If you happen to think that all social life — including our emotional responses to situations — is, for lack of a better word, manipulated to one degree or another, whether by intention (e.g., another social actor’s rhetoric) or non-agential structures in which we live and move (e.g., the rules of grammar, class relations, nationalism, etc.), then a headline like “How Elevation Church, Pastor Furtick produce ‘spontaneous’ baptisms” will probably strike you as curious for reasons far different from how many others read it.For when social theorists reads such things as:
“They had people in the crowd stand up who never intended to be baptized,” said James Duncan, a communications professor at Anderson University and critic of Furtick. “They were shilling for Steven and the intent was these shills stand up and everybody else follows.”
Duncan blogged about the baptism guide in a post he titled, “How Steven Furtick engineered a miracle.”
“Although Furtick says this is a miracle, it’s not a miracle,” Duncan said. “It’s emotional manipulation.”
The spontaneous baptism how-to guide describes its purpose as to “pull off our part in God’s miracle.” Church leaders have repeatedly referred to the mass response as a “miracle.” But the guide reveals plenty of human staging.
they likely aren’t interested in joining in and indicting one side by distinguishing sincerity from insincerity, authenticity from inauthenticity, real miracles from fakes, but, instead, they’re probably curious how the critics in such debates are working very hard to circle the wagons, to distract attention from the conventions that they themselves routinely use to gain and retain members, by sacrificing one of their own, by revealing that magician’s tricks.
So pay no attention to this man behind this curtain; instead, look at that one over there.