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High on God: How Megachurches Won the Heart of America

James Wellman, Jr. Katie Corcoran Kate Stockly



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Oxford University Press
17 February 2020
History; Religion & beliefs; Popular culture; Sociology & anthropology
God is like a drug, a high, [I] can't wait for the next hit. This direct quote from a megachurch member speaking about his experience of God might be dismissed as some sort of spiritually-induced drug riff. However, according to the research in this book, it was not only sincere, but a deeply felt, and sought-after sensibility. Megachurch attendees desire this first-hand experience of God, and many report finding it in their congregations. The book focuses on the emotional, social and religious dynamics that pull thousands of people into megachurches and how those churches make some feel like they are high on God and can't wait to get their next spiritual hit. High on God gives the first robust and plausible explanation for why megachurches have conquered the churchgoing market of America. Without condescension or exaggeration, the authors show the genius of megachurches: the power of charisma, the design of facilities, the training of leaders, the emotional dynamics, and the strategies that bring people together and lead them to serve and help others. Using Emile Durkheim's concept of homo duplex, the authors plot the strategies that megachurches employ to satisfy the core human craving for personal meaning and social integration, as well as personal identity and communal solidarity. The authors also show how these churches can go wrong, sometimes tragically so. But they argue that, for the most part, megachurches help their attendees find themselves through bonding with and serving others.
By:   James Wellman Jr., Katie Corcoran, Kate Stockly
Imprint:   Oxford University Press
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 242mm,  Width: 164mm,  Spine: 31mm
Weight:   680g
ISBN:   9780199827718
ISBN 10:   0199827710
Pages:   344
Publication Date:   17 February 2020
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active
Preface: Am I High on God? Acknowledgements Part I: Desire is the Heart of Religion 1. Megachurch the Drug that Works 2. The Problem of Cooperation and Homo Duplex 3. Interaction Rituals and Embodied Choice Theory 4. Defining Religion: The Profane and the Sacred 5. Megachurch: An American Original (Almost) 6. Congregations in a Time of Change Part II: Pistons of Desire and Power: Cracking the Megachurch Code 7. The Micro-Sociology of Interaction Rituals within Megachurches 8. Desire for Acceptance and Belonging 9. Desire for WOW or Hacking the Happy 10. Desire for a Reliable Leader 11. Desire for Deliverance 12. Desire for Purpose in Service 13. Desire to Re-member Part III: The Dark Side of American Megachurches: How They Blind and Bind 14. Dissecting Megachurch Scandals 15. Conclusion: Havens of Health or Habitats for the Prosperity Gospel? Postscript from the Pews Appendix A: Megachurch Data and Methods Appendix B: How is God

James K. Wellman Jr. is Professor and Chair of the Comparative Religion Program in the Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington. Wellman's publications include an award-winning book, The Gold Coast Church and the Ghetto: Christ and Culture in Mainline Protestantism and Evangelical vs. Liberal: The Clash of Christian Cultures in the Pacific Northwest; edited volumes: Belief and Bloodshed: Religion and Violence Across Time and Tradition, and Religion and Human Security: A Global Perspective. Katie E. Corcoran is Assistant Professor of Sociology at West Virginia University. Her areas of expertise are in religion, organizations, emotion, criminology, and social networks. Corcoran has published articles in Social Forces, Sociological Forum, Social Currents, the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Sociology of Religion, Criminal Justice and Behavior, Social Science History, Sociological Inquiry, and Rationality & Society. She co-authored the book Religious Hostility: A Global Assessment of Hatred and Terror with Rodney Stark. Kate J. Stockly is a PhD candidate in the Graduate Program in Religion at Boston University. Her work focuses on ritual theory; the social, cognitive and affective neuroscience of religion; emotion and religion; American religion; the scientific study of religion; feminist theory; new materialism; and women's and gender studies in religion. She is a Doctoral Fellow at the Center for Mind and Culture in Boston, where she researches cross-cultural sex differences in religion and the contemporary use of brain-based technologies for spiritual enhancement.

Reviews for High on God: How Megachurches Won the Heart of America

In High on God, Emile Durkheim meets Joel Osteen. Authors Wellman, Corcoran, and Stockly integrate social science theory with contemporary data to explain the emotional draw of America's largest Protestant churches. They argue that megachurches and their charismatic pastors help fulfill deep human needs. A fascinating topic, well researched, and engagingly written. I highly recommend it. * Kevin D. Dougherty, Associate Professor of Sociology Baylor University * Neither dismissive nor encomiastic, High on God examines the phenomenon of megachurches from a variety of perspectives- sociological, demographic, psychological, ethnographic and, most important, historical. The authors discern an intricate negotiation between self and society that characterizes those who attend megachurches. This intelligent and nuanced study may provide the best analysis of megachurches (and those who love them) to date. * Randall Balmer, author of Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: A Journey into the Evangelical Subculture in America * How have megachurches taken over church attendance in America? By replacing traditional church formalities with casual clothing and everyday settings that look like malls or pop concerts. Above all, by creating successful interaction rituals, with high rhythmic entrainment, mutual attention, and a love affair with a charismatic pastor who channels embodied emotions back out into the congregation. Wellman, Corcoran, and Stockly explore the dangers too, as adulation of the pastor can lead to sex scandals and the perils of too much success. High-energy churches draw people from low-energy churches by putting into practice the power of micro-sociology. * Randall Collins, author of Napoleon Never Slept: How Great Leaders Leverage Social Energy *

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