Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Christopher Scheitle & Roger Finke's "Places of Faith"

Christopher P. Scheitle is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Sociology at the Pennsylvania State University. He is the author of Beyond the Congregation: The World of Christian Nonprofits. Roger Finke is Professor of Sociology and Religious Studies at the Pennsylvania State University and is Director of the Association of Religion Data Archives. He is the author of many books and articles, including The Churching of America, 1776-2005 with Rodney Stark.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Places of Faith: A Road Trip across America's Religious Landscape, and reported the following:
Places of Faith is the product of a six-week expedition exploring the unique geography of American religion. Through photographs, interviews and observations we report on our expedition. We share with the reader how religion is experienced in local congregations and we explore the relationship "places of faith" hold with the larger community. Page 99 finds us at about the midpoint of our journey. Specifically, we are in San Francisco exploring how Asian traditions, such as Buddhism and Taoism, have shaped the city. This influence is displayed most prominently but not exclusively in San Francisco’s historic Chinatown, where barely marked staircases on the street lead you up to an ornate temple on the top floor of a building.

A complex interplay between religion, race, persecution, resilience and adaption have left its mark not only in San Francisco, but in other communities featured in the book, such as Memphis, TN, Brooklyn, NY, Detroit, MI and Salt Lake City, UT. Of course, the specifics vary in each of these locations, but the outlines are often similar. Yes, the worship service in a Detroit mosque is very different than that in a African-American Pentecostal church in Memphis. Yes, the lifestyle of an Amish family in Pennsylvania is quite different than that of a Buddhist software programmer in San Francisco. But often the concerns and hopes of different religious communities are the same. Across the nation we heard the same concerns expressed in religious congregations coming from a wide-range of traditions: What do you do with the children when school is out for the summer? How do you care for elderly family members? How do you live a healthy and productive life? How can our religious congregation help the community? Our road trip presented us with an intriguing paradox. Religion in the United States is both dizzyingly diverse and strikingly similar as you travel from place to place.
Learn more about Places of Faith at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue