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Communications & Media
Book Review
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After Heaven: Spirituality in America Since the 1950s (Book Review Sample)


Read the Robert Wuthnow's book, After Heaven: Spirituality in America Since the 1950s. According to Wuthnow's, in the mid-­‐twentieth century, new religious trends emerged in which people attempted to seek the meaning of spirituality and to perform spiritual practices outside of the institutionalized religious context. He calls this new trend the “spirituality of seeking,” describing the conventional view of spirituality as the “spirituality of dwelling.” The former implies that spirituality could be constructed beyond such sacred places as church, but the latter does not accept such a deviated interpretation of spirituality.
Wuthnow's also posits that now is the time to consider practice-­oriented spirituality. While the concept of spirituality of seeking “[provides a] more orderly, disciplined and focused approach to the sacred,” practice-­‐oriented spirituality “emphasizes the importance of making a deliberate attempt to relate to the sacred” With spiritual practice, people can “cultivate a deep spirituality rather than being influenced by their moods, circumstances, or exposure to constantly changing ideas.
“Reflecting your own experiences in the past, discuss “spirituality of dwelling,” spirituality of seeking. “Mulling over this media saturated world, discuss “practice-­‐oriented spirituality.


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1.0 Introduction
Wuthnow's book recaptures the dynamic and multifaceted nature of the American spiritual life that reflects modern day human spiritual struggles. He illustrates the progression of American spirituality from ‘dwelling-oriented spirituality' to ‘seeking-oriented spirituality'. Besides, he review ‘practice-oriented spirituality' which he presents as an ideal alternative to both seeking and dwelling forms of spirituality that he purports to comprise every form of spiritual tradition. Nevertheless, he posits that the three forms of spirituality differ in their emphasis and have inherent similarities. This essay shall reflect and delve on my past personal experiences in relation to spirituality of dwelling as well as the spirituality of seeking as discussed in Wuthnow's book, After Heaven. Finally, the essay will conclude by discussing practice-oriented spirituality and how it has been shaped by the increasingly media saturated world.
2.0 Dwelling Oriented Spirituality
The concept of dwelling-oriented spirituality has been used to denote a spiritual habitation or dwelling place. According to Wuthnow, this form of spirituality was predominantly practiced in periods of relative stability throughout the American history. He posits that the spirituality of dwelling underscores the significance of habitation in the practice of spirituality. He argues that God resides in a fixed place and thus it's important to have a definite sacred place from where human beings can exercise spirituality (pp3-4). He further affirms that inhabiting a sacred place creates a feeling of security and sacred presence that is only distinct to a definite place of habitation.
Dwelling-oriented spirituality has a religious connotation as it has traditional roots. In fact, spiritual practice is directly linked to individual membership to religious organizations. Though this form of spirituality dates back a thousand years, it's still a standard form of spiritual practice in the modern American society. It emerged from traditional practice which linked people to specific traditional practices that defined their origin. Therefore, affiliation to a religious institution is still a prevalent form of spiritual identity even though it has roots from ancient traditional practice. Thus, spirituality cannot be divorced from dwelling or habitation in a definite spiritual dwelling place from where religious rites and practices distinctly differentiate religious institutions. I concur with the essence of dwelling oriented spirituality, as it remains the most predominant form of spirituality. In fact, I personally grew up in this form of spirituality and it still defines my spiritual life to date. In a nutshell, spirituality cannot be separated from religious rites and practices such as service attendance, adherence to religious rules and fulfillment of community religious expectations. Wuthnow argues that dwelling oriented spirituality is progressively losing its role as it no longer fulfills people's spiritual needs used to be the case. However, many Americans still believe that their spirituality has been largely shaped through this form of spirituality. Personally, I feel that it has significantly shaped my spirituality. In fact, I cannot think of any other form of spirituality other than dwelling. Dwelling-oriented spirituality has great strengths in belonging which is inherently human. It's rooted in the human desire to belong and feel secure. He calls it “…the lighthearted feeling of being in a litter' of kittens” (p.5).
Notwithstanding its merits, dwelling has inheren...

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