Coming out of a week long meeting I can say that this book spoke to me (not always in a positive way) about our walk and conversations with the one true guide in this life. I am writing this both tired from travel and leading this meeting. So I hope that this response is not centered on a reactive weary and defensive follower of God. I am not a charismatic yet have been involved in many prayer times where I walked away feeling that I knew the direction God wanted me to go. I do believe that God is active and moving in the lives of those that seek Him. This is lived out and conveyed in ways that are unique to our way of understanding Him and His work in our life. So all that to say that we hear the way we have been taught and trained to hear by our culture, our family or by the leading of God.
Lurmann says, ”The way I think about it as an anthropologist, I don’t have the authority to pronounce on whether God is real or whether God is not real,” she tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross. “I don’t feel like I have a horse in that race. I don’t feel I have the authority to say whether God showed up to somebody or did not. I do think that if God speaks to someone, God speaks to the human mind. And I can say something about the social, cultural and psychological features of what that person is experiencing.”1 The biggest issue I have with a book like this is that it is written from what seems to be an outside perspective making judgments of all evangelicals from the peephole of the Vineyard world alone. Brian Swaim says, “…having no background in evangelical Christianity or, one gathers, in Christianity of any kind, occasionally doesn’t know what she is talking about…[He continues identifying the] subjects simply as “American evangelicals.” But writing a book about American evangelicals and interviewing only Vineyardites is a bit like writing a travel book about the British Isles without leaving Inverness.”2
Molly Worthen, of the New York Times responded this way, “Luhrmann goes too far in suggesting that evangelicalism is all feeling and no dogma… the heart has wholly conquered the head. We cannot account for evangelicals’ history or their role in politics without paying attention to the substance of their beliefs and the social and scientific lessons their communities teach them to draw from the Bible — lessons reinforced, perhaps, by the sound of God’s voice that they discern in their own ears…The most convincing “proof” of religion is not scientific but psychological. There is no way to undo the conviction of believers that God himself told them he is real and his story is true.”3
So I can see how we can get all upset with what seems like an interloper talking and critiquing part of our faith that many of us would not feel we needed an analysis of. With this in mind I do strive to find God’s truth and teaching in all areas of this world, let’s take a look at what I was reminded of as I read about this book, quotes from it and various reviews. Lurmann says about Christians, “They have a sense of God being wise and good and loving, and they talk to God in their minds and talk about their problems, and then they are seeking to experience themselves as seeing it from the perspective of a loving God who then reflects back on their anxieties and interprets them differently.”4 I was reminded this week that we are people that need to hear God and know that He interacts in our world today; whether that is a Vineyard style or a quiet contemplative moment at Mass. To this believer we are talking about Sabbath. This is not simply the day but a true Sabbath in which we can know, sense and understand who we are in God. This grapevine-like abiding draws us close through his Word, his community and ultimately His voice. This idea of Sabbath, that we leaders have such a hard time with, tells us that we need to stop (cease and desist)…stop the frantic scrambling to get more done..stop the doing and the trying and (not just go to church) learn to but rest in His presence. How I learn to cease, to rest, embrace and feast on his Word, reflects the trust and love I have for God.
The author quoted Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ “Fall in love with God, stay in love with God, and it will change everything…”. There is the truth. No matter the experience or the journey. We are to stay in love with God….
“It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, whom you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in Love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.”5
I don’t know about any of you, but I can be a whole lot less critical of a book that in the end reminds me of my place in Christ and my desire to embrace and rest in His presence.
Accessed Feb. 14, 2019
2Swain, Brian https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702303816504577314063168857308
accessed February 14, 2019
3 Worthen, Molly. https://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/29/books/review/when-god-talks-back-by-tm-
luhrmann.html Accessed Feb. 14, 2019
4 Luhrmann, T. M. When God Talks Back : Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God. 1st ed. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2012.
accessed February 17, 2019