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Engaged Spirituality

Engaged Spirituality: Social Change and American Religion

Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    Engaged Spirituality
    Book Description:

    While scholars have long recognized the importance that religion and religious organizations have played in social activism, they have typically seen spirituality as a private matter with few practical implications. InEngaged Spirituality, Gregory C. Stanczak challenges this assumption, arguing that spirituality plays an important social role as well. Based on more than one hundred interviews with individuals of diverse faith traditions, the book shows how prayer, meditation, and ritual provide foundations for activism.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-3948-5
    Subjects: Religion, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xiii-xxii)

    “I don’t think I’ve ever been asked that,” Ann confessed with a puzzled tone in her voice. She knitted her forehead and repositioned herself in her chair. “You would think I would have, but ….” Ann had devoted her early adult years to a Catholic religious order, but in the 1970s, like many of the other nuns that she served with, she came to a long-thought-out conclusion that her talents and her dreams could be better developed outside of her order. This transition involved fits and starts along different paths. For years during the 1980s she worked with nuclear freeze...

  5. Chapter 1 Bridging the Gap: The Split between Spirituality and Society
    (pp. 1-20)

    On an unusually hot California morning, I met with Rabbi Steven Jacobs inside the cool yet bustling administrative wing of his temple in the San Fernando Valley. A scan of his office walls confirmed Jacobs’s reputation as a formidable veteran of the civil rights era. International press clippings, a photo-op with his close colleague the Reverend Jesse Jackson, and mementos from a recent excursion to Israel mark a lifetime of passionate commitment to social justice and peaceful resolution. Much like others I interviewed throughout the two years of collecting data for this project, Jacobs believes that human beings are cocreators...

  6. Chapter 2 Biography, Behavior, and Belief: The Sources of Spirituality
    (pp. 21-48)

    It is a remarkably short walk southwest from the trendy tourist hub of Union Square in San Francisco to an adjoining neighborhood that has been dubbed the “killzone” by local media. This six-block area in the heart of the Tenderloin district has more homicides per year than any other neighborhood in San Francisco. The ringing of the trolley cars is replaced by police sirens. The designer shops and historic hotels only blocks away are abruptly exchanged for strings of liquor stores and one-room residential hotels, where tattered drapes billow from several open windows overhead. Behind the doors of these inexpensive...

  7. Chapter 3 Acting on Faith: Social Roles in Expressing Spirituality
    (pp. 49-72)

    Lee deleon, a Latino social minister in southern California, confesses with a shy smile that he has had “some real supernatural experiences.” One of those experiences changed his life. He recalls,

    One night, [my friend] and another fella, we were just sharing what God was doing. Some type of a presence, some powerful presence, like an angel, visited with us, and I remember [my friend] was able to see the angel, I couldn’t see the angel. But I remember the angel giving us instructions to lay hands on me. It was then that I received what they call in the...

  8. Chapter 4 Keeping the Faith in Action: Cultivating Spiritual Practice
    (pp. 73-102)

    Those who wish to sincerely serve society must be spiritually pure and only those who are spiritually pure can sincerely serve society.” Doctor Pujya Swami of the Swaminarayan Santhsa, a Hindu service society, voiced their motto straightforwardly and, refreshingly, without irony or any tinge of skepticism that is often directed at the integrity of public servants today. Yet his advice—or admonition—is obviously much more complex and difficult to sustain than what these simple words suggest. How does one become spiritually pure and how does one stay that way in the world of social service? Among spiritually motivated activists,...

  9. Chapter 5 Experience and Emotion: The Influence of Spiritual Feelings
    (pp. 103-134)

    Pastor jim ortiz, a fit, straight-talking, no-nonsense man in his fifties, was born to Puerto Rican parents and spent the early part of his life in the New York barrio of Spanish Harlem. Ortiz, in thinking back to that time, recalls the powerful influence that his mother’s religious passions had upon him. Although born and raised Catholic, Ortiz’s mother later had a born-again conversion experience and became what Ortiz calls “a faithful prayer-warrior and church attendee.” Ortiz now carries that moniker proudly in ways that more closely reflect the battlefield that the term “prayer-warrior” connotes. He is the current and...

  10. Chapter 6 Degrees of Social Integration: Toward a Theory of Engaged Spirituality
    (pp. 135-160)

    Reverend jim conn served for decades in a small but progressive Methodist church in a beachside community in Los Angeles. He has always been involved in social service work and activism through his congregation and elsewhere and recently accepted an offer to leave his church and commit full time to community development work. Now working for the Urban Strategic Initiative, Conn is in the trenches with religious leadership and clergy, seeking ways to reinvigorate congregations as active agents within urban neighborhoods throughout Los Angeles. As he put it, “Trying to help churches see themselves as the center of their communities...

  11. Chapter 7 Conclusion: Lived Spirituality and the Gamut of Social Action
    (pp. 161-184)

    What is the advantage for understanding spirituality from an engaged perspective? This question can be read in many different ways—theologically, personally, epistemologically, and/or politically—each with a pragmatic ring for the present as well as a projective implication for the future. One thing that can be concluded is that spirituality is not going away any time soon. Even though it may not always be explicitly expressed publicly or analyzed scientifically, it is still often at work as the motivating, sustaining, and meaning-making engine of social change. In this role, spirituality gives one avenue for understanding, in a qualitatively different...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 185-204)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 205-214)
  14. Index
    (pp. 215-224)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 225-226)