The Dangers of Christian Practice

On Wayward Gifts, Characteristic Damage, and Sin

Reddit icon
e-mail icon
Twitter icon
Facebook icon
Google icon
LinkedIn icon
Lauren F. Winner
  • New Haven, CT: 
    Yale University Press
    , October
     240 pages.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.
Review coming soon!

Review by Kevin Schilbrack forthcoming.


Challenging the central place that “practices” have recently held in Christian theology, Lauren Winner explores the damages these practices have inflicted over the centuries.

Sometimes, beloved and treasured Christian practices go horrifyingly wrong, extending violence rather than promoting its healing. In this bracing book, Lauren Winner provocatively challenges the assumption that the church possesses a set of immaculate practices that will definitionally train Christians in virtue and that can’t be answerable to their histories. Is there, for instance, an account of prayer that has anything useful to say about a slave-owning woman’s praying for her slaves’ obedience? Is there a robustly theological account of the Eucharist that connects the Eucharist’s goods to the sacrament’s central role in medieval Christian murder of Jews?
Arguing that practices are deformed in ways that are characteristic of and intrinsic to the practices themselves, Winner proposes that the register in which Christians might best think about the Eucharist, prayer, and baptism is that of “damaged gift.” Christians go on with these practices because, though blighted by sin, they remain gifts from God.

About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Lauren F. Winner is Associate Professor of Christian Spirituality at Duke Divinity School and the author of Wearing God: Clothing, Laughter, Fire, and Other Overlooked Ways of Meeting God. She lives in Durham, NC.


Reading Religion welcomes comments from AAR members, and you may leave a comment below by logging in with your AAR Member ID and password. Please read our policy on commenting.