The Faith Next Door: American Christians and Their New Religious Neighbors

The Faith Next Door: American Christians and Their New Religious Neighbors

The Faith Next Door: American Christians and Their New Religious Neighbors

The Faith Next Door: American Christians and Their New Religious Neighbors

Synopsis

The religious landscape of the United States has changed dramatically in recent decades. How are Christians relating to their Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, and other new religious neighbors? Using local examples, The Faith Next Door covers the gamut of Christian responses to America's multireligious reality. We read about the debate over a new Hindu temple in town, the Episcopal church that has hosted a mosque since 1987, the cooperative efforts between African American pastors and Muslim leaders, immigrant Christians seeking to save their non-Christian fellow immigrants, evangelicals resettling immigrants and refugees through "friendship evangelism," Catholics learning about other religions in the spirit of Vatican II, Greek Orthodox Christians and Turkish Muslims gaining a new appreciation of their shared history, and more. The book also examines how the events of September 11, 2001 have shaped Christian approaches to believers from other faiths, from engaging in dialogue to hoping for conversion. Here Christian theology meets the multireligious real world, with multiple results suggestive of national trends. The Faith Next Door will appeal to Christians from all denominations and perspectives who seek models for relationships in the diverse contemporary context. It will also inform non-Christian readers and general observers of trends in American religion about the variety of local Christian responses to other religions.

Excerpt

Since the changes to U.S. immigration laws in 1965, the American ethnic and religious landscape has shifted dramatically. The truism that the U.S. is “a nation of immigrants” is no longer just a platitude. It has a material impact on the everyday experience and consciousness of most Americans. Walk down the street of any major city, and you are likely to overhear conversations in any one of a number of languages. You may encounter multilingual signage on billboards and in shop windows. The religious streetscape may incorporate not only churches and synagogues, but mosques, temples, gurdwaras, or meditation centers. And, increasingly, you don’t need to travel to an urban area to experience such diversity, as smaller cities and towns also host an increasing influx of immigrant populations.

Religious communities are primary locations for such encounters because they are important institutions for forming and maintaining identities, promoting ethics and values that shape civic engagement, and providing a setting for regular social interaction. This is true for both old-timers and newcomers in cities and towns. But religious communities may also create boundaries that make cross-cultural encounters difficult or contentious.

Until recently, little information has been available for understanding these trends or for comprehending the role that faith communities might play in the process. Sociologists and political scientists studying immigration paid very little attention to the religious lives of new immigrants and focused instead on their political and economic characteristics. Historians mostly addressed much earlier immigration periods, which raises the question of how post-1965 changes might be similar to or different from, say, the changes in the late nineteenth . . .

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