EmptinessFeeling Christian in America

EmptinessFeeling Christian in America

John Corrigan

Print publication date: 2016

ISBN: 9780226237466

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

Abstract

American Christians value the feeling of emptiness and seek to cultivate it, believing that the more profoundly they experience emptiness the greater their longing for God and the nearer they draw to their goal of feeling spiritually filled by God. Emptiness must precede fullness. Americans practice bodily disciplines as a way of representing, prompting, and intensifying their feelings of emptiness. They cognize and cultivate the feeling of emptiness through fasting, bloodletting, silence, labor, and other activities undertaken as forms of self-denial. Americans feel the emptiness of time and space. They conceive of the geographic space of America as empty, and in their making of place they play with complex representations of emptiness and fullness. Americans imagine the emptiness of earthly time in contrast to the fullness of eternity, often complicating that understanding by asserting that empty, earthly time is empty precisely because it is filled with corruption. They are keenly aware of the dangers of empty words, empty doctrines, and empty beliefs, and are on constant guard against them. The energetic pursuit of the feeling of emptiness, the radical denial of self, places individuals and groups in challenging circumstances as they attempt to create and maintain identities. Americans build Christian ingroup identity by asserting what they are not, by pushing off from other groups whom they identify as competitors in the religious marketplace. Disestablishment fosters such competition among groups by providing a social setting in which numerous foils can be identified and group identity constructed via negativa.