Churchgoing and Christian Ethics

Churchgoing and Christian Ethics

Churchgoing and Christian Ethics

Churchgoing and Christian Ethics

Synopsis

Robin Gill argues that moral communities should take center stage in ethics. This book examines recent evidence about church communities in relation to faith, moral order and love, and shows that churchgoers are distinctive in their attitudes, beliefs and behavior. Some attitudes change over time, and there are several moral disagreements among different groups of churchgoers. Moreover, their values and behavior are shared by many nonchurchgoers also. The distinctiveness of church communities in the modern world is thus real but relative, and is crucial for the task of Christian ethics.

Excerpt

This is the fifteenth book in the series New Studies in Christian Ethics. Originally its title was to be Moral Communities and Christian Ethics, but I worried that the term 'moral communities' was just too vague. For reasons to be explained shortly, I became increasingly critical of this vagueness in others. As Churchgoing and Christian Ethics the book is now distinctly more concrete. Whatever the title, it at last brings together my empirical research on churches and my theoretical research on Christian ethics.

For the last ten years I have been engaged in detailed empirical research on churchgoing, while continuing a rather separate interest in the role of Christian ethics in society at large. In The Myth of the Empty Church (1993) I mapped out churchgoing patterns in Britain from census data going back to the 1830s and suggested some physical reasons for an initial increase followed by a very lengthy decline in churchgoing. I was aware at the time of a limited amount of data from attitude sample surveys linking churchgoing with distinctive moral and theological beliefs. Yet I could not see how to study such data longitudinally or systematically. In that book attitudinal data formed little more than a partial observation about present day churchgoers. However, a visit by the American sociologists C. Kirk Hadaway and Penny Long Marler, armed with a well marked copy of The Myth of the Empty Church, convinced me that I was mistaken. There is a large amount of data from attitude surveys of religious and moral beliefs and behaviour in Britain over the last fifty years which, surprisingly, has never been systematically compared. Together we collected . . .

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