it’s all about jesus! [barn+book]

I just posted this review on Amazon for my colleague Peter’s book, It’s All about Jesus!:

I really enjoyed this book. Granted, Peter’s office is a few doors down from mine at Miami, but anyway! The book is based in grounded in careful, rigorous thick description. Methodologically, one of the biggest contributions is towards the end; Magolda/Ebben include the full responses of key participants’ reactions to the manuscript. We’re not talking 2-3 sentences “I liked/hated it,” but really thoughtful commentaries from the participants themselves on how they reacted to Magolda/Ebben’s interpretation of their lives. Their responses provide rich insight into their lives, as well as the world views of evangelical Christians. From a researcher’s standpoint: This is brave stuff to include. Neither author is evangelical–both grew up Catholic, Peter doesn’t identify with a faith while I believe Kelsey became involved in a Lutheran community following the study. A person really wouldn’t have to do a lot to make evangelicals/Christians look crazy (think: jesus camp) and Magolda/Ebben treat their participants with much sensitivity and consideration. In fact, I think the community comes off pretty positively; I especially liked Magolda/Ebben’s conceptualization of the “evangelical co-curriculum” and recognition of what campus fellowships are doing to facilitate learning and development during the college years. Magolda/Ebben do the higher ed community a great service by putting campus fellowships on their radar, and the evangelical community a great service by making the familiar, strange. The book is pretty long and maybe some sections could have been tightened. Still, I’ve heard it described it as an “academic page turner” (which says a lot) and I agree.

I would’ve given it 4.5 stars but Amazon doesn’t let you…so deceptive.

If you read the book and do not know the institution it’s at, you actually might not be able to guess the campus fellowship. I mean, you could, but not necessarily. If you know the institution and the state of fellowships at said institution, it’s pretty easy. That said, it’d be an interesting study in the future to understand how these different fellowships (IV, Crusade, Navs, etc.) developed their own particular cultures and followings. John Turner’s book on Bill Bright really helped me understand a lot about why Crusade is the way it is…thinking of my own research on IV and race, a lot of it can probably be linked back to the relatively decentralized nature of IV regions/chapters, which allowed for a lot of experimentation and innovation at the local level. Anyway, there’s a study in that somewhere down the line…I do wish Peter/Kelsey had used the real name of the fellowship (they could have but then had already published some articles with the pseudonym) because there’s a whole loaded culture that explains a lot of the dynamics of the particular subculture (although there are some things about “students serving christ” that actually counters some of the typical chapters of ssc’s mother organization, which would also be interesting to probe). Anyway, kudos to Peter/Kelsey for a great, honest, and sensitive book.

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