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Blood and Fire

Godly Love in a Pentecostal Emerging Church

Margaret Poloma, Jr., Ralph Hood

Publication Year: 2008

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.

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. It traces the triumphs and travails associated with living a set of rigorous religious ideals, providing a richly textured analysis of a faith community affiliated with the "emerging church" movement in Pentecostalism, one of the fastest-growing and most dynamic religious movements of our day.

Based on more than four years of interviews and surveys with people from all levels of the organization, from the leader to core and marginal members to the poor and addicts they are seeking to serve, Blood and Fire sheds light on the differing worldviews and religious perceptions between those who served in as well as those who were served by this ministry.

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.

Published by: NYU Press


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pp. vii-ix

This project would not have been possible without the support of countless people both inside and outside Blood-n-Fire (BnF). Words of gratitude go first to David VanCronkhite, who cooperated with our research even in the midst of the tumultuous events that unfolded within a year after we began our study. He knew that we intended to do research and not an...

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1. Godly Love and Post-Modern Christianity: An Introduction

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pp. 1-16

Beyond the kitsch of Christian television and the multifaceted mega-churches that have captivated religion watchers is a post-modern resistance movement with its headquarters on the Internet and many of its congregants meeting in homes and urban warehouses. Its leaders are calling the phenomenon the emerging church, and some, like Shane...

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2. The Man, the Myth, and the Vision

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pp. 17-40

The making of myths and the visions that they embody are often treated as faits accomplis, and their content and outcomes are assessed without regard for the interaction process that brings myths into being in the first place. What David VanCronkhite calls “stories” and what we are calling “myths” are central for understanding interaction ritual in...

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3. An Emerging Church Family and the Family Business

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pp. 41-63

The BnF narrative that we began in the last chapter embodies a simple story line. David VanCronkhite hears from God. We describe the relationship between David and his God as an interactive ritual (IR) commonly known as prayer (Poloma and Gallup 1991; Poloma 2003). As social scientists we choose not to dismiss divine-human IRs, to reduce them to...

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4. Charisma and Spiritual Transformation

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pp. 64-93

In seeking answers about factors and forces in religiously motivated altruism it is necessary to go beyond reductionist theories of evolutionary biology and rational choice theories in social science (Post, Underwood, Schloss, and Hurlbut 2002). Human emotions in particular have found little place in popular theories of altruistic behavior. Collins’s...

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5. Godly Love as Emotional Energy

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pp. 94-116

In this chapter we continue to explore godly love as “a strong steady emotion” that is found in the experience of the paranormal gifts of the Holy Spirit or charismata. As characteristic of all EE, the charismata “gives the ability to act with initiative and resolve, to set the direction of social situations” (Collins 2004, 133-34). We use qualitative interview...

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6. The BnF Family and the Homeless Poor

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pp. 117-145

Like many intentional communities that have dotted American history, Blood-n-Fire professes to be all about love—love for God, love for family members, and love for the poor and homeless. Although details were ever changing, the vision and mission sought to bring God’s love to the poor through the love offered by the BnF family. Members of...

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7. Ideology and Tradition in Conflict

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pp. 146-171

Interaction rituals (IRs) are often Janus-faced, and this is true for godly love as it is for experienced inter-human encounters. On the one side, they may produce positive EE (emotional energy) that binds together like-minded devotees in interaction ritual (IR) chains that empower them for greater care-love, a phenomenon found in many of our...

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8. Smoke, Mirrors, and Holy Madness

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pp. 172-197

In his extended discussion of holy madness, or crazy wisdom, Georg Feuerstein explores the varying approaches of masters, sages, saints, and holy people—those eccentric individuals who typically “use their eccentricity to communicate an alternative vision to that [vision] which governs ordinary life” (xvi). According to Feuerstein, these adepts, who share...

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9. Epilogue: A Social Scientific Assessment of Godly Love

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pp. 198-215

It is a humbling reality to suddenly grasp that a small band of people chose to leave, even to some small degree, their comfort zone; that they attempted to move into more meaningful relationships with one another and attempted to include the poor in those relationships while seeking the supernatural reality of a Kingdom of God on...

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Appendix A: Margaret Poloma’s Reflections on a Research Journey

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pp. 217-222

I had been deep into research on the so-called Toronto Blessing, an epicenter for the global revivals that were sweeping through Pentecostal and neo-Pentecostal congregations in the mid-1990s, when I first learned about Blood-n-Fire. Churches that received the “blessing” were reporting a resurgence of phenomenal “signs and wonders”—strange...

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Appendix B: Methodological Appendix, with Survey Instrument (B-1) and Scale Construction (B-2)

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pp. 223-238

Although the journey toward a study of BnF began nearly five years earlier (see appendix A), the formal project can be dated back a letter of intent sent to the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love (IRUL) in response to a request for proposals (RFP) in 2002. In it we listed our research aims, which demonstrated the relevance of the proposed project in accordance with the...

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Appendix C: Statistical Appendix, with Bivariate Matrix (C-1) and Multivariate Analysis (C-2)

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pp. 239-244

The correlation matrix following in C-1 uses select variables and scales constructed from item responses in the survey to assess a core question found in the research proposal, namely, do “spiritual moments (i.e., Spirit baptism and ongoing infilling of the Spirit) affect loving motivation and behavior.” In addition to demographic items, we used responses...


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pp. 245-249


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pp. 251-256

About the Authors

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p. 257

E-ISBN-13: 9780814768488
E-ISBN-10: 0814768482
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814767481
Print-ISBN-10: 0814767486

Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2008

OCLC Number: 647699966
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Blood and Fire

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Emerging church movement.
  • Christianity -- 21st century.
  • Postmodernism -- Religious aspects -- Christianity.
  • Church work with the homeless.
  • Church work with the poor.
  • Pentecostalism.
  • Love -- Religious aspects -- Christianity.
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