01: A Church of Our Own: Disestablishment and Diversity in American Religion (Rutgers University Press, $24.95) collects the published writings of sociologist R. Stephen Warner into a readable primer on the sociology of American religion.
The hallmarks of Warner’s work are displayed throughout the book: the importance of the political disestablishment in the flourishing of American religious institutions, the ways in which immigrants and other minorities use religion as a way of empowerment; and the “defacto congregationalism” found among many newly transplanted faiths that had little place for congregational life in their home countries.
Other noteworthy chapters include essays on Pentecostal immigrants, the gay and lesbian-based Metropolitian Community Churches, and changes in the civic role of religion. In the concluding chapter, Warner looks at the prospects of American religion, updating his own theories; he is more skeptical about the importance of pluralism in religious expansion. He also sees greater disengagement from institutional religion but not secularization European style.
02: Another collection of talks and writings that discusses broad religious trends through a sociological perspective is David Martin’s On Secularization: Toward a Revised General Theory (Ashgate, $29.95).
The book is more a sociology of Christianity than religion in general, using both theology and sociology to update Martin’s 1978 classic, A General Theory of Secularization. As in the earlier work, the new book does not offer one monolithic theory of secularization, nor does it view secularization in the popular sense of steady progress to a non-religious future.
Instead, Martin sees secularization as a series of differentiations and “mutations” of Christianity that vary according to national and cultural contexts. Holding that “Christianity embodies a dialectic of the religious and the secular which more easily generates secular mutations of faith rather than straightforward replacements and displacements,” Martin provides interesting case studies of how trends in politics, culture, and the arts reveal various “secularization stories.”
Martin’s analysis of the architecture in such cities as Paris, London, Amsterdam, Helsinki and Boston show the complex histories and conflicting relations between church and states that may confound the EU’s attempts at European integration (for example, the national church traditions of England and Scandinavia, not to mention the former‘s religio-cultural connections to the U.S., turn them away from any easy optimism about integration).
Other chapters examine Canada’s changing religious complexion (once oriented toward the U.S. but now more like England and even Europe in religion and politics), how Latin American religion increasingly resembles the U.S. religious free market, and the ways in which Pentecostalism comprises a new transnational form of modernity that challenges secular narratives of modernity Although Martin’s style of writing does not always make for easy reading, his intricate mappings of Christian expressions, undercurrents and outgrowths go a long way toward creating a geography of religion in the West.