Cover Image


All in Sync

How Music and Art Are Revitalizing American Religion

Robert Wuthnow (Author)

Robert Wuthnow shows how music and art are revitalizing churches and religious life across the nation in this first-ever consideration of the relationship between religion and the arts. All in Sync draws on more than four hundred in-depth interviews with church members, clergy, and directors of leading arts organizations and a new national survey to document a strong positive relationship between participation in the arts and interest in spiritual growth. Wuthnow argues that contemporary spirituality is increasingly encouraged by the arts because of its emphasis on transcendent experience and personal reflection. This kind of spirituality, contrary to what many observers have imagined, is compatible with active involvement in churches and serious devotion to Christian practices.

The absorbing narrative relates the story of a woman who overcame a severe personal crisis and went on to head a spiritual direction center where participants use the arts to gain clarity about their own spiritual journeys. Readers visit contemporary worship services in Chicago, Philadelphia, and Boston and listen to leaders and participants explain how music and art have contributed to the success of these services. All in Sync also illustrates how music and art are integral parts of some Episcopal, African American, and Orthodox worship services, and how people of faith are using their artistic talents to serve others.

Besides examining the role of the arts in personal spirituality and in congregational life, Wuthnow discusses how clergy and lay leaders are rethinking the role of the imagination, especially in connection with traditional theological virtues. He also shows how churches and arts organizations sometimes find themselves at odds over controversial moral questions and competing claims about spirituality. Accessible, relevant, and innovative, this book is essential for anyone searching for a better understanding of the dynamic relationships among religion, spirituality, and American culture.
List of Tables

1. A Puzzle: The Question of Religious Vitality
2. Contemporary Spirituality: Seeking the Sacred in an Era of Uncertainty
3. A Blending of Cultures: The Arts and Spirituality
4. Personal Spirituality: Art and the Practice of Spiritual Discipline
5. The Joy of Worship: Expression and Tradition in Congregational Life
6. Redeeming the Imagination: The Arts and Spiritual Virtue
7. The Morality Problem: Why Churches and Artists Disagree
8. The Artist in Everyone: Faithful Living in a Spiritual Democracy

Appendix: Methodology
Robert Wuthnow is Gerhard R. Andlinger '52 Professor of Social Sciences and Director of the Center for the Study of Religion at Princeton University. His most recent books are Creative Spirituality: The Way of the Artist (California, 2001), Growing Up Religious: Christians and Jews and Their Journeys of Faith (1999), After Heaven: Spirituality in America since the 1950s (California, 1998), and Loose Connections: Joining Together in America's Fragmented Communities (1998).
“Fascinating presentation.”—Booklist
"The author's treatment of imagination and its use in church practices is especially compelling. Students of American religion, church history, and the interrelation of arts and culture should be intrigued. This book also sets a model of comparison for study in other societies. The layperson will find much to enjoy. Recommended."—L.L Lam-Easton Choice: Current Reviews For Academic Libraries
“Wuthnow’s use of real individuals to tell stories of spiritual growth through the use of the arts and music makes his thesis come alive.”—Christian Science Monitor
"Wuthnow's work breaks entirely new ground. . . . As always, he is clear, cogent and thorough. His writing doesn't snap off the page, but Wuthnow has the sense to give us the big picture, and then let his interviewees speak at length and sometimes beautifully about their spiritual experiences."—Publishers Weekly
“When it comes to comprehensive treatments of American religion . . . Wuthnow sees it steady and sees it whole, and in one or two chapters in his latest book, All in Sync, he tells you all you need to know about the religious situation over the past century. . . . Wuthnow opens up the particular nexus of spirituality and the arts with rare insight.”—David Martin Times Literary Supplement (TLS)
"All in Sync mounts a refreshingly thoughtful challenge to the conventional wisdom that contemporary art and religion are mutually hostile spheres. In this balanced and accessible work of scholarship, Professor Wuthnow shows why he is one of the most astute observers of religious trends in America today."—Gustav Niebuhr, former national religion correspondent for The New York Times

"All in Sync is a compelling exploration of religion, spirituality, and the arts. With exquisite touch, Robert Wuthnow once again takes the pulse of American religious culture--and this time he feels a new beat."—Mark Chaves, Professor of Sociology at the University of Arizona

Join UC Press

Members receive 20-40% discounts on book purchases. Find out more