American Religion and the Loss of Community

What is the future of religion in America? That depends on the twenty-somethings and the thirty-somethings of today.

Robert Wuthnow, a sociologist at Princeton University, has sifted through a complex tangle of data about the religious outlook of Americans between the ages of 21 and 45. In his book After the Baby Boomers: How Twenty- and Thirty-Somethings Are Shaping the Future of American Religion, Wuthnow shares his findings about this generation’s perspective on organized religion, worship, the plurality of faiths, the intersection of faith and politics, and the nature of spirituality.

This book presents the case that the 20s and 30s are experiencing a unique form of social isolation. It’s tied, in part, to their tendency to postpone marriage. This influences their relationship to faith and traditional faith communities. But more important, I think, is the disaffection this generation feels in relation to the structured faith of their fathers and mothers.

This generation is no different than any other in its need to experience social integration and cohesion. But the opportunities for authentic participation in community have shifted. Old frameworks are disappearing and new structures are taking their place. Youth programs at traditional churches are still “youth programs”—that is, they enjoin young adults to participate on terms that might have been effective a generation ago but seem to be slipping today. More and more social networking is happening through computers and tools like MySpace, FaceBook, and LinkedIn.

Genuine interpersonal contact relates the souls of persons to each other. But our techno-world literally short circuits the spiritual dimension of soul-to-soul relationship. The result is a kind of spiritual exhaustion that comes, not from over-use, but from atrophy.

The religious life is a communal life. As the nature of community is reconfigured, religious belief and practice is bound to be ordered along a dramatically different trajectory.

What Former Aide to Sarah Palin Told CNN

CNN correspondent Christine Romans checked up on some of the bravado expressed by an exuberant Sarah Palin during her speech at the Republican National Convention. You’ll recall that Governor Palin said she had put her predecessor’s luxury airplane on eBay.

CNN thought they should look into that. So they arranged an interview between Wolf Blitzer and Meg Stapleton, former aide to Governor Palin. Stapleton spoke from Anchorage, Alaska. The official CNN version of this interview is recounted with utmost brevity by Romans in her online article “Alaska state jet didn’t fly on eBay”:

“Upon taking office, she [i.e., Governor Palin] wanted to unload what former aide Meg Stapleton called ‘a symbol of corruption.’

“Stapleton told CNN that Murkowski paid too much for the jet, and that it was costing taxpayers money just sitting in the hangar.”

CNN Political Ticker: All politics, all the time – Blogs from

The real story is that, while it’s true that the Governor had the plane listed on auction at eBay, it wasn’t actually sold on eBay, but through a broker, after eBay bids came in too low.

The subtext here is that Palin might have fibbed just a little, or exaggerated the facts . . . or something.

But the real story reported by Christine Romans of CNN is not the whole story. She doesn’t even indicate that Meg Stapleton’s remarks were made during a live and compelling interview she gave with Wolf Blitzer on television today.

You really should see it. I can only imagine what the sophisticates at CNN were expecting from a former aide to Sarah Palin, ensconced in the chilly and woodsy frontier of Alaska. But Ms. Stapleton was impressive. She answered all of Blitzer’s questions about a full range of possible problems candidly and professionally. Every insinuation of possible wrong-doing by Palin was corrected with an articulate and plausible response. And Ms. Stapleton demonstrated unqualified admiration for Sarah Palin that only complemented the favorable impression that Palin herself has made since she was first introduced by John McCain as his running-mate.

Stapleton also demonstrated that Sarah Palin had very capable people working for her in Alaska, and that the big-shot media in the Lower 48 are mistaken if they think their experience and style will intimidate Sarah Palin and the likes of her remarkable associates.


For a transcript of Wolf Blitzer’s broadcast from the CNN “Situation Room,” check here. For the complete video of the interview, go here.

Is Barack Obama an Ingenue?

That’s what Dick Morris and Eileen McGann seem to be saying, all right:

“Now the Republicans must battle to underscore the threats this country faces, economically and internationally, and that we can’t let an ingenue take over.”

Dick Morris and Eileen McGann :: :: Democrats in Trouble (September 5, 2008)

So what exactly is an “ingenue”?

A reliable authority, The Concise Oxford Dictionary, defines the word this way:

“an innocent or unsophisticated woman,” or an “actress who plays this part”

Barack Obama has been called a lot of things, perhaps including “innocent” and “unsophisticated.” But an “innocent or unsophisticated woman“? That’s one for the records.

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