Synopses & Reviews
Controversial megachurch pastor Mark Driscoll proclaimed from a conference stage in 2013, andldquo;I know who made the environment and heandrsquo;s coming back and going to burn it all up. So yes, I drive an SUV.andrdquo; The comment, which Driscoll later explained away as a joke, highlights what has been a long history of religious anti-environmentalism. Given how firmly entrenched this sentiment has been, surprising inroads have been made by a new movement with few financial resources, which is deeply committed to promoting green religious traditions and creating a new environmental ethic.
To Care for Creation chronicles this movement and explains how it has emerged despite institutional and cultural barriers, as well as the hurdles posed by logic and practices that set religious environmental organizations apart from the secular movement. Ellingson takes a deep dive into the ways entrepreneurial activists tap into and improvise on a variety of theological, ethical, and symbolic traditions in order to issue a compelling call to arms that mobilizes religious audiences. Drawing on interviews with the leaders of more than sixty of these organizations, Ellingson deftly illustrates how activists borrow and rework resources from various traditions to create new meanings for religion, nature, and the religious personandrsquo;s duty to the natural world.
"Ellingson provides a careful assessment of the role played by local congregations in the process of religious change and of tradition in the work of building communities."
"Ellingson provides a careful assessment of the role played by local congregations in the process of religious change and of tradition in the work of building communities."-Nancy T. Ammerman, American Academy of Religion Book Reviews(Nancy T. Ammerman, AAR Book Reviews)
"This book makes an important contribution to the study of innovation in religion from one of the rising stars in the sociology of American religion. It will challenge both scholars and church leaders who think megachurches are the answer to the problems faced by mainline denominations and those who think they are the problem."
and#8220;Ellingson provides a fascinating portrayal of how mainline churches are working to renegotiate their traditions to solve perceived organizational problems and speak relevantly to contemporary Americans. The Megachurch and the Mainline
insightfully uses ethnography and sociological theory to understand big changes in community, identity, leadership, strategy, and the influence of evangelicalism within American mainline Protestantism struggling in a post-traditional culture.and#8221;
and#8220;Faith in flux, tradition transformed, and religious restructuring come into brilliant congregational focus in this constructivist study of the Lutheran spirit reframed and hybridized in the flesh of evangelical megachurches or liberal seeker-churches. In showing how and why nine congregations went different ways to consensus, conflict, or compromise in trying to remake themselves in practice, Ellingson reveals the larger moral drama of multivocal cultural traditions enacted in shifting social bodies to inspire the soul of American religion, inflect its institutional arc, and contest its life to come.and#8221;
"[The author] offers a very good model to understand congregational change in the United States. . . . An important contribution to the sociology of religion generally and congregational studies specifically."
"Ellingson's research develops into an amazing case study that challenges traditional sociology of religion theories, adding a very well developed critique of religion in the United States. . . . The book is well written, and it sheds light on the transformations underway within the religious environment in the United States."
"A pathbreaking study of the interaction and clashes between Lutheran tradition and the innovations embodied in the evangelical megachurches and different kinds of spirituality."
"For readers interested in a detailed analysis of shifts in contemporary Protestanism, Ellingson provides a variety of thoughtful points illuminating trends in mainline denominations."
"I was impressed enough with this book to have adopted it for an upcoming graduate seminar in the sociology of religion. I am confident that it will stimulate vigorous discussion in graduate and undergraduate sociology of religion courses. The volume also provides many great examples of how theories of social change can be evaluated and even reconstructed through grounded, carefully conducted research."
Religious traditions provide the stories and rituals that define the core values of church members. Yet modern life in America can make those customs seem undesirable, even impractical. As a result, many congregations refashion church traditions so they may remain powerful and salient. How do these transformations occur? How do clergy and worshipers negotiate which aspects should be preserved or discarded?
Focusing on the innovations of several mainline Protestant churches in the San Francisco Bay Area, Stephen Ellingsonand#8217;s The Megachurch and the Mainline provides new understandings of the transformation of spiritual traditions. For Ellingson, these particular congregations typify a new type of Lutheranismand#8212;one which combines the evangelical approaches that are embodied in the growing legion of megachurches with American societyand#8217;s emphasis on pragmatism and consumerism. Here Ellingson provides vivid descriptions of congregations as they sacrifice hymns in favor of rock music and scrap traditional white robes and stoles for Hawaiian shirts, while also making readers aware of the long history of similar attempts to Americanize the Lutheran tradition.
This is an important examination of a religion in fluxand#8212;one that speaks to the growing popularity of evangelicalism in America.
In merely two decades, a small number of resource-poor religious organizations have created a new ethic, and a new set of green religious traditions, with an infrastructure in place to educate and mobilize individuals and organizations. To Care for Creation explains how religious environmentalism has emerged despite various institutional and cultural barriers, and why the new movement organizations follow a logic and set of practices that set them apart from the secular movement. In addition to the new ethic and green religious traditions, Ellingson shows how the movement launches programs to make religious building environmentally, friendly, fight toxic waste and mountain-top removal, protect watersheds, and promote sustainable agriculture. His book research involved him in six dozen interviews with key players in the 70 or so extant religious environmental movement organizations, which are set against secular environmental organizations; the difference is between a message of hope for the religious movement vs. one of doom and gloom for the secular movement. The religious movement is sorely understudied, and it addresses a crucial issue of the dayand#151;climate change.
About the Author
Stephen Ellingson is associate professor of sociology at Hamilton College. He is the author of The Megachurch and the Mainline, also published by the University of Chicago Press.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; The Restructuring of American Religious Traditions
Chapter 2and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; The Trouble with Tradition
Chapter 3and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; Constructing the Catalysts of Change
Chapter 4and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; Reframing the Tradition
Chapter 5and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; In the Image of Evangelicalism
Chapter 6and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; Conflict, Compromise, and Consensus
Chapter 7and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; Tradition and Change in the American Religious Landscape
Appendix: A Note on Data and Methods