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When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God (Vintage) [Paperback]

T. M. Luhrmann
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

13 Nov 2012 Vintage

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. 

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Product details

  • Paperback: 434 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Books; Reprint edition (13 Nov 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307277275
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307277275
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 7.8 x 1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 300,780 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars When God talks back 7 Jan 2013
By studio
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Everyone who purports to hear God speak to them should read this book. Though I did not agree with the central thesis that ALL divine communication is imaginary - it is still a good test of listening to your own thoughts, or not. Much of what is claimed as 'divine' probably fits into the imaginary category - but some communications are supernatural. This book does not examine these - nor does it differentiate between 'supernatural' and 'imaginary'. Still a great read with empirical evidences.
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  61 reviews
121 of 124 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Source for Discussion 10 April 2012
By Alex Van Riesen - Published on Amazon.com
I am the current Lead Pastor of the Vineyard Christian Fellowship of the Peninsula (VCFP), which is one of the two churches Mrs. Luhrmann attended while researching and experiencing what eventually became this book. I am grateful for the perspective of someone coming into our church, who does not identify themselves as a Christian, and sharing with us (VCFP) what they experienced. I think there is a lot for us as a church to discuss, in terms of what those who visit our churches experience and what it says to them both about our church and about God. I also find Mrs. Luhrmann's observations helpful in having a more robust conversation about what experiencing God is like, or can be, in our culture today. While I do not identify with everything she describes, nor would I always define things the same way, I find her observations and insights engaging and enlightening. I would love for every church in the Vineyard movement to discuss this book and how it either does or does not reflect their congregation, but then ask the bigger questions of why or why not. In that process we can all have a more clear understanding of why we do what we do, and possibly - hopefully - even have a better understanding of what those who do not follow Jesus experience when they visit our churches. I think that should matter a lot to us. Finally, I consider Mrs. Luhrmann a friend and enjoy my conversations with her. I appreciate most that she is asking questions and looking to learn and grow. This book displays her sensitivity, compassion and kindness - as well as her intellect - in very clear ways. I recommend this book highly.
30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Model of Christian Practice for both believers and nonbelievers 24 May 2012
By Jeremy Garber - Published on Amazon.com
An excellent, sympathetic, yet well-researched and objective look at how "revivalist evangelicals" train their brains to literally experience God. Luhrmann, an anthropologist, spent years with Vineyard Christians as a participant-observer to explore how they maintained faith in a God that was not directly available to their ordinary senses. Luhrmann also devised a sophisticated experiment that connected various forms of prayer with the psychological tendency to "absorption," that is, becoming totally enveloped in a particular activity. She concludes that prayer in an evangelical sense is not centered on belief - especially not on unwavering belief - but rather on cognitive techniques that allow one to become "absorbed" in reconstructing a world in which God exists. The "kataphatic" tradition, or visualizing oneself in connection with Scripture and God, provided particularly striking results. Luhrmann's style is simultaneously intensely readable and intellectually rigorous. She lays out a way for both believers and nonbelievers to understand Christian practice in a 21st century world. A paradigmatic example of participant observation at its best.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Deeply Insighful and Mind-Opening Study 8 May 2012
By Tom Dylan - Published on Amazon.com
Even though I do not believe in a supernatural God, I am always fascinated by my religious friends' ability to have faith. This book gave me much more understanding how the human mind can make something unreal seem alive and real for these people. I always thought religious people are borderline insane. But so many supposedly very smart people (I have deeply religious friends who are physicians, even genetic biologists). This book also made me much more feeling sympathetic to these people. Because we are humans capable of rational (or irrational) thought, we all desire to be loved, to be cared, to have a social companion.

Some of the psychological studies are also interesting. Such as the test given to evaluate mental insanity conducted on these Vineyard specimens. The study seems to indicate these Vineyard religious people relate to God positively, when asked if they feel to have been followed or spied upon, they said no. But they always feel the presence of God not associated with negative, but with love and care. If a person feel some hostile force following them, they are likely to react violently, but if they feel a benevolent force following them, they feel much more at peace.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Snappy Writing with a Fresh Perspective. 13 April 2012
By melinda athey - Published on Amazon.com
Luhrmann is an interesting person. I appreciate her openness and candor. Her interview on Fresh Air was worth listening to as well.[..]

Luhrmann says about community..."The community is crucial, snarky as its members can be. It is tempting to look at this modern evangelical experience of God and see it as profoundly individualistic: me and my relationship with God. And that view certainly captures something real. But it takes a great deal of work for the community to teach people to develop these apparently private and personal relationships with God. The community can help someone to stick it out and keep them at it, just as community can help to keep someone sober and to get them to the gym. It may take a kick in the rear to get people to the gym in the first place... but it is the friends they work out with who keep them there. " p. 279.

Luhrmann is a snappy writer with a fresh perspective. Well done.
19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A tour of many forces 16 April 2012
By R. Ornstein - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A tour de force, as were her earlier books, Luhrmann has, like a not-so-secret agent, penetrated the "societies" of witchcraft, the Parsis (Parsi friends were amazed at her work) and, even, Psychiatrists. Unusually, she combines skills that are rarely joined in one person, a discerning choice of topic, empathy with the subject, at the same time the objectivity to record experience, and an understanding of other disciplines that bear on the subject. In this case those include evolutionary psychology and old regular psychology. And, she is a teriffic writer. Here she presents a worldview living aside the rational that has taken millions of adherents, and yet is completely unintelligible to most of the rest of us. "Evangelicals" calls up, to the receptive mind, either missionaries, or the Christian moralist, socially-engaged. But these aren't the evangelicals of William Wilberforce, but people looking for an inner voice "of God". It's a daily search for them, to feel a closeness with a divine presence right here and now. Luhrmann is compelling in describing these intimacies. Overall, it is not a heavenward or otherworldly pursuit but quotidian to the core, even sometimes shockingly so, asking God for, not only a car (vide Janis Joplin's "Oh Lawd wontcha buyme a Mercedes-Benz") but a red one specifically. We come to follow their pursuit intimately, a look not before, I think, ever presented. The author shws us, closely, this quest. Very valuable.
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