I had the great pleasure of speaking yesterday at the Dublin book launch of Claire Mitchell and Gladys Ganiel’s Evangelical Journeys: choice and change in a Northern Irish Religious Subculture (UCD Press, 2011).
It is based on sociological analysis of interviews with 95 people: from those ‘deepening’ their faith (in fundamentalist/very conservative direction), to those ‘maintaining a steady faith’, to those ‘moderating’ and adapting their faith, to those that are engaged in ‘transforming evangelicalism’ (effectively post-evangelicals) to those that have left evangelicalism (and Christianity) altogether.
Gladys has put up notes of my remarks at her website. It is a very good book; easy to read and full of stories of people’s journeys of faith. It’s valuable for those in Christian ministry as a listening exercise to what people really think about God and especially their experience of church.
Some sociology of religion can be completely reductionistic. A bit like the science and faith debate, the assumption seems to be because we can explain how things work (in this case how humans behave in regard to religious choices and behaviour) that we have ‘explained away’ any need for God. Gladys (a Christian) and Claire (an agnostic) don’t do this.
They identify and describe a spectrum of evangelical (and post-evangelical) beliefs and behaviour and highlight how where you are on it is to a significant degree a matter of personal choice. And moving from one part of the spectrum to another is usually the result of a process over time – and this includes conversion and deconversion.
Often what appears like a sudden change has been building for quite a period.
Makes you ask yourself, ‘Where am I on the spectrum?’