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You Can't Put God in a Box: Thoughtful Spirituality in a Rational Ageby Kelly Besecke
Synopses & Reviews
Kelly Besecke offers an examination of reflexive spirituality, a spirituality that draws equally on religions traditions and traditions of reason in the pursuit of transcendent meaning. People who practice reflexive spirituality prefer metaphor to literalism, spiritual experience to doctrinal belief, religious pluralism to religious exclusivism or inclusivism, and ongoing inquiry to final answers.
Reflexive spirituality is aligned with liberal theologies in a variety of religious traditions and among the spiritual-but-not-religious. You Can't Put God in a Box draws on original qualitative data to describe how people practiced reflexive spirituality in an urban United Methodist church, an interfaith adult education center, and a variety of secular settings. The theoretical argument focuses on two kinds of rationality that are both part of the Enlightenment legacy. Technological rationality focuses our attention on finding the most efficient means to a particular end. Reflexive spiritualists reject forms of religiosity and secularity that rely on the biases of technological rationality--they see these as just so many versions of fundamentalism that are standing in the way of compelling spiritual meaning. Intellectual rationality, on the other hand, offers tools for analysis, interpretation, and synthesis of religious ideas. Reflexive spiritualists embrace intellectual rationality as a way of making religious traditions more meaningful for modern ears.
Besecke provides a window into the progressive theological thinking of educated spiritual seekers and religious liberals. Grounded in participant observation, her book uses concrete examples of reflexive spirituality in practice to speak to the classical sociological problem of modern meaninglessness.
The advent of modernity brought with it a crisis of faith. Science had upended the religious certainties of earlier eras, and believers in the West were cast adrift. Some turned to a strident fundamentalism while, more recently, growing numbers have shunned religion altogether.
In You Can't Put God In a Box, Kelly Besecke offers a fascinating examination of people who have found a middle way-what is known as "reflexive spirituality." Those who practice reflexive spirituality, Besecke shows, draw equally on religious traditions and traditions of reason in the pursuit of transcendent meaning. They prefer metaphor to literalism, spiritual experience to doctrinal belief, religious pluralism to religious exclusivism or inclusivism, and ongoing inquiry to "final answers." They find inspiration in liberal theologies of any number of faiths, and allies among the "spiritual but not religious."
Besecke draws on original qualitative data to describe how people practiced reflexive spirituality in an urban United Methodist church, an interfaith adult education center, and a variety of secular settings. By doing so, she provides a window into the theological thinking of educated spiritual seekers and religious liberals, and shows how they have come up with a unique way of addressing the problem of modern meaninglessness.
About the Author
Kelly Besecke is an independent scholar; Ph.D., Sociology, University of Wisconsin-Madison (2002); formerly a professor of sociology at Colorado College and Kenyon College.
Table of Contents
Preface Meaning, Mind, and Religion in Two Lives
Chapter 1 Reflexive Spirituality: Finding Meaning in Modern Society
Chapter 2 Reflexive Spirituality in Context
Chapter 3 The Tyranny of the Technical
Chapter 4 Flat Religion and Flaky Spirituality
Chapter 5 Using Reason to Find Meaning in Religion and Life
Chapter 6 The God of Reflexive Spirituality
Chapter 7 You Can't Put Reflexive Spirituality in a Box
Chapter 8 Connections
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