Date of Award

Spring 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Andrew Buckser

Committee Chair

Andrew Buckser

Committee Member 1

Richard Blanton

Committee Member 2

Myrdene Anderson

Committee Member 3

Dan Olson


This dissertation explores how families are formed and spiritual kinship is created by members of the Body of Christ evangelical parachurch ministry at one public university in the United States. Spiritual relatedness is used to conceptualize members' social relationships and demonstrate the diverse forms of Christian community that emerge in the lives of young adults. Results from this study provide an alternative perspective to social science literature labeling Christianity as an individualistic belief system. It also contributes to continuing dialogue within the anthropology of Christianity, which seeks to describe and understand what it means to be Christian. I argue that spiritual relatedness is a foundational and adaptable subcultural resource tool that is learned, lived, and performed by believers. This form of sociality emerges partly as a response to the conditions of modernity and the need for "authenticity." According to participants, to be Christian one must be "authentic," to be authentic one must live a "relational" life. While only a portion of ministry members incorporate this ideal form of sociality into their lives, it is nonetheless a central ideological framework from which all believers can foster "authentic" Christian selves.