Heart of Religion
Spiritual Empowerment, Benevolence, and the Experience of God's Love
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Beneath our culture's obsession with wealth and power, status and celebrity, millions of Americans are quietly engaged in a deeply religious struggle to free themselves from petty selfishness and to embrace a life of benevolence and compassion.
Drawing on an extensive random survey of 1,200 men and women across the United States, Matthew Lee, Margaret Poloma, and Stephen Post here shed new light on how Americans wake up to the reality of divine love and how that transformative experience expresses itself in concrete acts of benevolence. The authors find that the vast majority of Americans (eight out of ten) report that they have felt God's love increasing their compassion for others, one of many important revelations uncovered by the survey. In order to more fully flesh out the meaning of the survey's results, the authors also conducted 120 in-depth interviews with Christian women and men from all walks of life and from across the country who are engaged in benevolent service. Their stories offer compelling examples of how receiving God's love, loving God, and expressing this love to others has made a difference in the world and given their lives deeper significance. As a result, some provide community service, others strive for social justice, still others seek to redefine religion and the meaning of "church" in America. Interviewees who may have grown up with judgmental images of God tended to trade them in for a loving and accepting God more consistent with their own emotionally powerful personal experiences.
Based on equal measures of scholarly research and human insight, The Heart of Religion
offers an unprecedented level of detail about the experience and expression of divine love.
OUP Us, 9780199931880, 301pp.
Publication Date: December 12, 2012
About the Author
Matthew T. Lee is Professor and Chair of Sociology at the University of Akron. He is co-author, with Margaret Poloma, of A Sociological Study of the Great Commandment in Pentecostalism. Margaret M. Poloma is Research Professor of Sociology, University of Akron. She is the author of Main Street Mystics, among other books. Stephen G. Post is the President of the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love (www.unlimitedloveinstitute.com), the author of The Hidden Gifts of Helping, and a Professor of Medical Humanities at Stony Brook University.