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WHEN GOD TALKS BACK by T.M. Luhrmann Kirkus Star


Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God

by T.M. Luhrmann

Pub Date: March 27th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-307-26479-4
Publisher: Knopf

A simultaneously scholarly and deeply personal analysis of evangelical communities in America.

Luhrmann (Anthropology/Stanford Univ.; Of Two Minds: An Anthropologist Looks at American Psychiatry, 2000) entered the Vineyard Christian Fellowship openly—declaring herself an anthropologist who wanted to understand the evangelical way and mind—and she was both welcomed and eventually somewhat transformed. Near the end, Lurhmann writes that although she’s not sure she’d call herself a Christian, she has “come to know God.” She begins by describing the current evangelical movement—how widespread it is, how God has become an intimate friend rather than a harsh judge and how evangelicals largely avoid theodicy. She sketches the history of the Vineyard and attributes to the 1960s counterculture some of the spiritual energy that animates the evangelical movement. As the title suggests, the author devotes much of her discussion to the conversation between believers and their God, a conversation facilitated by specific techniques of prayer. She spends many pages talking about the problem of hearing God’s voice and attempts to cover all bases. For example, she includes major passages about the long history of the phenomenon, schizophreniaand skeptics’ reservations and disdain. Lurhmann underwent extensive prayer training, and her research is substantial—years of commitment, countless interviews, extensive endnotes and a vast bibliography. She accords deep respect for those whose religious experiences are scientifically unverifiable, and she concludes that evangelicals have, to a great extent, reprogrammed their brains and that they and skeptics live in alternate universes. One topic she does not raise: the economics of the movement. Who’s getting rich in the evangelical world? Does it matter?

An erudite discussion both profoundly sympathetic and richly analytical.