Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

America in Search of Its Soul

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

America in Search of Its Soul

Article excerpt

America in Search of Its Soul. By Gibson Winter. Harrisburg, PA: Morehouse Publishing, 1996. 114 pp. $12.95 (paper).

I read my first Gibson Winter book, The Suburban Captivity of the Churches, while a seminarian in the 1960s. That book opened the eyes of a whole generation of young clergy to the powerful, sometimes insidious, connection between culture and church. Throughout his brilliant career Professor Winter has continued to expand our cultural vision, to help us see beyond the pews, to understand the socio-economic contexts in which Christian ministry is practiced. Now he has focused his interdisciplinary sights upon a contemporary spiritual tragedy: the disenchantment of American youth and their resort to violence. The younger generation, he warns, "like the canary who perishes in the coal mine" (p. 7), is sending an alarm signal for all of us.

Though he admits that no single factor can be identified as the cause for the vicious cycle of rage and violence which infects American youth, Winter thinks that the erosion of their sense of dignity and self-worth is at the heart of the matter. Urban youth turn to gangs for the acceptance, identity, security, and community that used to be provided by family, neighborhood, church, or ethnic group.

Winter is among the increasing number of scholars who believe that this erosion of community ties can be attributed, at least in part, to the surprising impact of an unrestrained global market upon the quality of local life. He provides a useful survey of recent literature on global capitalism and concludes that, even though there is no consensus on how to contain the adverse effects of those market forces, "there is real consensus on the crucial place of community in America's future" (p. …

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