Choosing My Religion: A Conversation about our Book, Meet the Evangelicals

image Dr Claire Mitchell and I will have a conversational workshop about a book we are writing together, provisionally titled Meet the Evangelicals: Journeys in a Northern Irish Evangelical Subculture, from 9.30-12.30 on Friday February 26, 2010, at East Belfast Mission on the Newtownards Road.

The book is the product of more than a decade of research on evangelicalism in Northern Ireland, and draws on over 100 in-depth interviews with evangelicals from all points on the political, religious and social spectrum.

You can find out more and register for the workshop on this dedicated Facebook page. We expect the workshop will provide us with feedback and new ideas as we shape the manuscript into its final form.

We are calling the talk ‘choosing my religion,’ to emphasise the surprising dynamism and freedom of choice we have found among evangelicals (and ex-evangelicals) as they have charted their unique religious paths. This is in contrast to the all-too-common stereotype of evangelicals as unchanging fundamentalists.

The question at the heart of the book is ‘why do people from the same religious community choose such different religious paths?’

To get at this question, we share the stories of pro-life DUP picketers, people converted to evangelicalism at Ian Paisley rallies, liberal peace-campaigning ministers, housewives afraid of the devil, students deconstructing their faith and atheists mortified by their religious past. We explore the complex chains of thoughts, relationships, experiences and events that push and pull people in various religious directions. We explain why people respond so differently to ostensibly similar types of experiences.

We think the book provides a fresh perspective on evangelicalism, pushing beyond previous research that has focused on the role of evangelicalism during the Troubles and neglected its importance to everyday life.

Through telling these alternative stories of evangelicalism, including the stories of people who have left it behind, we hope to offer new insights into life in Northern Ireland.

(Photo by spicemines, flickr photo-sharing)

2 thoughts on “Choosing My Religion: A Conversation about our Book, Meet the Evangelicals”

  1. Gladys

    You know, it’s a pity I’m going to miss this meeting, it’s the sort of thing I’d like to go to, evangelicalism is fascinating both to insiders and outsiders.

    It’s a sub-culture which has been central to my own life and faith and one which reassures and frustrates in equal measure.

    You say that the question at the heart of your book is ‘why do people from the same religious community choose such different paths?’ Interesting that. I have in more recent years thought of this, my community, not as a great single community with a common vision, but rather a disparate people, a loosely stitched patchwork of people and organisations and denominations, identified not by what we have in common but by how we distinguish ourselves from one another.

    In a way it seems as if it is these differences, the little nuances of belief and practise, by which we identify ourselves more closely with God than another. There’s always someone, somewhere offering, as a hymn writer says, a ‘closer walk with God’.

    Perhaps these are the different roads; perhaps, beyond a commonality of language we are not the same community; perhaps evangelicals are… communities. Communities in search of… what shall I say, an identity, a home, which is odd, given that it is we evangelicals who emphasise so much new birth. It’s as if, though ‘born again’, we still don’t know who we are.

    Then again, maybe that’s just me!!

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