Understanding Religious Conversion

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Yale University Press, 1993 - Religion - 240 pages
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Religious conversion provides converts with an opportunity to embrace a community of faith and a philosophy that nurture and guide, that offer a focus for loyalty and a framework for action. Whether the conversion is from one religious tradition to another, from one denomination to another, from no involvement to participation in a religious community, or is an intensification of commitment within one's faith, the process can be complex but compelling and transformative.

In this book Lewis Rambo discusses the dynamics of conversion, presenting it as a multifaceted process of change with personal, cultural, social, and religious implications. Drawing on insights from psychology, sociology, anthropology, history, theology, and missiology, as well as on interviews with converts from disparate backgrounds, Rambo explores the forces that shape the conversion experience. He considers various theories of conversion, examines the role of cultural and social factors in the conversion process, and describes how different religions and disciplines view conversion. While acknowledging the individual nature of each conversion experience, Rambo discerns stages that are illuminating. These include opening oneself to new options; seeking a resolution to the dilemma or deprivation that makes change seem attractive; meeting the agent who embodies the religious vision; learning new roles, rituals, and rhetoric; and committing oneself to a new way of life. His book will not only encourage empathy for the converting process but will also provide a nuanced strategy of critique and evaluation of religious conversion throughout the world.
 

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Contents

Figures
9
A sequential stage model
17
A systemic stage model
18
Context
21
Cycle of religious transformation
33
Crisis
45
Contours of crisis
47
Quest
57
Interaction
103
Encapsulation processes
106
Matrix of transformation
107
Ritual processes
115
Commitment
125
Consequences
143
Conclusion
165
The converting process summarized 16869
168

Modes of response
59
Encounter
67
Prescriptions and proscriptions
72
Degree of missionary activity
79
Notes
177
Bibliography
209
Index
235
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About the author (1993)

Lewis R. Rambo is professor of psychology and religion at the San Francisco Theological Seminary, San Anselmo and the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley.

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