cover image ALL IN SYNC: How Music and Art are Revitalizing American Religion

ALL IN SYNC: How Music and Art are Revitalizing American Religion

Robert Wuthnow, . . Univ. of California, $19.95 (300pp) ISBN 978-0-520-23769-8

American religion should have suffered a significant decline in the last third of the 20th century, according to prolific Princeton sociologist Wuthnow (Loose Connections: Joining Together in America's Fragmented Communities; Acts of Compassion: Caring for Others and Helping Ourselves; more than 20 others). Recent social changes—a rising divorce rate, the loss of "social capital," the increasing secularization of culture etc.—would suggest a dip in religious vitality. Yet the last few decades have seen no appreciable decline in organized religion. Wuthnow finds at least part of the answer to this puzzle in the close relationship between religion and the arts. Many religious communities have been revitalized by increased artistic engagement. Art speaks to the experience of the transcendent, and it offers avenues for personal reflection on the deep questions of life. Artistic endeavors are not, argues Wuthnow, incompatible with active church involvement and serious devotion to Christian practices. In fact, his studies show that "those with greater exposure to artistic activities are more likely than those with less exposure to be seriously committed to spiritual growth." Wuthnow's work breaks entirely new ground, making use of a recent national survey and more than 400 in-depth interviews. As always, he is clear, cogent and thorough. His writing doesn't snap off the page, but Wuthnow has the sense to give us the big picture, and then let his interviewees speak at length and sometimes beautifully about their spiritual experiences. (May)