In Unexpected Grace Bill Kramer offers a rare look into the human side of the world of scientific research. He goes behind the scenes of four scientific investigations on diverse aspects of the study of unlimited love and offers uplifting portraits of human beings struggling to understand and improve the complex issues facing them. He explores the dynamics between the researchers, the subjects they study, and the participants in the studies, and eloquently tells their personal stories. The stories touch on vastly different social and human issues, but all are connected by love.
The first is the story of Courtney Cowart, who was part of a group of theologians who met at Trinity Place in lower Manhattan on September 11, 2001, not knowing her experience would become the subject of a study. The story of how the group struggled to survive and the formation of a practical, effective altruistic community is heartrending and inspiring. This is followed by a description of a University of California Santa Cruz psychology department study on the dynamics of friendship and prejudice that completely changed the perceptions of those involved.
The third study, from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, focused on the benefits of religion on mental and physical health, which led its researcher to a greater understanding of forgiveness, humility, and grace. The final powerful story is about a physiology of love study conducted in Iowa City. Here, a functional MRI is the vehicle for measuring empathy and brings the researcher to wonder, "Is there a point at which empathy shuts down and we turn away?" Ultimately she comes to recognize that past experiences influences our ability to respond emphatically.
Each story candidly unveils the transformations the researchers and their subjects experienced in the course of their work. This illuminating book, with its unique insights, will appeal to educators, researchers, students, study participants, and everyone who wonders what goes on behind the scenes of investigative studies.