When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God

  • Title: When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God
  • Author: T.M. Luhrmann
  • ISBN: 9780307277275
  • Page: 140
  • Format: Paperback
  • When God Talks Back Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God A New York Times Notable BookA Kirkus Reviews Best Book of A bold approach to understanding the American evangelical experience from an anthropological and psychological perspective by one of the
    A New York Times Notable BookA Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2012A 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 cA New York Times Notable BookA Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2012A 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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    About T.M. Luhrmann


    1. Tanya Marie Luhrmann is currently the Watkins University Professor in the Anthropology Department at Stanford University She has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and has been the recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship Tanya Marie Luhrmann born 1959 is an American psychological anthropologist best known for her studies of modern day witches, charismatic Christians, and psychiatrists She received her AB summa cum laude in Folklore and Mythology from Harvard Radcliffe in 1981, working with Stanley Tambiah She then studied Social Anthropology at Cambridge University, working with Jack Goody and Ernest Gellner In 1986 she received her PhD for work on modern day witches in England, later published as Persuasions of the Witch s Craft 1989 In this book, she described the ways in which magic and other esoteric techniques both serve emotional needs and come to seem reasonable through the experience of practice.Her second research project looked at the situation of contemporary Parsis, a Zoroastrian community in India The Parsi community enjoyed a privileged position under the British Raj although by many standards, Parsis have continued to do quite well economically in post colonial India, they have become politically marginal in comparison to their previous position, and many Parsis speak pessimistically about the future of their community Luhrmann s book The Good Parsi 1996 explored the contradictions inherent in the social psychology of a post colonial elite.Her third book, and the most widely acclaimed, explored the contradictions and tensions between two models of psychiatry, the psychodynamic psychoanalytic and the biomedical, through the ethnographic study of the training of American psychiatry residents during the health care transition of the early 1990s Of Two Minds 2000 received several awards, including the Victor Turner Prize for Ethnographic Writing and the Boyer Prize for Psychological Anthropology 2001.Her fourth book, When God Talks Back Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God March 2012 , examines the growing movement of evangelical and charismatic Christianity, and specifically how practitioners come to experience God as someone with whom they can communicate on a daily basis through prayer and visualization.Other projects she is working on include a NIMH funded study of how life on the streets chronically or periodically homeless contributes to the experience and morbidity of schizophrenia.


    982 Comments


    1. This book reads as if the author were trying to convert people to the Vineyard prosperity church. I thought when I bought it that it was more of a critical analysis of their belief system. So, since I am critical of this movement, I will offer my own views.Little negativity comes out of the author's mouth about this church, and yet distractors are there and are telling their stories on the internet. They are hurt, shunned, depressed, and discouraged. Of course, since the church doesn't allow neg [...]

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    2. When God Talks Back by T.M. Luhrmann is one of the most impressive nonfiction books I have read in some time. Luhrmann is articulate, dynamic and poetic, while effectively conveying the information expected from quality nonfiction.This book is an in-depth look at the spiritual life of today's evangelical Protestants, particularly those in the Vineyard and similar churches, which have a decidedly experiential bent to their worship. Luhrmann chronicles the spiritual and social lives of this subcul [...]

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    3. “Listen,” he said, “I don’t care what you say about me or anything, but if you start making cracks about my goddam religion for Chrissake—”“Relax,” I said. “Nobody’s making any cracks about your goddam religion.”—J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the RyeWhen this book unexpectedly plopped onto my ‘to-read’ list, I had high hopes. I’ve long been interested in the social science of religion, and this was a full-blown anthropological and psychological investigation of a re [...]

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    4. After listening to really interesting interview with author on Fresh Air yesterday, I decided to add this. I was impressed with how respectful and open-minded Luhrmann was in describing practices -- which some / many would probably find pretty unconventional, to say the least -- of Vineyard evangelicals and with how candid she was in discussing her own ambivalent spiritual leanings.Update: 5.2.12 Interesting review from NYT nytimes/2012/04/29/boo

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    5. T.M. Luhrmann is a psychological anthropologist, and in this book she examines the growing movement of evangelical and charismatic Christianity, and specifically how practitioners come to experience God as someone with whom they can communicate on a daily basis through prayer and visualization. The information in this book is based upon observations made over a four year period during which the author was fully immersed in their prayer and worship activities at a very emotional and heart felt le [...]

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    6. I found this book to be entirely fascinating. I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in the history, anthropology, or psychology of religion.I have heard many people say that, after they prayed about some problem they had or decision they had, God told them what to do. I wondered what they really meant. This book addresses the psychology and anthropology of that experience.In this book, T. M. Luhrmann, a professor of anthropology at Stanford University, discusses the experience of membe [...]

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    7. Explaining Why So Many Christians Pray So VividlyIt’s easy to mistake this new book by Dr. Tanya Luhrmann, an anthropologist with training in psychology as well, for a book that tries to “explain away” religious experiences. She spent four years researching men and women in congregations that could be described as evangelical or Pentecostal. She was looking closely at the reasons these people develop such vivid, expressive prayer lives. How do they come to feel God is so alive in their rel [...]

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    8. I wanted to read this book because I do not at all understand charismatic Christianity, and rather than be off-put by its (to my eyes) obsessively present and dominating relationship with God (2 + 2 + Jesus = 4, but 2 + 2 is somehow impossible), I wanted to understand what it meant to those who practice it. Really, I wanted to understand how it could be so meaningful to them while appearing so foreign and false to me. This book is an excellent resource; it is thoughtful, well-researched, nuanced [...]

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    9. Anyone who wants a better understanding of American Evangelicalism should read this book; it's wonderful. Although her fieldwork is done in a Vineyard church, so it's focused mostly on the charismatic strain of evangelicalism, that strain is so influential in the broader evangelical movement - particularly through music and practices of spirituality - that I think it's really worth a good look.There's something really refreshing to me about talking about spiritual practices in the academic langu [...]

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    10. I started to read this book expecting it will explain and help me understand why evangelicals act so 'crazy'. What it really did was to convince me that they really are crazy, and, what's worse, neither them nor the author is willing to admit it. Come on, you are walking around with a voice in your head that you named 'God', you set up romantic dates with him, ask him to help you choose your clothesd you still think this is normal??? I was disgusted and horrified, especially by the fact that the [...]

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    11. This book was incredible. Regardless of your religious or faith affiliation, you should read this book. Luhrmann is an incredibly talented anthropologist and writer, a feat that is probably not mutually exclusive.

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    12. I listened to the Fresh Air interview with the author and immediately put this book on my list. I wasn't disappointedr/2012/03/26/1493949A trained psychological anthropologist, T.M. Luhrmann set out to answer three questions: How does God become real for people? How are sensible people able to believe in an invisible being who has a demonstratable effect on their lives? And how can they sustain that belief in the face of what skeptical observers think must be inevitable disconfirmation? She spen [...]

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    13. As a christian Unitarian Universalist who has a strong personal prayer life, I was intrigued by Luhrmann's research. I certainly recommend this book to its intended audience - rationalists who are perplexed why and how other seemingly rational and smart people can have deep mystical prayer lives. My own experiences resonate with many of Luhrmann's insights, including the way mystical experience thrives in a doubting and critical world. For those seeking greater mystical communion, there are othe [...]

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    14. Let me preface with that I really did not like this book, as, I'm sure, is evident from my review below. I mean, honestly, the terrible analogies alone were enough to drive me insane. I'm not very religious, but, coming from a Catholic background, I found a large portion of this book to be absolutely horrifying. Anyway, this is what I had to write for my History of Christianity class.****Today, approximately seventy-nine percent of American adults believe in God or a “higher power.” Of these [...]

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    15. The subtitle of Tanya Luhrmann's When God Talks Back describes the book as an attempt to understand "the American Evangelical Relationship with God". Luhrmann's focus on "relationship with God" means that she is not trying to understand evangelicalism as a social-political movement or theological system, but as a particular way of being in the world, a theory of mind. Luhrmann is particularly interested in that section of evangelicalism that takes seriously the claim that Christianity is "a rel [...]

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    16. Lurhmann conducts an ethnographic study of Vineyard churchgoers (a charismatic American evangelical strain), seeking to find out what exactly happens in believer's minds when they encounter what they experience to be God. Impressive in its breadth and depth, Luhrmann's book finds that some people are more predisposed to experience God and that one can train oneself (precisely what the churches help do) to experience the presence of God.

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    17. T.M. Luhrmann's "When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God" is a fascinating, in-depth look at the spiritual lives of Christians and how they hear and experience God in their lives. However, the subtitle is too bold. Luhrmann's study is more a study on charismatic Christians (many of whom ARE evangelical), particularly those who are members of the Vineyard, but there are many different streams of evangelicalism. There will be SOME similarities between char [...]

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    18. This is one of the best books on prayer I've read and it's written by a self-professed unbeliever! Luhrmann is an anthropologist who studies and immerses herself in the practical religious world of the Vineyard and other 3rd wave renewalist-style soft charismatic evangelical churches. She examines the cultivation of the idea of a super personal God and interaction that takes place between the congregant and this invisible yet more real than real idea. She approaches the practices of prayer as so [...]

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    19. It is a good sign when a book hangs out in your head long after you've put it down. This is one of those books. This may not be the book to read if you want an overall understanding of the state of religion in the US, or if you are looking for a broad understanding of Evangelicalism across the world. It is the right book if you want to understand what people mean when they say they talk to God. Reading Luhrmann's book feels like sitting down and having a really interesting conversation. Her writ [...]

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    20. Definitely the most thought-provoking book I have read in a while.I have been a devote atheist my entire life and this book did not change my beliefs one bit.But, it did give me a better perspective of evangelicals.When I was in elementary or junior high school every once in a while I'd watch one of the silly faith-healing televangelists on TV. "Evil spirits come OUT!" I thought it was the funniest thing I had ever seen. As I got older, I just thought it was one more sign that there are some rea [...]

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    21. Luhrmann has created a significant work to bridge the chasm in understanding for rationalists and skeptics when coming to terms with the evangelical Christian world. This world is one that is largely incomprehensible and Luhrmann makes it much more accessible, yet old epistemological debates about the ways of human knowledge of the universe will surface from the memories of Philosophy 101 classes. Empirical reality is over here, one's direct experience is over there and the question becomes, do [...]

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    22. My four-year-old asked me recently how God speaks to us. Her picture book said that “you hear God with your heart,” which is a bit confusing, so I picked up Tanya Luhrmann’s excellent study on how charismatic Evangelicals hear God’s voice to find out the answer for myself. A psychological anthropologist by training, Luhrmann spent over four years as a member of two Vineyard churches – one in Chicago, the other in California – and joined small groups as well as attending regular praye [...]

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    23. 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 to [...]

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    24. Luhrmann is an interesting person. I appreciate her openness and candor. Her interview on Fresh Air was worth listening to as well. npr/2012/03/26/1493949. 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 peopl [...]

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    25. As a liberal with a Jewish background, I have definitely encountered a great deal of skepticism and even hostility towards evangelical Christians. This book, written by anthropologist/psychologist T.M. Luhrmann, did a lot to encourage my understanding and empathy for this population, something I think is important for me personally, disagree as I may with some of their politics. Luhrmann describes the complex and subtle mental processes and practices that American evangelical Christians use to m [...]

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    26. My only complaint about this book is that Luhrmann conflates the Vineyard tradition and spirituality with the entirety of Evangelical tradition and spirituality. However, if you simply substitute "Vineyard" every time she says "Evangelical", you'll be fine.Perhaps because Luhrmann came from outside of the church, she's not steeped in Christian-ese and the trappings of Evangelical Christian thinking, which can be abstract and circular. Her presentation is exceedingly down-to-earth, considering an [...]

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    27. I am amazed at the author's depth of knowledge of various religious traditions, her ability to compare them, and her insight into the methodology of each of them. I have read about spiritual disciplines extensively and have never seen anyone describe them better. She also writes quite well, creating narratives that are compelling and describing characters that are interesting and sympathetic.

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    28. Honestly, I read only half of it and then skimmed the last half. It was good at the beginning but then it just started analyzing and revealing information that as someone that grew up in an evangelical church, I already know. It's okay I guess. Probably people who aren't familiar with evangelical Christianity would get more out of it

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    29. T. M. Luhrmann is a psychological anthropologist who teaches at Stanford University. She attended the Vineyard congregations in Chicago and California for years as she interviewed the believers about their experiences and beliefs. This is a fascinating book with extensive footnotes and bibliographic sources from evangelical, Catholic, atheist, psychological and anthropological writings.

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    30. Loved it. It is so refreshing to find an academic book that is both well-researched and respectful to Christianity. Explained a lot to me about a culture of which I am not a native! This book will keep me thinking for a long time.

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