Christianity After Religion: The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening
by Diana Butler Bass
The data is clear: religious affiliation is plummeting across the breadth of Christian denominations. And yet interest in “spirituality” is on the rise. So what is behind the sea change in American religion? With the same comprehensive research and insider reporting that made Christianity for the Rest of Us an indispensable guide to cultivating thriving churches, Diana Butler Bass offers a fresh interpretation of the “spiritual but not religious” trend.
Bass—who has spent her career teaching the history, culture, and politics of religion, and engaging church communities across the nation—brings forth her deep knowledge of the latest national studies and polls, along with her own groundbreaking analysis, as she seeks to fully comprehend the decline in Christian attendance and affiliation that started decades ago—and has increased exponentially in recent years.
“Bass has done it again! She’s spot on-prophetic, compelling, and most importantly, hopeful.” (Rob Bell, author of Love Wins )
“Refreshing, evocative, well informed and original.” (Harvey Cox, author of The Future of Faith )
“Bass explains how experience, connection, and service are replacing theology as keys to the next Great Awakening. It’s a fascinating story.” (Bill McKibben, author of Earth and founder of 360.org )
“Interesting, insightful, impressive and important.” (Marcus Borg, author of Speaking Christian )
“…an important and life-giving book, written by … one of our finest religious writers.” (Parker J. Palmer, author of Let Your Life Speak )
A People’s History of Christianity: The Other Side of the Story
by Diana Butler Bass
For too long, the history of Christianity has been told as the triumph of orthodox doctrine imposed through power and hierarchy. In A People’s History of Christianity, historian and religion expert Diana Butler Bass reveals an alternate history that includes a deep social ethic and far-reaching inclusivity: “the other side of the story” is not a modern phenomenon, but has always been practiced within the church. Butler Bass persuasively argues that corrective—even subversive—beliefs and practices have always been hallmarks of Christianity and are necessary to nourish communities of faith.
In the same spirit as Howard Zinn’s groundbreaking work The People’s History of the United States, Butler Bass’s A People’s History of Christianity brings to life the movements, personalities, and spiritual disciplines that have always informed and ignited Christian worship and social activism.
A People’s History of Christianity authenticates the vital, emerging Christian movements of our time, providing the historical evidence that celebrates these movements as thoroughly Christian and faithful to the mission and message of Jesus.
Bass borrows Howard Zinn’s perennial concept of history from the perspective of ordinary people to tell the story of Christianity by focusing not on institutions but on tales told down through the ages by the constituents of what she calls “generative Christianity,” who sought to live the Christian life by doing right in the eyes of God, as well as on those who rebelled against the church when they felt it necessary; that is, when the church became too rich or too comfortable with the wielding of power. Still, besides ordinary folks, she includes well-known authors, pastors, and theologians (e.g., Origen, John Calvin, Henri Nouwen). It’s a messy story, incorporating plenty of personal anecdotes en route from the early Christians (100–500) through medieval (500–1450) and Reformation (1450–1650) Christianity to modern (1650–1950) and contemporary Christianity (1945–the present). Clearly, Bass intends this to be the alternative history of a complicated topic and an important contribution to the historiography of Christianity. –June Sawyers
Christianity for the Rest of Us: How the Neighborhood Church Is Transforming the Faith
by Diana Butler Bass
For decades the accepted wisdom has been that America’s mainline Protestant churches are in decline, eclipsed by evangelical mega-churches. Church and religion expert Diana Butler Bass wondered if this was true, and this book is the result of her extensive, three-year study of centrist and progressive churches across the country. Her surprising findings reveal just the opposite—that many of the churches are flourishing, and they are doing so without resorting to mimicking the mega-church, evangelical style.
Christianity for the Rest of Us describes this phenomenon and offers a how-to approach for Protestants eager to remain faithful to their tradition while becoming a vital spiritual community. As Butler Bass delved into the rich spiritual life of various Episcopal, United Methodist, Disciples of Christ, Presbyterian, United Church of Christ, and Lutheran churches, certain consistent practices—such as hospitality, contemplation, diversity, justice, discernment, and worship—emerged as core expressions of congregations seeking to rediscover authentic Christian faith and witness today.
“This excellent and timely book celebrates a vastly important phenomenon that has been too little noticed.” (Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury )
Strength for the Journey: A Pilgrimage of Faith in Community
by Diana Butler Bass
In Strength for the Journey, Diana Butler Bass illustrates the dynamic strength and persistence of mainline Protestantism. While many baby boomers left the church, only to come back later in life, Bass was a “stayer” who witnessed the struggles and changes and found much there that was meaningful. Offering thought-provoking portraits of eight parishes she attended over two decades, she explores the major issues that have confronted mainline denominations, congregations, and parishioners during those years– from debates over women clergy to conflicts about diversity and community to scrimmages between tradition and innovation.
A graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and a longtime religion instructor, Bass is now a religion columnist for the New York Times syndicate. Although raised as an evangelical Christian in Baltimore in the late 1960s, she found a home in the Episcopalian tradition as she entered adulthood. In this spiritual, journalistic autobiography, Bass traces her faith journey from her undergraduate years at Westmont College to lay leadership at several troubled congregations in California and the South during the last three decades. Informed readers will find her “insider” analyses of congregational conflict to be an astute, if painful, reflection of troubled times. With a refreshingly straightforward style, she offers a constructive perspective of American churchgoing in mainline traditions. An additional purchase for public, Protestant church, and seminary libraries. Joyce Smothers, M.L.S. student, Princeton Theological Seminary, NJ Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.