensually connect with God” and thereby...

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7. The Morality Problem: Why Churches and Artists Disagree

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pp. 213-235

...If there has been, as much of the evidence suggests, a convergence between the arts and religion in recent decades, then one aspect of the relationship between the two remains puzzling: Why does it appear that the arts and religion are often in tension? Indeed, why have the media sometimes portrayed the two as being at war with each other? Is this yet another example of the media getting it wrong—creating scandal and division where there is...

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8. The Artist in Everyone: Faithful Living in a Spiritual Democracy

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pp. 236-248

...If one were to step back from the present situation (say, by retreating to a remote mountain cabin or by reflecting on it from the vantage point of a transcontinental flight), what sense might one make of the current interest in the arts? Does this interest have any particular implications for the ways in which Americans practice and express their faith? Does it suggest a...

Appendix: Methodology

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pp. 249-260


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pp. 261-278


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pp. 279-284

Production Notes

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p. 285-285

E-ISBN-13: 9780520939417
Print-ISBN-13: 9780520237698

Page Count: 300
Publication Year: 2003