My first instinct is to tuck this book back on the shelf and forget I ever read it. Not that it isn't good, it definitely wasn't a hard read. Well, not hard to read, it was hard in the sense that it was too close to home for this Charismatic. I think Ian Cotton's synicism was meant to be funny, but for someone who has lived, enjoyed and at times been embarassed by charismata, this book is too familiar to be funny.
I appreciate his effort to present what he calls the New Christians as both well intentioned and off their rockers. New Christians are those pentecostal and pentecostal influenced evangelicals that emerged in the late 70s and early 80s. The movement that spawned March for Jesus and a tonne of social initiatives in England and around the world. It is a fascinating study of the culture I am familiar with and it is always interesting to get a different perspective on the life you live. However, that said Cotton does not seem to have run into what I would call the best that world has to offer. But he does get the gamut from good to horrid.
What is most troubling though is that halfway through the book he begins to focus on the charismatic experience. He is looking at what factors lead a society to be more spiritually activated, I mean in an ecstatic fashion. In fact he does a decent job of the ebbs and flows of religious life in the West. He investigates the ties between right and left brain experiences and spiritual encounters, that is quite interesting especially when he ends up in Sudbury testing out a machine that stimulates the right hemisphere inducing "supernatural" experiences. I found this troubling, I think I should have, as I am inclined to have such experiences. While I don't think I was a classic case subject, there are some ties. I am more right brained to begin with. But the whole area of the psychology of ecstatic spirituality is something I think would be worth investigating. If we could understand the psychological mechanisms more then we might be less inclined to use systems of hype to try and "force the hand of God" so to speak.
So I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone who is struggling with their charismatic faith. But I would think it useful for a mature reader who is interested in that movement. Especially in how charismatic folks sometimes fall into the flakier end of things. Meanwhile, I'm tucking it onto my shelf and moving onto other things.