A book-length study of religion that combines insights from both sociology and psychology is truly rare. And one that focuses on "love" even more so.
Poloma and Hood are not only warm and personable (I've had the pleasure of meeting both of them at conferences), they are also seasoned scholars who regularly pursue through their research interesting questions of religious vitality. This new book,
Blood and Fire: Godly Love in a Pentecostal Emerging Church
is a welcome addition to their body of work and to the literature on religion as a whole. The book comes from the hands of true experts on Pentecostalism.
Here's a description from the New York University Press website:
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.The book comes highly recommended. Here are two pre-publication reviews:
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.....
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.
This is an exceptional book in that it tells the story of the failure of a faith-based movement rather than its success. In a richly textured narrative, the authors describe the limitations of religious charisma when it confronts the harsh reality of a business-minded board that requires accountability. This book is fascinating reading for anyone who wants to understand the interplay between spirit and flesh, vision and economic reality.About the Authors:
—Donald E. Miller, Executive Director, Center for Religion and Civic Culture, University of Southern California
Blood and Fire not only illuminates the group Poloma and Hood examine but provides students of new religious movements with a virtual treasure trove of data for analysis--from concrete examples of the pitfalls of founding, organizing, and maintaining a new religious movement to the demonstration of the `precariousness of charismatic leadership.’ A must read for anyone interested in new religious movements and what one might call engaged evangelical Christianity.
--Susan M. Setta, Chair, Philosophy and Religion, Northeastern University
Margaret Poloma is Professor Emeritus at the University of Akron. She has authored many books, including Main Street Mystics,The Assemblies of God at the Crossroads, and The Charismatic Movement.
Ralph Hood, Jr., is Professor of Psychology, University of Tennessee, Chattanooga. He is the co-author of The Psychology of Religious Fundamentalism; The Psychology of Religion: An Empirical Approach; and Measures of Religiosity; and editor of The Handbook of Religious Experience.