Perceptions of Spiritual Meaning in Faith-Based Social Action

Heidi Rolland Unruh and Ronald J. Sider

in Saving Souls, Serving Society

Published in print September 2005 | ISBN: 9780195161557
Published online October 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780199835836 | DOI:
 Perceptions of Spiritual Meaning in Faith-Based Social Action

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Acts of compassion are not unique to people of faith, but faith makes these actions uniquely meaningful. Even ostensibly secular good works may be saturated with personal religious significance. The ascription of spiritual meaning to social action is part of the larger religious enterprise that Peter Berger refers to as “world-building”. Among Protestant Christians, these meanings fall into four domains: religion mandates social action; divine agency empowers social change; social activism reflects or enhances one's inner spiritual state; and social ministry is intended to enhance the spiritual life of others. It is the selection and combination of these four modalities—dutiful, empowered, devotional, and evangelistic—that gives a faith-based social service program its distinctive character.

Keywords: spiritual meaning; faith; religion; social action; social change; evangelism; faith-based social services

Chapter.  8847 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Religious Studies

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