The Complexities of Religious Reintegration

A group of friends have started a Beer & Book Club which meets twice a month to discuss a book of the group’s choosing.  For our inaugural selection, we recently finished Radical Reinvention by Kaya Oakes, which I highly recommend to anyone interested in religion in the American context. The book was similar in style to works by Anne Lamont or Sara Miles, both of which I immensely enjoy.  Radical Reinvention is fast-paced and irreverent, but also very authentic.  One of the looming questions that I continued to ask while I read the work was: Is Kaya radically reinventing herself or the catholic Church? I forgot to ask this to my book club, so I cannot offer any type of group answer.  And for those who have not read the work, I will let each of you reach your own conclusions.  

I do not wish to offer a complete summary of Radical Reinvention, but to ask a larger question regarding religious reintegration.  Oakes paints a picture of an open-arm acceptance by the Catholic Church for her return.  As a matter of fact, Oakes seems to be the one that slowly accepts reintegration into the Catholic Church, not the other way around.  

But is this typically the case? Are religious adherents who chose to leave always allowed back? Oakes’ story not only allows her to reintegrate, but on her terms.  I am not so sure that many religious devotees would be so fortunate.  I think that many returning faithful would have to make some sort of public apology/confession and offer an oral statement of re-commitment. 

This has got me curious to whether any social scientific studies have been conducted to determine the complexities of religious reintegration? Do the more fundamentalist religions require more from devotees wishing to reintegrate? Are there religious traditions which prohibit reintegration (like the Amish?).


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