chapter  9
11 Pages

‘Old time Methodists in a new world’

The continuing viability of conservative religion
WithGlen O’Brien

This chapter examines the continuing viability of conservative religion in late modernity. The radical secularisation prophesied by Max Weber and others did not take place. Rather, though religion ceased to be seen as promising a social centre, it continued as a means of a personal search for meaning. One expression of rejection and disenchantment with modernism has been the strengthening and growth of conservative movements within established Christian churches. Revived conservatism appeals to all strata of society and does not seem to be limited to one socio-economic grouping. Baby boomers have a deep interest in religion and have pursued this interest with a consumerist orientation. This chapter surveys a pattern of decline in mainline Protestantism along with a corresponding growth among Pentecostal, Wesleyan-Holiness, and Pentecostal-Holiness churches. Those who feel that their own churches do not ‘deliver’ on ecstatic forms of religious encounter may gravitate toward those churches that do. Conservative renewal groups in Christianity manifest ‘highly explicit centres’ which proclaim clearly defined and widely disseminated goals and messages. The Wesleyan-Holiness churches insist on religion as something to be experienced in personal encounter with God, leading to a supernaturalising of life’s experiences.