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Saving Souls, Serving SocietyUnderstanding the Faith Factor in Church-Based Social Ministry$
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Heidi Rolland Unruh and Ronald J. Sider

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780195161557

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2005

DOI: 10.1093/0195161556.001.0001

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Perceptions of Spiritual Meaning in Faith-Based Social Action

Perceptions of Spiritual Meaning in Faith-Based Social Action

(p.67) 4 Perceptions of Spiritual Meaning in Faith-Based Social Action
Saving Souls, Serving Society

Heidi Rolland Unruh

Ronald J. Sider (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Acts of compassion are not unique to people of faith, but faith makes these actions uniquely meaningful. Even ostensibly secular good works may be saturated with personal religious significance. The ascription of spiritual meaning to social action is part of the larger religious enterprise that Peter Berger refers to as “world-building”. Among Protestant Christians, these meanings fall into four domains: religion mandates social action; divine agency empowers social change; social activism reflects or enhances one's inner spiritual state; and social ministry is intended to enhance the spiritual life of others. It is the selection and combination of these four modalities—dutiful, empowered, devotional, and evangelistic—that gives a faith-based social service program its distinctive character.

Keywords:   spiritual meaning, faith, religion, social action, social change, evangelism, faith-based social services

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