The past half century in which American cultural values have shifted has resulted in a large loss of strength and confidence among congregations, along with a host of other voluntary association organizations. Our culture is currently caught in a search for a new balance between freedom and equality, between the focus on personal liberties (the “I”) and the common good (the “We”). Now experiencing the consequences of an excessive over-attention to the individual, the self, the narrative of the Christian faith and the role of the congregation, with its focus on shared creation and the critical need for community, are needed now more than ever. Tara Isabella Burton names three challengers to this sense of communal congregational life as competing “civil religions:” the social justice movement, techno-utopianism, and atavism. The voice that is missing belongs to congregations which carry the antidote to the self-centeredness of the competing civil religions. Congregations are about God (a power outside and beyond the self) and a conviction about the importance of the common good. This book will challenge congregations to be countercultural and reclaim their institutional purpose at this critical moment in our history.
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