Boundless Faith: The Global Outreach of American Churches

Boundless Faith: The Global Outreach of American Churches

Boundless Faith: The Global Outreach of American Churches

Boundless Faith: The Global Outreach of American Churches


In Boundless Faith, the first book to look systematically at American Christianity in relation to globalization, Robert Wuthnow shows that American Christianity is increasingly influenced by globalization and is, in turn, playing a larger role in other countries and in U.S. policies and programs abroad. These changes, he argues, can be seen in the growth of support at home for missionaries and churches in other countries and in the large number of Americans who participate in short-term volunteer efforts abroad. These outreaches include building orphanages, starting microbusinesses, and setting up computer networks. Drawing on a comprehensive survey that was conducted for this book, as well as several hundred in-depth interviews with church leaders, Wuthnow refutes several prevailing stereotypes: that U.S. churches have turned away from the global church and overseas missions, that congregations only look inward, and that the growing voice of religion in areas of foreign policy is primarily evangelical. This fresh and revealing book encourages Americans to pay attention to the grass-roots mechanisms by which global ties are created and sustained.


The United States is one of the richest nations in the world and arguably the strongest militarily. It is also a nation with deep religious values and tens of thousands of flourishing churches. In the past, powerful countries spread their religious values to far corners of the world. Spanish priests accompanied the conquistadors. British missionaries and colonists followed the traders. Is the United States now playing a similar role in promoting global Christianity? Or have times changed?

We citizens of the United States have never liked to think of our nation as an imperial power. The colonial adventures of the Spanish and British empires over several centuries and our own brief expansionist forays at the end of the nineteenth century presumably taught us that there is a better way. Encourage freedom and protect our interests, but respect the autonomy of other nations. If we had to intervene militarily in Vietnam or Afghanistan or Iraq, our leaders told us, it was not to gain territory but to promote democracy.

Yet it is undeniable that America’s power has also shaped the world. The litany of influences is familiar—from oil tankers in the Persian Gulf to reruns of American sitcoms in Thai villages. Indeed, it is easy to side with critics who predict that historians in the future will gauge American influence more in terms of pop culture and consumerism than anything else.

Where in all of this are those tens of thousands of flourishing churches? Have they played a significant role in giving the United States a different . . .

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