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Contemporary Christian Serpent Handlers And The New Paradigm For The Psychology Of Religion

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Chapter Summary

The widely acknowledged call for a new multilevel interdisciplinary paradigm for the psychology of religion is illustrated by a survey of the authors' research on the contemporary Christian serpent handlers of Appalachia. The authors' study of serpent handlers involved them in archival research; hermeneutical explorations of textual criticism of the Bible; the study of court rulings that upheld (and continue to uphold) bans on handling; ethnography linked to videotapes that helped document part of our database and are archived for other scholars to use; phenomenological interviews analyzed in terms of a hermeneutical method that reveals the thematic structure of meaning of experience; and the extension of this hermeneutical technique to the analysis of extemporaneous sermons. Finally, the authors found quasi-experimental studies useful to reveal prejudicial views involved even in the reasoned rejection of serpent handling.

Keywords:Appalachia; contemporary Christian serpent handlers; hermeneutical method; phenomenological interviews; psychology of religion



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