Archive for March, 2012

Mahmood, Saba. (2012). “Religious Freedom, the Minority Question, and Geopolitics in the Middle East”

March 22, 2012

Mahmood, Saba. (2012). Religious Freedom, the Minority Question, and Geopolitics in the Middle East” Comparative Studies in Society and History 54(2):418-446.

First Paragraph

The right to religious freedom is widely regarded as a crowning achievement of secular-liberal democracies, one that guarantees the peaceful coexistence of religiously diverse populations. Enshrined in national constitutions and international laws and treaties, the right to religious liberty promises to ensure two stable goods: (1) the ability to choose one’s religion freely without coercion by the state, church, or other institutions; and (2) the creation of a polity in which one’s economic, civil, legal, or political status is unaffected by one’s religious beliefs. While all members of a polity are supposed to be protected by this right, modern wisdom has it that religious minorities are its greatest beneficiaries and their ability to practice their traditions without fear of discrimination is a critical marker of a tolerant and civilized polity. The right to religious freedom marks an important distinction between liberal secularism and the kind practiced in authoritarian states (such as China, Syria, or the former Soviet Union): while the latter abide by the separation of religion and state (a central principle of political secularism), they also regularly abrogate religious freedoms of their minority and majority populations. Despite claims to religious neutrality, liberal secular states frequently regulate religious affairs but they do so in accord with a strong concern for protecting the individual’s right to practice his or her religion freely, without coercion or state intervention.

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Heo, Angie. (2012). “The Virgin Made Visible: Intercessory Images of Church Territory in Egypt”

March 22, 2012

Heo, Angie. (2012). The Virgin Made Visible: Intercessory Images of Church Territory in Egypt. Comparative Studies in Society and History 54(2):361-391.

First Paragraph

In the dark midnight hours of 11 December 2009, the Virgin Mary (al-‘adhra) burst into visibility against the skyline of al-Warraq, a working-class district on the neglected peripheries of Giza, Egypt. Hovering within a glowing triad of crosses, the apparition attracted spectators to the Church of the Virgin and the Archangel Michael along the main thoroughfare, Nile Street, even in the inconvenient hours between dusk and dawn. Within days, the Virgin was being discussed far and wide by Christians and Muslims, Egyptians and foreigners, skeptics and believers. Reactions were diverse: A journalist announced to his friends, “Even if the Virgin appeared before my very eyes, I would deny her.” A cab driver explained, “It is a trick, a big laser show in the sky.” A young mother urged, “Why [forbid oneself] the joy that the Virgin brings?”

Luhrmann, T.M. (2012) When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God Random House Digital, Inc.

March 21, 2012

Luhrmann, T.M. (2012) When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God Random House Digital, Inc.

Publisher’s Description: How does God become and remain real for modern evangelicals? How are rational, sensible people of faith able to experience the presence of a powerful yet invisible being and sustain that belief in an environment of overwhelming skepticism? T. M. Luhrmann, an anthropologist trained in psychology and the acclaimed author of Of Two Minds, explores the extraordinary process that leads some believers to a place where God is profoundly real and his voice can be heard amid the clutter of everyday thoughts.

While attending services and various small group meetings at her local branch of the Vineyard, an evangelical church with hundreds of congregations across the country, Luhrmann sought to understand how some members were able to communicate with God, not just through one-sided prayers but with discernable feedback. Some saw visions, while others claimed to hear the voice of God himself. For these congregants and many other Christians, God was intensely alive. After holding a series of honest, personal interviews with Vineyard members who claimed to have had isolated or ongoing supernatural experiences with God, Luhrmann hypothesized that the practice of prayer could train a person to hear God’s voice—to use one’s mind differently and focus on God’s voice until it became clear. A subsequent experiment conducted between people who were and weren’t practiced in prayer further illuminated her conclusion. For those who have trained themselves to concentrate on their inner experiences, God is experienced in the brain as an actual social relationship: his voice was identified, and that identification was trusted and regarded as real and interactive.

Astute, deeply intelligent, and sensitive, When God Talks Back is a remarkable approach to the intersection of religion, psychology, and science, and the effect it has on the daily practices of the faithful.

Ono, Akiko (2012) “You gotta throw away culture once you become Christian: How ‘culture’ is Redefined among Aboriginal Pentecostal Christians in Rural New South Wales” Oceania 82(1): 74-85

March 21, 2012

Ono, Akiko (2012) “You gotta throw away culture once you become Christian: How ‘culture’ is Redefined among Aboriginal Pentecostal Christians in Rural New South Wales” Oceania 82(1): 74-85

Abstract : This paper is an ethnographic and historical exploration of Aboriginal Pentecostalism, which permeated quickly into the Aboriginal community in rural New South Wales in Australia during the early twentieth century. Today the Aboriginal Pentecostal Christians in this region renounce Aboriginal ‘culture’. This, however, does not mean they reject Aboriginality. By examining Malcolm Calley’s ethnography on the mid-twentieth century Pentecostal movement in this region and drawing upon my own fieldwork data, I show the way in which this group of Aboriginal Christians of mixed descent in a ‘settled’ part of Australia have maintained Aboriginality and reinforced attachment to the community through faith in the Christian God, whilst, paradoxically, developing strong anti-culture and anti-tradition discourses. This paper advocates shifting the study of social change from a dichotomised model that opposes invading moral orders against resisting traditional cultures, to one that examines the processual manifestations of the historical development of vernacular realities.

Comaroff & Comaroff, “Neo-Protestant Ethics and the Spirit of Capitalism: Perspectives from the Social Sciences”

March 20, 2012

Comaroff, Jean & John Comaroff (2012) “Neo-Protestant Ethics and the Spirit of Capitalism: Perspectives from the Social Sciences” in Elias Kifon Bongmba, ed, The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to African Religions. Wiley & Sons, Malden MA, Pp. 62-78.

Excerpt: “Prolegomenon: Herewithin three glimpses into the new religious world order. The First is from Post-apartheid South Africa. The New Life Church is to be found in Malifkeng, in the North West Province. Founded just before the fall of apartheid, it typifies as brand of upbeat, technically-hyped Pentecostalism that is aspiring to fill the moral void left by a withering of revolutionary ideals and civic norms in the postcolony. While New Life is the creation of a talented pair of pastors, a husband and wife who had reshaped it independently of denominational oversight, their community belongs to the International Federation of Christian Churches; this is a global network of congregations, all of which combine a lively charismatic realism with a frank morality, the latter embodied in a subject not embarrassed by this-worldly desire. . . “

Galal, “Coptic Christian practices”

March 19, 2012

Galal, Lise Paulsen. 2012. Coptic Christian practices: formations of sameness and difference. Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations. 23(1):45-58.

Abstract: Phrases such as ‘the only difference is one of faith’ construct Copts and Muslims in Egypt as, although different, mainly the same as each other. Similar constructions of sameness are also dominant in historical and current Egyptian narratives on national unity. However, as a result of the privileging of sameness and the underplaying of differences, the interaction between narratives of sameness and difference has been left unexplored and partly ignored, not only by national movements, but also by research. Thus, the main issue examined in this article is how current Orthodox Christian practices in Egypt take shape under the influence of hegemonic narratives of sameness and difference. Supported by data collected from ethnographic fieldwork carried out in Egypt, the argument is that the Copts, by positioning themselves as Christians in specific locations and situations, are mediating the antithetical potentialities of being the same as or different from the national Muslim majority. In other words, Christianity not only makes a difference as a sign of the Copts’ minority position, but also simultaneously offers Copts a way out of their marginal position as a minority.

Laugrand, “The Transition to Christianity”

March 19, 2012

Laugrand, Frederic. 2012. The Transition to Christianity and Modernity among Indigenous Peoples. Reviews in Anthropology. 41(1):1-22.

Abstract: In recent decades many anthropological studies have suggested new approaches to conversion in order to grasp the connections between local Christianities and modernities. However, the relationship between conversion in indigenous societies and modernity remains problematic. The notion of transformation is often used as an ideological concept, which gives little information on the nature of the process of conversion, which is organized by complex processes of transitions and continuities. A better understanding of the various forms of indigenous Christianity is crucial to the development of an anthropology of Christianity.

Barthes, “Billy Graham at the Vel’ d’Hiv'”

March 17, 2012

Barthes, Roland (2012 [1957]) “Billy Graham at the Vel’D’Hiv'”  in Mythologies: The Complete Edition, in a New Translation. Trans, Richard Howard & Annette Lavers. New York, Hill and Wang. Pp. 109-112.

Excerpt: “So many missionaries have regaled us with the religious practices of “Primitives” that it is entirely regrettable that a Papuan witch doctor was not at the Vel’ d’Hiv’ to describe the ceremony presided over by Dr. Graham under the name of an evangelizing campaign. There is a splendid piece of anthropological raw material here, which seems, moreover, to be inherited from certain “savage” cults, for we recognize in it under an immediate aspect the three great phases of every religious action: Expectation, Suggestion, Initiation . . . “

Dyer, “Loving Thyself: A Kohutian Interpretation of a ‘Limited’ Mature Narcissism in Evangelical Megachurches”

March 15, 2012

Dyer, Jennifer E (2012). “Loving Thyself: A Kohutian Interpretation of a “Limited” Mature Narcissism in Evangelical Megachurches” Journal of Religion and Health 51(1).

Abstract:

Evangelical megachurches across the United States provide a subculture for core and committed members who immerse themselves in these communities of faith. This article argues that American evangelical megachurches fail to mitigate “the narcissism epidemic” in the dominant secular culture. Using object relations theory, I discuss splitting as a psychological foundation for narcissism, and I employ Heinz Kohut’s self-psychology to analyze idealized, mirroring, and twinning self-objects in evangelical megachurches. Finally, given Kohut’s categories for a mature narcissism, I find that Evangelicals achieve creativity, empathy, transience, humor, and wisdom, in part, but their ideological frameworks, organizational characteristics, and beliefs challenge a transformation to mature narcissism.

van Klinken (2011) The Homosexual as the Antithesis of “Biblical Manhood”? Heteronormativity and Masculinity Politics in Zambian Pentecostal Sermons

March 15, 2012

Adriaan van Klinken (2011). The Homosexual as the Antithesis of “Biblical Manhood”? Heteronormativity and Masculinity Politics in Zambian Pentecostal Sermons. Journal of Gender and Religion in Africa 17(2): 126-42.

Abstract:

This article offers a critical analysis of a series of sermons entitled Fatherhood in the 21st Century preached in a Zambian Pentecostal church, in which homosexuality is an explicit theme. The sermons are discussed in relation to the broader controversy on homosexuality in African Christianity. While it is often suggested that African Christian leaders actively oppose same-sex relationships in order to profile themselves in local and global contexts, the case study reveals an additional factor. Homosexuality is also used in the politics of gender, particularly masculinity, within the church. The references to homosexuality in the sermons create a counter-image of the
promoted ideal of “biblical manhood”. A stereotypical homosexual is constructed, who embodies two of the main features of Zambian men: their preoccupation with sexuality and their indifference towards the male role they are to play. This article reveals the heteronormative politics and theology underpinning “biblical manhood” and points to the problematic consequences thereof in relation to HIV&AIDS. It also suggests how to interrogate and rethink “biblical manhood” from the perspective of queer theology.

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