Religious Melancholy and Protestant Experience in America

Religious Melancholy and Protestant Experience in America

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This original examination of the spiritual narratives of conversion in the history of American Protestant evangelical religion reveals an interesting paradox. Fervent believers who devoted themselves completely to the challenges of making a Christian life, who longed to know God's rapturous love, all too often languished in despair, feeling forsaken by God. Ironically, those most devoted to fostering the soul's maturation neglected the well-being of the psyche. Drawing upon many sources, including unpublished diaries and case studies of patients treated in nineteenth-century asylums, Julius Rubin's fascinating study thoroughly explores religious melancholy-as a distinctive stance toward life, a grieving over the loss of God's love, and an obsession and psychopathology associated with the spiritual itinerary of conversion. The varieties of this spiritual sickness include sinners who would fast unto death ("evangelical anorexia nervosa"), religious suicides, and those obsessed with unpardonable sin. From colonial Puritans like Michael Wigglesworth to contemporary evangelicals like Billy Graham, among those who directed the course of evangelical religion and of their followers, Rubin shows that religious melancholy has shaped the experience of self and identity for those who sought rebirth as children of God.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 320 pages
  • 152.4 x 241.3 x 27.9mm | 612.36g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0195083016
  • 9780195083019

Review quote

is a masterly piece of research. All credit must go to Julius H Rubin for the way he has marshalled his evidence to validate his thesis. This evidence consists of well documented historical biography and autobiography, unpublished diaries, fascinating case studies of patients treated in nineteenth century asylums and other material old and new that he has carefully unearthed ... In the course of working through his main theme Ward offers fascinating observations on all sorts of topics ... thus displaying his considerable expertise in philosophy and logic as well as in theology ... This book is thoroughly recommended as the fertile thoughts of one of Britain's most prodigious and profound theological and philosophical Christian minds writing today. * Churchman, April 1994 *show more

Back cover copy

This thought-provoking study examines an apparent paradox in the history of American Protestant evangelical religion. Fervent believers who devoted themselves completely to the challenges of making a Christian life, who longed to know God's rapturous love, all too often languished in despair, feeling forsaken by God. Indeed, some individuals became obsessed by guilt, terror of damnation, and the idea that they had committed an unpardonable sin. Ironically, those most devoted to fostering the soul's maturation seemingly neglected the well-being of the psyche. Drawing upon many sources, including unpublished diaries, spiritual narratives, and case studies of patients treated in nineteenth-century asylums, Julius Rubin thoroughly explores religious melancholy - as a distinctive stance toward life, a grieving over the loss of God's love, and an obsession and psycho pathology associated with the spiritual itinerary of conversion. The varieties of this spiritual sickness include sinners who would fast unto death ("evangelical anorexia nervosa"), religious suicides, and those obsessed with unpardonable sin. From colonial Puritans like Michael Wigglesworth to contemporary evangelicals like Billy Graham, Rubin shows that religious melancholy has shaped the experience of self and identity for those who sought rebirth as children of God. Religious Melancholy and Protestant Experience in America offers a fresh and revealing look at a widely recognized phenomenon. It will be of interest to scholars and students of religious studies, American history, psychology, and sociology of religion.show more

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