Emptiness and American Christianities
Christian groups in America, committed to the cultivation of a feeling of emptiness and a theological program of self-denial, have defined themselves through a process of via negativa in which they attempt to establish collective identities and a rationale for belonging by detailing what they are not. Disestablishment has abetted that process by creating the conditions for the proliferation of religious groups who serve as foils. Viewing the history of Christianity in America as the promotion of the feeling of emptiness turns our attention from historical narratives that recount the progressive enlargement, refinement, alteration, erasure, and reinvention of a certain core set of principles and beliefs thought to comprise the essence of Christianity. It alternatively evokes fluidity, indefiniteness, contradictoriness, paradox, the anxious construction of appearances, the unreliability of language, and preoccupations with failure and loss.
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