The study of vernacular religion is often confined to the discussion of ‘folk religion’ in a rather derogatory and sterile manner. An attempt is made to correct this by describing seven ideal-typical ways in which vernacular religion can be studied and defined. The seven types or discussions are: 1) whether vernacular religion represents elitist or popular religious practices and the nature of New Religious Movements; 2) the study of cults and New Religious Movements; 3) vernacular religion as folklore; 4) Bellah's concept of ‘civil religion’ and its application to modern British culture particularly as it relates to public expressions of mourning; 5) ecclesiastical historians' use of the concept in historical studies; 6) Küng's use of paradigm as formulated by Kuhn, discussed in the context of two examples of modern usage of the term in vernacular religion; and 7) vernacular religion and modern hermeneutics as preachers attempt to relate local practices to their congregations. In order to use any combinations of these constructions in a positive manner, it is suggested that we develop a diagnostic technique which recognises that people have an inherent desire to discover ways of relating everyday experience to their religious expression. Such a method is developed using both Murphy and Tracy to show how attention may be paid to vernacular religion without succumbing to the trap of relativism.
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