When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God
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A New York Times Notable Book
A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2012
A bold approach to understanding the American evangelical experience from an anthropological and psychological perspective by one of the country's most prominent anthropologists.
Through a series of intimate, illuminating interviews with various members of the Vineyard, an evangelical church with hundreds of congregations across the country, Tanya Luhrmann leaps into the heart of evangelical faith. Combined with scientific research that studies the effect that intensely practiced prayer can have on the mind, When God Talks Back examines how normal, sensible people—from college students to accountants to housewives, all functioning perfectly well within our society—can attest to having the signs and wonders of the supernatural become as quotidian and as ordinary as laundry. Astute, sensitive, and extraordinarily measured in its approach to the interface between science and religion, Luhrmann's book is sure to generate as much conversation as it will praise.
things we never notice because of our brain’s capacity to compensate. Our brains interpret the data before we see what we see. Idiosyncratically and opportunistically, our brains also seem to do something else. They organize inflowing data to allow us to see images, hear voices, and interpret other sensory phenomena that reflect what we are biased to infer about the world, rather than what is in the world before us. Most of the biases are mundane: expectations about the sounds people make, the
these imagined experiences the sensory vividness associated with the memories of real events. What they are able to imagine becomes more real to them, and God must be imagined, because God is immaterial. Proclivity for and training in absorption allows someone to tug on the line that our minds draw between the internal and the external, the line between me and other. That, indeed, is the great goal of daily practice in an evangelical church where God speaks back: to teach people to tug on that
like, I have to pray for this place.” Increasingly that meant, to her, that she should pray against the powers of darkness. She met another student who shared these views. They began praying early in the morning, for the campus and for their dormitory. They thought their dormitory was depressing, and they prayed against its gloom and the gloom of people within it. She began to feel that her prayers really made a difference in the lives of the people she prayed for. Not that she hadn’t thought
powerful spiritual experience can be generated by more than one faith, the texts of that faith seem like culture, not like immortal truths. The future pope seemed to agree with this observation. 31. The Dionysian text that deals most with the kataphatic is On the Divine Names, but this phrase comes from the Mystical Theology. 32. Burton-Christie 1993:109, Athanasius, Life of St. Anthony (Schaff and Wace, 1892:196). 33. 1 Corinthians 3:10; Carruthers 1998; Carruthers and Ziolkowski 2002. 34.
painful to be able to see things about someone’s life, to feel that pain. And if your heart isn’t compassionate, you don’t even feel it and you don’t see it. So it just takes that deepening of your relationship with God to be able to accept more of his love, to let him stretch your heart in these ways. People prayed for me a lot that God would stretch my heart and to be able to take more in.” The “stretching” of Sarah’s heart made her feel like she was a different person with other people: