May 16, 2012
By Frederick Schmidt
Are we in a fourth great awakening? That's a matter of interpretation.
Some contend that we are. Of course to make that argument, those who do, describe it as an awakening beyond belief. It's all about Christianity after religion:
Spiritual awareness without an evangelical or evangelistic dimension
A much bigger movement without theological content (the code-word used here is "dogmatism")
A movement that is experiential, practice-centered, interfaith, and interreligious
How is this trend different from the rest of American history—before and after the high-tide denominationalism of the '50s and '60s? I'm at a loss to say.
It is certainly a phenomenon that is fueled by online interaction and a technological interface that makes it "feel" more like one giant conversation. And, to be sure, the infrastructure of that conversation itself involves more people than earlier awakenings.
But in a number of other ways—which some of its advocates admit—this is hardly the same kind of awakening as we have had in the past. It is not just lacking an evangelical or evangelistic focus. It also lacks a single, communal focus of any kind....