Seeing and Believing

I am an image of very little consequence, and ...

A review of T. M. Luhrmann’s When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God: “Luhrmann is a well-qualified guide: an anthropologist specializing in esoteric faiths. Her dissertation was on witch-and-warlock cults in contemporary England. Later, she wrote a book on the Parsis, a Zoroastrian community in India. Her most recent book was the highly praised Of Two Minds, a study of psychiatric residents and their handling of patients who had visions, among other problems. Almost always, Luhrmann has written with sympathy, not scorn, for these convinced people.

Nevertheless, she is a scientist, and believes in evidence. She spent two years as a full-time member of an evangelical church in Chicago, and another two years in a congregation in Palo Alto. (Those are the cities where she was teaching during that period, first at the University of Chicago, then at Stanford.) Both churches were part of the Vineyard Christian Fellowship, which came together in California in the nineteen-sixties and seventies, and now has about fifteen hundred congregations around the world. Most of the members of the churches that Luhrmann attended were white, middle class, college-educated, and centrist. They weren’t Pentecostals (that is, most of them didn’t speak in tongues or heal the sick). But neither were they just conservative Christians. In Luhrmann’s words, they placed “a flamboyant emphasis on the direct experience of God.” If you made contact with him, they believed, he would become your intimate, someone “who loves and cuddles you.

How do you find this God?” (via The New Yorker)

The Sacrifices of War

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A review of War and the American Difference by Stanley Hauerwas: “…the American version of modernity is uniquely defined by two special errors: the illusion that modern freedom and Christian witness are reconciled in America and the belief that America’s wars are redemptive, replacing the truly redemptive sacrifice of Christ with the blood sacrifices of soldiers who kill and die from one American generation to the next.

These two errors become one error: American patriotism becomes a false form of Christian piety, and killing for the nation becomes a dark and devilish project of killing for God. War, as Hauerwas puts it, is America’s altar.” (via First Things)

Autism: Awareness is Not Enough

Autism Awareness

April 2 has been designated as World Autism Awareness Day (did you know?). But Steve Silberman explains why that is not enough:

“No matter where you stand on the rising numbers, there is one undeniably shocking thing about them. Once that 1-in-88 kid grows to adulthood, our society offers little to enable him or her to live a healthy, secure, independent, and productive life in their own community. When kids on the spectrum graduate from high school, they and their families are often cut adrift — left to fend for themselves in the face of dwindling social services and even less than the meager level of accommodations available to those with other disabilities.

Meanwhile, the lion’s share of the money raised by star-studded “awareness” campaigns goes into researching potential genetic and environmental risk factors — not to improving the quality of life for the millions of autistic adults who are already here, struggling to get by. At the extreme end of the risks they face daily is bullying, abuse, and violence, even in their own homes…”

He goes on to ask a group of self-advocates, parents and teachers how to go beyond once-a-year ‘awareness’ to create a truly neurodiverse society. (via NeuroTribes)