Taking Christianity to Therapy: Evangelical Conflicts Over (Therapeutic) Emotions, with Ariane Kovac

Event Date: 

Wednesday, January 31, 2024 - 3:30pm to 5:00pm

Event Location: 

  • Humanities and Social Change Center @ Robertson Gym 1000A

Event Price: 


When people speak critically of evangelical Christianity, they often target emotions. Evangelicals get portrayed as angry fire-and-brimstone preachers, or their ‘shiny happy’ positivity is accused of being hypocritical. Evangelicals level these same criticisms against each other. Different strands of evangelicalism tend to agree on many theological questions but disagree about what counts as legitimate and authentic expressions of emotion. Progressive evangelicals criticize the rigid—and in their view, performative—positivity of more conservative churches. These progressives frame their difference in therapeutic language of recovering from “burnout” or “trauma.” This lecture explores how different understandings of emotionality inform perceptions of “right” or “wrong” religious practice in evangelicalism. Drawing on a case study of a progressive megachurch that uses a therapeutic framework to distance itself from conservative evangelicalism, it examines the role of emotions in inner-evangelical disagreements and identity construction.

Ariane Kovac is a doctoral student in the Department for Religious Studies at Leipzig University in Germany and a Fulbright visiting student researcher at UCSB in the fall and winter terms of 2023/24. She is currently working on her dissertation on emotional practices and therapeutization in U.S. evangelicalism.

This event is co-sponsored by the Department of Religious Studies and the Humanities & Social Change Center at UCSB.