The Dream of Open Dwelling
In After Heaven, the eminent sociologist of religion Robert Wuthnow distinguishes between two common forms of religious life, dwelling and seeking. Wuthnow’s description of traditional religious dwelling is succinct and useful. At its fullest, he argues, dwelling situates the believer under what Peter Berger called a “sacred canopy” (167): within a well-mapped religious cosmos, a well-established and organized religious community, richly symbolic religious structures, and a round of rituals that consecrate time. It requires, in return, that the believer “learn to be at home,” obeying the rules and playing the roles assigned by the religious community (146). The satisfactions of such a position include social and spiritual security, personal equanimity, and strength; its social benefits are also significant.
Wuthnow argues that this traditional “spirituality of dwelling” (3), once the dominant form of life in the West as in many other cultures, is becom-