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Kelly Besecke offers an examination of reflexive spirituality, a spirituality that draws equally on religions traditions and traditions of reason in the pursuit of transcendent meaning. People who practice reflexive spirituality prefer metaphor to literalism, spiritual experience to doctrinal belief, religious pluralism to religious exclusivism or inclusivism, and ongoing inquiry to final answers. Reflexive spirituality is aligned with liberal theologies in a variety of religious traditions and among the spiritual-but-t-religious. You Can't Put God in a Box draws on original qualitative data to describe how people practiced reflexive spirituality in an urban United Methodist church, an interfaith adult education center, and a variety of secular settings. The theoretical argument focuses on two kinds of rationality that are both part of the Enlightenment legacy. Techlogical rationality focuses our attention on finding the most efficient means to a particular end. Reflexive spiritualists reject forms of religiosity and secularity that rely on the biases of techlogical rationality-they see these as just so many versions of fundamentalism that are standing in the way of compelling spiritual meaning. Intellectual rationality, on the other hand, offers tools for analysis, interpretation, and synthesis of religious ideas. Reflexive spiritualists embrace intellectual rationality as a way of making religious traditions more meaningful for modern ears. Besecke provides a window into the progressive theological thinking of educated spiritual seekers and religious liberals. Grounded in participant observation, her book uses concrete examples of reflexive spirituality in practice to speak to the classical sociological problem of modern meaninglessness.
Kelly Besecke is an independent scholar; Ph.D., Sociology, University of Wisconsin-Madison (2002); formerly a professor of sociology at Colorado College and Kenyon College.