cover image TRUSTING THE SPIRIT: Renewal and Reform in American Religion

TRUSTING THE SPIRIT: Renewal and Reform in American Religion

Richard Cimino, Cimino, TRUSTING THE SPIRIT: Renewal and Reform in American Religio. , $21.95 (240pp) ISBN 978-0-7879-5160-3

"I'm not religious, but I'm very spiritual." This phrase might be said to summarize Americans' self-defined sacred awareness at the cusp of the millennium. In this insightful ethnography, religion journalist Cimino (Shopping for Faith) explores some of the Christian and Jewish organizations that have sprung up to replace traditional religion—particularly Taizé, the Havurah movement, Biblical Witness Fellowship and charismatic groups such as Life in the Spirit. Cimino does a fine job of explaining how groups that seem as fundamentally different as charismatic Catholics and Jewish "Aquarian Minyans" are actually responding to the same cultural situations in remarkably similar ways. All, he says, reflect "the consumerist and decentralized nature of American religion," privileging personal experience and individual choice. Many Catholics, for example, now actively "shop" for a parish instead of automatically attending the closest one; Havurah participants enjoy the responsibility of creating new liturgies and rituals for ancient Jewish holidays. Some readers may quibble that Cimino's journalistic approach results in scattered observations about too many diverse groups (as Cimino himself admits, entire books should be written about each of these movements). But it is precisely that breadth that suggests a new force in American religion, one that transcends traditional religious identities. In demonstrating how spiritual practice has replaced congregational membership as the mark of the age, Cimino engagingly fleshes out theories already put forth by Robert Wuthnow, Wade Clark Roof, Donald Miller and others. (Mar.)