CHRISTIANITY IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY by Robert Wuthnow

CHRISTIANITY IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY

Reflections on the Challenges Ahead

KIRKUS REVIEW

 Wuthnow (Social Sciences/Princeton), usually an elegant chronicler of social trends (Acts of Compassion, 1991, etc.), stumbles with this dull look at the future of the church. Part of the problem is Wuthnow's too-narrow focus. Instead of fulfilling the title's promise, he writes almost exclusively about American Protestantism, which represents only a small segment of Christianity; moreover, within this limited range, he spends much of his time clucking over the collapse of liberal churches (with which he identifies) and the groundswell of fundamentalism. His predictions seem on target, perhaps because they're unsurprising: Fundamentalism will move away from televangelism toward decentralized, social-oriented service (as Jerry Falwell has already done); American youth will suffer from a lack of decent role models, with cartoon superheroes taking the place once reserved for the local pastor; Christian denominations will continue to proliferate, with worshippers hopping between various churches; Christianity as a whole must continue to find its strength in community. These prophecies are scattered throughout the book, as are several intriguing themes that, more clearly presented, might have made compelling studies on their own: One is the importance of narrative in shaping our religious and ethical lives; another is the way in which liberal analysts--Wuthnow singles out Bishop John Spong--have misread fundamentalism, which the author sees as a ``dynamic process'' with its own ``cultural capital'' rather than as simply a reaction to modernity. In the course of his research, Wuthnow interviewed numerous church members and ministers; their comments add color to the discussion, but do little to overcome the overall vagueness. A very cloudy crystal ball.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-19-507957-4
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Oxford Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1993




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