Christianity, Crashes, and Special Experiences



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Paul Harvey

Good stuff over at Immanent Frame:

First, a little follow-up on Darren's post from yesterday: "Christianity and the Crash," collects a number of scholarly responses to Hanna Rosin's article "Did Christianity Cause the Crash," from the December 2009 Atlantic. Our friends Anthea Butler and Jon Walton weigh in, along with Mark Taylor, Harvey Cox, and several others. Most point to the longevity and durability of the "prosperity gospel," and explore the issue in deeper ways than is possible in a magazine piece. I like Jon Walton's take:
To assert the relationship as causal, as several articles have, grants way too much credit to a motley crew of preachers while shifting our attention away from destructive governmental deregulatory policies and the pernicious speculatory financial practices of Wall Street. The financial sophistication of most of the prosperity preachers still remains at the level of how to collect more crumbled dollar bills in the bucket on Sunday. And, like most Americans, I am pretty sure Kenneth Copeland and Creflo Dollar have little understanding of a derivative bubble or the implications of repealing the Glass Steagall Act. . . . . It seems there is plenty of blame to go around here. And I would prefer to start at the top and not the bottom.

The Study of Special Experiences: An Interview with Ann Taves, Nathan Schneider's interview with AAR President Ann Taves, explores the intersections in Taves's work between "religion" and "experience," and more broadly between the humanistic study of religion and the biological study of human experience. A brief excerpt:

NS: Why do you begin with the category of experience?

AT: For much of the twentieth century, scholars of religion considered “religious experience” central to the study of religion. In the last 20 years or so that approach came in for sharp criticism. Many scholars wanted to get away from it because it seemed to suggest an experiential essence of religion and turned instead to analyzing discourses about experience. But I don’t think we can afford to throw experience out, because embodied experience is where culture and biology meet.

NS: How can experience be resuscitated?

AT: I argue for a few basic moves. First of all, we have to take religious experience apart, to disaggregate it. Rather than “religious experience,” we can talk about “experiences deemed religious.” This better takes into account the process of how we make sense of experience—as religious or not—at many different levels, not all of them conscious. Next, I locate experience under the broader heading of consciousness studies, ranging from highly reflective, self-aware meta-consciousness to unconscious processes. Once we can put experience in that kind of framework, it is possible to look at the interpretive processes, or what I call attributional processes, to understand how certain kinds of experiences in certain kinds of contexts come to be understood as religious. I also explore what it means to ascribe or attribute religiousness to an experience across cultures and times, even in contexts where people aren’t using the word “religion” or some obviously related term to describe their experience.

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