Publications by Author: Nancy T. Ammerman


Vanishing Boundaries, the recently published book by Hoge, Johnson, and Luidens examines the religious lives of a cohort of baby boomers confirmed in Presbyterian churches in the 1950s and 1960s. The authors look for what has happened to them since and just what sort of religiosity, if any, they are practicing today. Among those who are currently connected to churches, a majority are what they call "lay liberals". This group scores low on "orthodox" Christian beleifs, such as traditional views about the Bible, believing that Jesus is the only way to salvation, and emphasizing the next world over this one. They are, by contrast, very this–wordly and do not think either that the Bible should be taken literally or that Christianity has a corner on the truth. They also attend church much less than others. For all these reasons, lay liberals do not get the ringing endorsements from Hoge, Johnson, and Luidens, nor from the many other sociologists and theologians who have recognized similar categories of non–orthodox churchgoers. Implicitly, most observers seem to measure strength of belief and commitment against a norm defined by evagelicalism, equating that with "religiosity" and painting these non–exclusivist, less involved practitioners as simply lower on the scale. In this essay I suggest that "lay liberals" are not simply lower on the religiosity scale. Rather, they are a pervasive religious type that deserves to be understood on its own terms.

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