Blood and Fire

Blood and Fire: Godly Love in a Pentecostal Emerging Church

Margaret M. Poloma
Ralph W. Hood
Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Blood and Fire
    Book Description:

    What does it mean to live out the theology presented in the Great Commandment to "love God above all and to love your neighbor as yourself"? In Blood and Fire, Poloma and Hood explore how understandings of godly love function to empower believers. Though godly love may begin as a perceived relationship between God and a person, it is made manifest as social behavior among people.Blood and Fire offers a deep ethnographic portrait of a charismatic church and its faith-based ministry, illuminating how religiously motivated social service makes use of beliefs about the nature of God's love. It traces the triumphs and travails associated with living a set of rigorous religious ideals, providing a richly textured analysis of a faith community affiliated with the "emerging church" movement in Pentecostalism, one of the fastest-growing and most dynamic religious movements of our day.Based on more than four years of interviews and surveys with people from all levels of the organization, from the leader to core and marginal members to the poor and addicts they are seeking to serve, Blood and Fire sheds light on the differing worldviews and religious perceptions between those who served in as well as those who were served by this ministry.Blood and Fire argues that godly love - the relationship between perceived divine love and human response - is at the heart of the vision of emerging churches, and that it is essential to understand this dynamic if one is to understand the ongoing reinvention of American Protestantism in the twenty-first century.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-6848-8
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. 1 Godly Love and Post-Modern Christianity: An Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    Beyond the kitsch of Christian television and the multifaceted mega-churches that have captivated religion watchers is a post-modern resistance movement with its headquarters on the Internet and many of its congregants meeting in homes and urban warehouses. Its leaders are calling the phenomenon theemerging church,and some, like Shane Claiborne, believe it is an “irresistible revolution” that will draw believers back to the heart of the Christian Gospel. It is more than a theological critique of modern Western Christianity. It is a religious movement that seeks to deconstruct modern religion and to realign it with the dynamic process that...

  5. 2 The Man, the Myth, and the Vision
    (pp. 17-40)

    The making of myths and the visions that they embody are often treated as faits accomplis, and their content and outcomes are assessed without regard for the interaction process that brings myths into being in the first place. What David VanCronkhite calls “stories” and what we are calling “myths” are central for understanding interaction ritual in an emerging church. The process of constructing myths is an example of what Collins describes as “mutual focus” in which participants “develop a mutual focus of attention and become entrained in each other’s bodily micro-rhythms and emotions” (2004, 47). Myths provide a source of...

  6. 3 An Emerging Church Family and the Family Business
    (pp. 41-63)

    The BnF narrative that we began in the last chapter embodies a simple story line. David VanCronkhite hears from God. We describe the relationship between David and his God as an interactive ritual (IR) commonly known as prayer (Poloma and Gallup 1991; Poloma 2003). As social scientists we choose not to dismiss divine-human IRs, to reduce them to “self-talk” or “thought chains,” or to reframe prophetic prayer experiences as “the social process of thinking” (Collins 2004, esp. ch. 5). In accord with a methodological agnostic stance, we take VanCronkhite’s descriptions seriously and explore possible empirical outcomes related to his IRs...

  7. 4 Charisma and Spiritual Transformation
    (pp. 64-93)

    In seeking answers about factors and forces in religiously motivated altruism it is necessary to go beyond reductionist theories of evolutionary biology and rational choice theories in social science (Post, Underwood, Schloss, and Hurlbut 2002). Human emotions in particular have found little place in popular theories of altruistic behavior. Collins’s interaction ritual theory emphasizes emotion energy (EE) and provides us with guiding hypotheses, which, if expanded to include godly love, do shed light on the questions that Stephen Post raises in the epigraph.

    Collins critiques rational choice and the “cost-benefit model” by pointing out three main difficulties: “First, there are...

  8. 5 Godly Love as Emotional Energy
    (pp. 94-116)

    In this chapter we continue to explore godly love as “a strong steady emotion” that is found in the experience of the paranormal gifts of the Holy Spirit or charismata. As characteristic of all EE, the charismata “gives the ability to act with initiative and resolve, to set the direction of social situations” (Collins 2004, 133-34). We use qualitative interview narratives and statistical findings from survey data to empirically demonstrate the effects of godly love on care-love and altruistic behavior.

    As we have seen, BnF is a neo-Pentecostal emerging church that sought to adapt traditional beliefs and practices of the...

  9. 6 The BnF Family and the Homeless Poor
    (pp. 117-145)

    Like many intentional communities that have dotted American history, Blood-n-Fire professes to be all about love—love for God, love for family members, and love for the poor and homeless. Although details were ever changing, the vision and mission sought to bring God’s love to the poor through the love offered by the BnF family. Members of the community hoped that in response to this love the poor and homeless would be drawn to the supernatural vision proffered by David’s understanding of the Kingdom of God. It was also expected that they would then embrace the supernatural walk coveted by...

  10. 7 Ideology and Tradition in Conflict
    (pp. 146-171)

    Interaction rituals (IRs) are often Janus-faced, and this is true for godly love as it is for experienced inter-human encounters. On the one side, they may produce positive EE (emotional energy) that binds together like-minded devotees in interaction ritual (IR) chains that empower them for greater care-love, a phenomenon found in many of our reported narratives. It could be said that IRs are often the glue that bind groups together. As Collins notes, “In its Durkheimian formulation, successful rituals produce group solidarity. Teasing apart the mechanisms and fine-grained processes of an IR, we could say instead that successful IRs produce...

  11. 8 Smoke, Mirrors, and Holy Madness
    (pp. 172-197)

    In his extended discussion of holy madness, or crazy wisdom, Georg Feuerstein explores the varying approaches of masters, sages, saints, and holy people—those eccentric individuals who typically “use their eccentricity to communicate an alternative vision to that [vision] which governs ordinary life” (xvi). According to Feuerstein, these adepts, who share much in common with the traditional figures of the tricksters and clowns, are “masters of inversion, proficient breakers of taboos, and lovers of surprise, contradiction, and ambiguity” (1990, xvi). Feuerstein’s insightful analysis provides another grid for understanding the dissonance found in the voices we bring together in this chapter....

  12. 9 Epilogue: A Social Scientific Assessment of Godly Love
    (pp. 198-216)

    A few weeks before Christmas 2006 in response to an earlier draft of this manuscript, David VanCronkhite e-mailed Margaret:

    It is a humbling reality to suddenly grasp that a small band of people chose to leave, even to some small degree, their comfort zone; that they attempted to move into more meaningful relationships with one another and attempted to include the poor in those relationships while seeking the supernatural reality of a Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven; that they attempted to experience the reality of signs and wonders as a part of everyday life among...

  13. Appendix A: Margaret Poloma’s Reflections on a Research Journey
    (pp. 217-222)
  14. Appendix B: Methodological Appendix, with Survey Instrument (B-1) and Scale Construction (B-2)
    (pp. 223-238)
  15. Appendix C: Statistical Appendix, with Bivariate Matrix (C-1) and Multivariate Analysis (C-2)
    (pp. 239-244)
  16. References
    (pp. 245-250)
  17. Index
    (pp. 251-256)
  18. About the Authors
    (pp. 257-257)