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Boundless Faith

Boundless Faith: The Global Outreach of American Churches

Robert Wuthnow
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: 1
Pages: 360
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  • Book Info
    Boundless Faith
    Book Description:

    InBoundless Faith,the first book to look systematically at American Christianity in relation to globalization, Robert Wuthnow shows that American Christianity is increasingly influenced by globalization and is, in turn, playing a larger role in other countries and in U.S. policies and programs abroad. These changes, he argues, can be seen in the growth of support at home for missionaries and churches in other countries and in the large number of Americans who participate in short-term volunteer efforts abroad. These outreaches include building orphanages, starting microbusinesses, and setting up computer networks. Drawing on a comprehensive survey that was conducted for this book, as well as several hundred in-depth interviews with church leaders, Wuthnow refutes several prevailing stereotypes: that U.S. churches have turned away from the global church and overseas missions, that congregations only look inward, and that the growing voice of religion in areas of foreign policy is primarily evangelical. This fresh and revealing book encourages Americans to pay attention to the grass-roots mechanisms by which global ties are created and sustained.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94306-3
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-11)

    In recent decades U.S. Christianity has significantly extended its activities abroad and is quietly redefining itself at home. Spending by American churches on overseas ministries has risen to nearly $4 billion annually, an increase of almost 50 percent after inflation in a single decade. The number of full-time missionaries serving abroad has increased steadily over the same period and is significantly larger than a half century ago when the missionary movement was at its presumed all-time high. During the past two decades, nearly every international faith-based relief and development agency has expanded dramatically, and the supporters of these organizations have...

  5. CHAPTER 1 At Home and Abroad The Changing Contours of American Religion
    (pp. 12-31)

    Throughout most of our nation’s history, religion in America has conjured up images of local activity. “Church” means a church building with a local address. People gravitate to these homey places of worship because their friends and neighbors do. The pastor or priest knows them and cares about their problems. The church is part of the local community. Few images capture this sense of proximity better than Norman Rockwell’s 1953Walking to Church. Mom, dad, and the three kids stroll happily past the barber shop and the Silver Slipper Grill, with the church steeple rising in the background no more...

  6. CHAPTER 2 The Global Christianity Paradigm From Cultural Connection to Demographic Distance
    (pp. 32-61)

    The recent globalization of American Christianity cannot be understood or fully appreciated until a huge conceptual obstacle is removed. Ironically, this inhibiting factor is squarely concerned with globalization and Christianity. It is the popular notion that Christianity’s center of gravity has shifted to the point that it may no longer matter very much what Christians in the United States do or think. Christianity is flourishing on its own in other parts of the world and will continue to do so whether Christians in the United States are involved or not. However one interprets it, this paradigm shift has become such...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Four Faces of Globalization Debating Heterogeneity and Inequality
    (pp. 62-94)

    “Dear pastor, I thank Almighty Allah for giving you the wisdom and resources to spread your message to the whole nation. Pastor, I would urge you to continue with your work and I am confident that Allah is using you as an instrument to change our negative perceptions to the realization of the immense spiritual reality of Africa.”¹ These are the words of a Muslim in northern Ghana writing to one of his country’s most influential Christian pastors. They contradict the much-heralded “clash of civilizations” between Muslims and Christians. They coincide with “global shift” arguments only to the extent that...

  8. CHAPTER 4 The Evolution of Transnational Ties Changing Patterns of Social Organization
    (pp. 95-139)

    The fact that churches in the United States are increasingly linking themselves with people and programs in other countries is not surprising, given the nation’s prominence in world trade and communication, as well as the teachings of Christianity itself, which from the start encouraged the religion to span borders. Yet the American efforts are recent enough that their history can be traced and the mechanisms through which they were established can be examined. It took ingenuity in the nineteenth century to connect local churches in Connecticut, New York, Tennessee, and Kentucky with programs on the opposite side of the globe....

  9. CHAPTER 5 The Global Role of Congregations Bridging Borders through Direct Engagement
    (pp. 140-187)

    When the tsunami of 2004 killed an estimated 273,000 people in Southeast Asia and left millions homeless, thousands of congregations across the United States responded in small—and sometimes large—ways to help the victims. The response of a quiet middle-class Southern Baptist church in suburban Little Rock was typical. After praying about what they should do, the deacons took up a special offering on four consecutive Sundays and sent the proceeds to the denomination’s international mission board. This agency in turn distributed the funds through Baptist workers who were on the scene in the affected region.

    During the same...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Faith and Foreign Policy Does Religious Advocacy Matter?
    (pp. 188-234)

    Besides altering the programs of local congregations, globalization has posed new challenges and created new opportunities for religious groups interested in influencing U.S. foreign policy. Leaders of faith communities as well as those in broader policy arenas point out that religious organizations can have an impact on the wider world not only—or even primarily—by sending dollars and volunteers but also by voicing their opinions to policy makers on critical issues such as foreign aid, free trade treaties, human rights, and the use of military force. Whereas congregations engage in international ministries by taking up offerings and sending out...

  11. CHAPTER 7 The Challenges Ahead Good for America, Good for the World?
    (pp. 235-250)

    The evidence I have presented in previous chapters casts serious doubt on three widely held assumptions about American Christianity. The first assumption is that American Christianity has withdrawn from the wider world, leaving global Christianity to flourish largely on its own. That assumption is simply untrue. American Christianity is more engaged in the wider world than ever before. There are more American missionaries, more faith-based humanitarian and relief workers, and more short-term volunteers serving abroad now than in the past. Budgets for these activities have expanded significantly in recent years. Trade, travel, communication, and affluence have all contributed to this...

  12. Appendix
    (pp. 251-258)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 259-302)
  14. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 303-324)
  15. Index
    (pp. 325-345)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 346-346)