When God Talks Back, Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God by T.M. Luhrmann is a compilation of stories, interviews, scientific data and research gathered and assembled from people of all walks of life and backgrounds. The pages are the result and assimilation of Luhrmann who is a an accomplished author and award winning psychological anthropologist. The author looks beyond the sea of Americans that claim a belief in God or affiliation with the church. Over a half dozen chapters in dives deeply into those whose lives and experiences have exhibited a faith that has produced miracles, signs, and wonders.
Of all the chapters, people, and accounts the chapter that stands out to me and capsulates the book is chapter eight: But Are They Crazy? In this chapter Luhrmann unpacks the parallels of an American Evangelical belief in the the supernatural: speaking to and hearing from God, the presence of spiritual beings, and the awareness and conflict with spiritual warfare. The author first looks at these beliefs from a secular perspective of a clinical diagnosis of psychosis. Although there are parallels and rational conclusions, Luhrmann informs and disarms the reader from the perspective of faith, theology, and historical data such as famous individuals like George Fox hearing an audible voice of God. This chapter is a great sampling of how the author unpacks the belief system of the American Evangelical and how a suspecting public views and categorizes American Evangelicalism. (She also quotes Dallas Willard on hearing the voice of God. Willard is one of my favorite theologians.)
But are “WE” crazy? This is a question that we have been exploring and processing these last few weeks. Are we crazy in that “what” we believe and in whom we place our trust is extremely counter to the cultural norms of our world today? Are we crazy in “how” we exhibit our faith in God through Jesus Christ, from the giving of our time, talents, gifts, and lives? Are we crazy to change a world that is so seemingly resistant to change and to the salvation that we offer? Are we crazy to think that in all of our serving, giving, and Going that we can actually make a difference today that is sustainable tomorrow? The answer is similar to how Luhrmann responds to the question concerning people who believe that God speaks, are they crazy or psychotic? “The short answer is no. The longer answer is perhaps yes, for some people, at some times. The relationship between spirituality and mental illness (crazy) is not straight forward.” (Luhrmann, 227)
For me, I do not think that we, fully devoted followers of Jesus, are crazy. However, I do think that we live in a world filled with people that are convinced we are crazy. But as Solomon states in Ecclesiastes, there is nothing new under the sun. The Gospels record how the religious leaders and the government officials pronounced Jesus as crazy. The book of Acts records how when an unsuspecting world came into contact with the manifest presence of God in the form of the Holy Spirit, they pronounced those in the upper room as crazy. Even the person that would write most of the New Testament under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul, believed Christians in the first century were crazy. My point is that the thought of an informed and inexperienced public has and will always view the way of the cross as crazy, until they experience the person of Jesus. Then we are no longer crazy, but we have the answer. But until then, we are crazy. The longer I read and process, the more comfortable I becoming with the title.