Is the "private" experience of religion counterproductive to
engagement in public life? Does the "public" experience of religion
contribute anything distinctive to civic engagement? Pews,
Prayers, and Participation offers a fresh approach to key
questions about what role religion plays in fostering civic
responsibility in contemporary American society. Written by five
prominent scholars of religion and politics, led by Calvin
College's Corwin Smidt, the book brilliantly articulates how
religion shapes participation in a range of civic activities-from
behaviors (such as membership in voluntary associations,
volunteering, and charitable contributions) to capacities (such as
civic skills and knowledge), to virtues (such as law-abidingness,
tolerance, and work ethic).
In the course of their study the authors examine whether an
individual exhibits a diminished, a privatized, a public, or an
integrated form of religious expression, based on the individual's
level of participation in both the public (worship) or private
(prayer) dimensions of religious life. They question whether the
privatization of religious life is counterproductive to engagement
in public life, and they show that religion does indeed play a
significant role in fostering civic responsibility across each of
its particular facets.
Pews, Prayers, and Participation is a bold and provocative
clarion call to the continuing importance and changing nature of
religion in American public life. It will be of particular interest
to students and scholars of religion and politics, and culture and
politics, as well as general readers with an interest in the impact
of religion in the public sphere.
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