Fieldwork in Religion, Vol 3, No 1 (2008)

Cultivating Intimacy: Interactive Frames for Evangelical Bible Study

James Bielo
Issued Date: 15 Jul 2009


In this article I contribute to the sociology and anthropology of American Evangelicalism by examining the discourse of group Bible study. Every week millions of Christians in the U.S. meet for group study, and in doing so, actively negotiate the categories of meaning central to their faith. Yet, this crucial practice has received scant attention from scholars. This study is grounded in theories of social practice and symbolic interaction, where cultural life is understood through its vital institutions, and institutions are treated as inter-subjective accomplishments. I employ the concept of ‘interactive frames’ to define how Evangelicals understand the Bible study experience. Ultimately, I argue that the predominant interactive frame for Evangelicals is that of cultivating intimacy, which directly reflects the type of personalized, relational spirituality characteristic of their faith. This, in turn, has serious consequences for how Bible reading and interpretation are performed in groups. I use a case study approach, providing close ethnographic analyses of a mixed-gender group from a Restoration Movement congregation.

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DOI: 10.1558/firn.v3i1.51

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