Law Religion Culture Review

Exploring the intersections of law, religion and culture. Copyright by Richard J. Radcliffe. All rights reserved.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Book Review: The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America is Tearing Us Apart (2008) by Bill Bishop.

This book is a two-fer.

Having heard the author, Bill Bishop, interviewed on the radio, I expected a book about how America sorts itself into politically like-minded clusters. That expectation was met. Bishop writes: "[T]o see how the country was sorting--a more useful calculation is ... population density. Republicans were moving into places where people lived farther apart; Democrats were clustering in places where people lived closer together." (pp. 204-05.) While this fairly sums up the political sorting process, the book bonuses readers with sorting of a different, well, sort.

For example, Chapter 7 entitled, "The Missionary and The Megachurch", lucidly explains how the Church (or at least parts of it) employs "like attracts like" methodologies to market itself. The result, according to Bishop, is homogeneous congregations or clusters. If correct, this conclusion is sobering. But Bishop does not come to it lightly or amateurishly. His conclusions are arrived at only after conducting substantial research, and demonstrating knowledge of the subculture. He even delves into the "emerging church" (in Chapter 12) as a counterbalance or response to "megachurch" or "evangelical" models. As a result, Bishop delivers a surprising indictment of the American church within a book primarily marketed as a political study.

Two-for-the-price-of-one. Now that's value.

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