In the News - Press Release
UPDATE ON THE FLAME OF LOVE PROJECT
June 1, 2010
We have now completed 116 qualitative interviews with exemplars of Godly Love and their collaborators. These interviews demonstrate that experiencing God’s love serves as an important resource for sustaining and expanding benevolence. We have also completed data collection on our three-phase national survey. An initial book based on the interview data (A Sociological Study of the Great Commandment in Pentecostalism: The Practice of Godly Love as Benevolent Service) by Matthew Lee and Margaret Poloma was published in 2009. A new book on the role of Godly Love in the Assemblies of God by Margaret Poloma and John Green will be published in October by New York University Press. The title is The Assemblies of God: Godly Love and the Revitalization of American Pentecostalism. A follow-up book integrating the national survey and qualitative interview findings is in progress.
Our national survey shows that the Christian Great Commandment to love God and love neighbor as self is alive and well in the United States. An overwhelming majority of Americans experience Godly Love at least occasionally and over half experience it most days or more often. Experiences of God’s love foster benevolence, independent of other factors. Eight out of ten American adults feel that God's love increases their compassion for others at least occasionally and just over half feel this most days or more frequently. Over eighty percent feel God's love directly and also experience this love as the greatest power in the universe.
Margaret Poloma and Matthew Lee presented these findings on March 5th, 2010 at a plenary session at the annual meetings of the Society for Pentecostal Studies (SPS). Consistent with our goal to bring theology and social science into meaningful dialogue, Stephen Post and Frank Macchia provided thoughtful theological responses to the survey findings at this plenary session. This session, along with four others that also addressed Godly Love and presented research funded by the Flame of Love Project, generated a great deal of interest and discussion of Godly Love within the SPS. The other sessions included a two-hour seminar on Margaret Poloma and John Green’s forthcoming book on Godly Love in the Assemblies of God, an Author-Meets-Critic session on Margaret Poloma and Ralph Hood’s book Blood and Fire, and presentations by Principal Investigators from two of our sub-projects (Paul Alexander on high-risk ministry as well as Peter Althouse and Michael Wilkinson on soaking prayer). Presentations on Godly Love have also been given at the annual meetings of the American Sociological Association, the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, the Association for the Sociology of Religion, and the North Central Sociological Association.
The Flame of Love Project has funded five research projects for $150,000 each through our competitive Request for Proposals. These projects are currently collecting and analyzing data that will be published in a series of books and articles. We are planning a two-day seminar on October 22nd and 23rd, 2010 at Vanguard University titled “The Great Commandment: Theology & Social Science in Dialogue.” This seminar is open to the public and will be available for college and continuing education credit. A team of noted social scientists and theologians who have been meeting for three years under the auspices of the Flame of Love Project will present and discuss research findings reflecting the role that a vital personal relationship with God plays in acts of human benevolence.