Integrated-Integrating Pedagogy: A Practical Theological analysis of fragmented spirituality among African American adolescents Open Access

Wright, Almeda Michelle (2010)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/4f16c336v?locale=en
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Abstract

The purpose of this dissertation is to clarify the definition of fragmented
spirituality and to present a three part practical theological analysis of fragmented
spirituality among African American adolescents. Fragmented spirituality occurs when a
person's deeply held religious beliefs are separated from other critical issues or areas of
their life; such as a belief in a personally transformative and protective God and
experiences of racism where one never names God as working or calling one to work to
end racism.

This dissertation attends to the on-the-ground realities of African American youth
and African American churches through semi-structured interviews and surveys with a
sample of African American Christian adolescents. The data outline their understandings
of their spirituality and its connections to their identity and communal engagement. This
section also explores the formal teachings of African American churches through an
analysis of Urban Ministries, Inc. curriculum and sermons from a national sample of
African American churches.

In the second section, this dissertation explores a larger conversation about the
connection of religion to American public life. It explores the ways that fragmentation in
African American adolescent spirituality can be a symptom of trends in the broader
American context towards individualism and separation of religion and civic
engagement. This conversation highlights the psychological, sociological and theological
dimensions of fragmentation. In this section, I also name alternatives to the problematic
effects of fragmentation: These alternatives emerge from the historical and theological
legacy of African American churches, Womanist Spirituality, and Black Liberation
theologies.

In the third and final section, I continue the exploration of alternatives to
fragmented spirituality and offer pedagogical strategies for fostering an integrated-
integrating spirituality-
spirituality that empowers youth to hold together the seemingly
disparate arenas of their lives, to tap into the resources of their faith communities and
learn from historical and current faith exemplars, in order to see themselves as capable of
affecting change on individual, communal, and societal levels. These strategies include
tapping into the spiritual disciplines and worship practices of African American churches
and pushing youth to embrace critical reflection and transformative action as essential
religious practices.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Chapter One

Introduction: Is God Big Enough? ...................................................................................................1
Integrated-Integrating Spirituality ...................................................................................... 9

Chapter Two
Practical Theological Interpretation and Research Methodology .................................................. 13
Practical Theological Approach to Fragmented Spirituality ............................................. 19
Practical Theology and Youth .......................................................................................... 24
Methodologies with Marginal and Historically Oppressed Communities ........................ 27

Part I: Mapping the Terrain
Attending to the Lives and Spiritual Formation of African American Adolescents
What's Going On?

Chapter Three
Talking Fragments: African American Adolescents' Voices and
Perspectives on Spirituality and Fragmentation .....................................................................29
Individual Narratives ........................................................................................................ 32
Collective Themes ............................................................................................................ 55
Connecting the Fragments ................................................................................................ 74


Chapter Four
From Sunday School to Sermons:
African American Churches and Educational ministry with youth ........................................... 76
Sunday School Curriculum ............................................................................................... 78
Sermons ..................................................................................................................... 106
Collective Trends: Summary of Findings ....................................................................... 131

Part II: Critical and Constructive Reflection
Shedding Theoretical Light on the Dimensions of Fragmented Spiritualities
Why is it going on? & What should be going on?

Chapter Five
Fragmentation in Context: Exploring Dimensions of Fragmentation in Society ......................... 139
Psychological Dimensions of Fragmentation and Fragmented Spirituality .................... 139
Fragmentation and Identity Development ...................................................................... 143
Sociological Dimensions of Fragmentation and Fragmented Spirituality ...................... 154
Secularization and Privatization of Religion .................................................................. 154
American Religion: American Individualism .................................................................. 158
Moralistic Therapeutic Deism ........................................................................................ 161

Chapter Six

Tapping into the Legacy:
African American Spirituality and Theological Alternatives to Fragmented Spirituality ........... 166
The Black Church and African American Spirituality .................................................... 166
Normative Theological Conceptions .............................................................................. 177


Part III: Improved Practice with African American Adolescents
Fostering Integrated-Integrating Spirituality
How can we respond?

Chapter Seven
Towards a Critical Pedagogy of Integrated-Integrating Spirituality ............................................ 201
Pedagogical Dimensions of Fragmentation .................................................................... 202
Pedagogical Alternatives and Responses to Fragmented Spirituality ............................. 210
Reconnecting with the Legacy: Religious Education as Formation ............................... 212
Critical Radical Pedagogy: Religious Education as Transformation ............................ 228

Chapter Eight
Conclusion: Hope and a Plan ...................................................................................................... 249


Bibliography ............................................................................................................................. 264





List of Appendices

Appendix A
Institutional Review Board Protocol

Appendix B
Interview Schedule

Appendix C
Survey Questions
Summary of Youth Survey Responses

Appendix D
Sermon Demographics

About this Dissertation

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