What is the true heart of religion? If you could boil down all the precepts, spiritual laws, and values of religion today into a tasty, take-home nugget, what would you find? What would religion lived out in daily life actually look like? Two social scientists and a theologian have done extensive research to determine that, and their results are extremely revealing.
Co-authorsMatthew T. Lee, Margaret M. Poloma, and Stephen G. Post have written The Heart of Religion: Spiritual Empowerment, Benevolence, and the Experience of God’s Love(December 2012, Oxford University Press), which explores the effects of the experience of love in the Christian tradition in America. They offer compelling examples of how receiving God’s love, loving God, and expressing this love to others has made a difference in the world and given a deeper significance to the lives of millions of Americans.
This new book is a fascinating narrative about how Americans “wake up” to the reality of divine love through an experience with God and then attempt to express his love to others through daily benevolent acts. The authors say, “That is the heart of religion . . . . Our aim was to investigate the relationship between spiritual empowerment, benevolence, and the experience of God’s love in America.”
The Heart of Religion is based on a national survey involving 1,200 randomly selected Americans regardless of religious background and extended interviews conducted by the authors with more than 120 Christians engaged in benevolence across America from all walks of life. According to the authors, “Encounters with God’s love are quite common in America. They can be transformative, both for individuals and their communities. At times the effects reverberate throughout the world. Our national survey reveals that eight out of ten Americans claim to have had such experiences, at least on occasion. Eighty-one percent (81%) of respondents acknowledged that they ‘experience God’s love as the greatest power in the universe’ and 83 percent said they ‘feel God’s love increasing their compassion for others.’”
The authors found that the interviewees are in touch with God’s sustaining love that revitalizes them when they feel like giving up and helps them see beyond their immediate circumstances. Their multifaceted relationship with God gives them a deep sense of peace, reduces worry and anxiety, fosters inner healing, produces confidence, sharpens discernment, increases energy for action, and helps distinguish ordinary “busyness” from real fruitfulness.
This study is distinctive. Whereas much public and private dialogue in America tends to focus on the “shell of religion” (beliefs/cognitions, denominations, social networks), this book focuses on love as the “heart of religion.” Based on equal measures of scholarly research and human insight, The Heartof Religion offers an unprecedented level of detail about the experience and expression of divine love
If you are looking for the affirmation of God’s love this is the book for you. Our thinking needs to be re-evaluated and reinforced that God loves us. When our lives aren’t going the way we want this books helps get us back on track. Shows us that with God’s love we can get through, achieve or do anything leaving us with spiritual empowerment, benevolence, and the experience of God’s love.