The Dangers of Christian Practice: On Wayward Gifts, Characteristic Damage, and Sin

Lauren F. Winner
Yale University Press
Published Year: 
Cover of Lauren F. Winner's new book

Lauren F. Winner, Ph.D., associate professor of Christian spirituality at Duke Divinity School, has written a new book exploring the damages beloved and treasured Christian theological practices have inflicted over the centuries.

The book, The Dangers of Christian Practice: On Wayward Gifts, Characteristic Damage, and Sin, was published by Yale University Press in October. In the book, Winner challenges the central place that theological practices such as Eucharist, prayer, and baptism have recently held in Christian theology and argues that they can go horrifyingly wrong, extending violence rather than promoting its healing.

Winner 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. She asks questions such as: “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 theological practices are deformed in ways that are characteristic of and intrinsic to the practices themselves, Winner proposes that the manner in which Christians might best think about the Eucharist, prayer, and baptism is that of a “damaged gift.” Christians go on with these practices because, though blighted by sin, they remain gifts from God.

An Episcopal priest, Winner writes and lectures widely on Christian practice, the history of Christianity in America, and Jewish-Christian relations. She is also the author of several other books including Wearing God: Clothing, Laughter, Fire, and Other Overlooked Ways of Meeting God.

See a review of Winner’s new book by The Christian Century.