I am in the midst of reading about a dozen interesting books, one of which is When God Talks Back, an anthropologist’s account of how some evangelicals come to believe that they directly experience and talk with a God who is profoundly real. While the book is a lengthy and detailed and sometimes technical account of her work in this area, including her two years inside two Vineyard churches, it is remarkably easy to read and is very informative. At 35% of the way through it, I’ve highlighted close to 5,000 words.
Anyway, a little while ago I came across the following passage in which she quoted one of the church members she interviewed:
“I feel the more I treat God as if he is sitting where you are, the more real he is to me, and the more I treat him as if he is nonexistent, the more nonexistent he becomes.”
The author frequently points out that most of the God-experiencers she talked with started out just pretending that God was listening to them in prayer, and kept at it until his experience seemed real. Some even said more real than real.
This reminded me of David Foster Wallace’s discussion of his experience with a 12-Step program:
I resented the radical simplicity of l2-Step programs’ advice to newcomers: go to a l2-Step meeting every day, make one such meeting your home group, get a sponsor and tell him the truth, get active with some kind of job in your home group, pray for help whether you believe in God or not, etc. The whole thing seemed uncomfortable and undignified and dumb. Now, from the perspective of almost fourteen years sober, it looks like precisely what I needed.
What I gather from the two quotes above is that, if you want to experience God, you are going to have to make the first move and at least pretend like you might have a chance of success.
Further, I would say