Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name



Religious and Theological Studies

First Advisor

Katherine Turpin, Ph.D.


Christian spiritualities, Post-secular spirituality


In 1981, Catholic theologian Karl Rahner wrote about the increasingly lonely experience of the individual seeking an experience of God, a reaction to the continuing decline of church attendance and religious adherence. This prediction echoes today in the emergence of a plethora of spiritual offerings available to individuals outside of religious institutions. This suggests that many are seeking resources for spiritual wellbeing that were previously found or at least anticipated through religious affiliation. Two points of contention between emerging and traditional Christian spiritualities are centered on the locus of authority and the role of community, areas this dissertation explores.

"Spirituality" is emerging in unexpected ways and places, defying widespread predictions of secularization, leading some theorists to refer to this phenomenon as "post-secular" spirituality. This dissertation is a thematic analysis of post-secular spirituality as articulated in recent qualitative studies of the spiritual but not religious, embodied by the story of a composite character. A description of this reality provides a foundation for analyzing two representative understandings of authority and community: a traditional Christian and a post-secular multi-media approach to spirituality. I study these expressions of lived religion as a Catholic practical theologian, interested in how the Spirit of God works to inspire people to new forms of spiritual expression, and how the field of practical theology can enrich and facilitate the cultural conversation.

The understandings of the affiliated and non-affiliated in the areas of community and authority emerge as less distinctive than anticipated. Authority is engaged differently, with post-secular approaches focusing on learning from teachers and developing formative spiritual practices. Temporary communities build around these practices, and they share the characteristic of fluidity with many affiliated religious practitioners who seek relevancy and meaning through changing communities. A consumer-driven, wellbeing approach to spirituality is practiced by both groups, and continues to gain traction. Nuanced understandings of community and authority are actually held by both systems, as they seek a common goal of meaningful living. The potential for transformation lies in the process of respectful and authentic engagement between these differing approaches to the "more" in life.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.


Received from ProQuest

Rights holder

Paula J. Lee

File size

201 p.

File format





Theology, Spirituality, Religion