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Grawemeyer winner discusses evangelical experience

by UofL Today last modified Apr 15, 2014 04:55 PM

How can rational people living in the 21st century believe that God speaks to them, and why should the rest of us take those people seriously?

Grawemeyer winner discusses evangelical experience

From left: Rev. Dr. Shannon Craigo-Snell, Louisville Seminary theology professor; Luhrmann; and Rev. Dr. Michael Jinkins, president of Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Photo: Jonathon Roberts

Tanya Luhrmann, a Stanford University psychological anthropologist and winner of the 2014 Grawemeyer Award in Religion, addressed that question during her presentation, “When God Talks Back,” which took place April 14 in Caldwell Chapel at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

More than 170 people came out to hear Lurhmann’s lecture, which focused on the religious experience of evangelical communities and prayer as a way of training the mind to experience God.

Luhrmann received the Grawemeyer Award for the ideas presented in her book, When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God (Vintage, 2012), which earned a spot on The New York Times list of top 100 books for 2012. She wrote the book after four years of work in Chicago and Northern California with Vineyard Christian Fellowship, a church whose members speak in tongues and pray for healing. She observed and interviewed church members and took part in prayer groups, Bible study and weekly worship. After extensive research, she concluded that the evangelical experience of God involves a sophisticated play of mind cultivated through both individual practice and communal support.

Luhrmann’s visit coincided with visits to Louisville by the other 2014 Grawemeyer Award winners, who will discuss their winning works at programs hosted by the University of Louisville through mid-April. The University of Louisville presents four Grawemeyer Awards each year in music composition, world order, psychology and education. Since 1990, the University of Louisville and Louisville Seminary jointly give a fifth award in religion. Past winners include Eboo Patel (“Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, in the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation”), Jonathan Sacks (“The Dignity of Difference: How to Avoid the Clash of Civilizations”) and Larry Rasmussen (“Earth Community, Earth Ethics”) and several others.

“I am so delighted to have been rewarded the Grawemeyer Award,” said Luhrmann. “It is such wonderful recognition for the work, and I am so grateful to the award just for being there, to draw attention to work by scholars like myself. I also have to say that the event itself so far has been terrific — people are deeply and thoughtfully engaged, and I’ve been so impressed by the quality of mind I’ve encountered at Louisville Seminary and at the University of Louisville. What a terrific place!”

For more information, see www.grawemeyer.org.

--Submitted by Chris Wooton, Communications Director, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary

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