Archive for April, 2014

Behera, “Mizo Beliefs and the Christian Gospel”

April 10, 2014

Behera, Marina Ngursangzeli.  2014.  Mizo Beliefs and the Christian Gospel: Their Interaction with Reference to the Concepts of Health and Healing.  Studies in World Christianity 20: 39-53.

Abstract: The Mizos of northeast India have their own unique culture and society with indigenous religious beliefs that were closely linked with their everyday needs and their world-views. For the Mizos the world was inhabited by spirits, some benevolent and some evil. The evil spirits were believed to cause all kinds of illnesses and misfortunes, and in order to recover from such illnesses the evil spirits had to be placated by sacrifices known as inthawina which can be understood as ‘ceremonial cures’. The Mizos lived in fear, always afraid of evil spirits, and their religious energies were centred on propitiating these evil spirits through frequent sacrifices. The Puithiams (priests) would officiate at such events. Christianity brought inevitable change in the Mizos’ religious and world-views. Nevertheless, many of the existing pre-Christian beliefs of Mizo society were adopted or modified by missionaries to help the Mizos to understand more fully Christian concepts and beliefs, especially with reference to the concepts of health and healing. It can also be argued that pre-Christian social, religious and cultural beliefs carried in them ‘theologies of life’ which were adopted by missionaries or those spreading the gospel message, thus allowing these practices, as well as Christian doctrines themselves, to be seen in a new light.

When Diversity Drops: Book Review

April 8, 2014

Park, Julie J. 2013. When Diversity Drops: Race, Religion, and Affirmative Action in Higher Education. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

By: Jerry Park (Baylor University)


In 1998, the state of California’s Proposition 209 struck down affirmative action as a policy to effect greater inclusion of racial minorities in higher education. At a time when non-white racial minorities were growing, particularly among younger cohorts, this new legislation would have a devastating impact on enrollment diversity at the state’s most prestigious public universities. How did student groups respond to this change and the paradoxical call for greater inclusion of all minorities in higher education?

Julie J. Park’s When Diversity Drops investigates this question by chronicling the events that took place in an evangelical Protestant student group at one of the major California public universities in the mid-2000s, roughly 6-8 years from the passage of Proposition 209 (we might call this the post-9/11 and pre-Obama era). Specifically, Park’s examination focused on the consequences of decreasing racial diversity for the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) at a public university in southern California (hereafter CU). During the period of her investigation, the state of California’s African American population held steady at about 7.5 percent while the Asian American population increased from 12 to 13.5 percent. This is significant because Park showed that CU’s African American enrollment decreased from 7 percent down to 4 percent after Prop. 209, while the Asian American rate held steady at about 38 percent, over twice the proportional presence of Asian Americans in the state. Moreover, IVCF-CU saw its Asian American population fluctuate between 50 and 60 percent of the entire group’s membership during this period. By contrast, African American student participation steadily dwindled from 10 percent to less than 5 by the end of her study. In other words, as the social unit of analysis gets smaller from state to public university to student group, the presence of Asian Americans gets larger, while the presence of African Americans gets smaller. IVCF-CU was an interesting case where Asian Americans held the dominant numerical presence during a time when Proposition 209 saw a significant decline in African Americans present at that same university, and in the organization itself. This precipitous decline of African American participation in IVCF-CU somewhat mirrored the decreasing enrollment levels of African Americans, but it does not explain all of it. Apart from this demographic shift due to a statewide change in policy, what consequences did it hold for this religious student group? Read the rest of this entry »

Juzwik, “American Evangelical Biblicism”

April 4, 2014

Juzwik, Mary M. 2014. American Evangelical Biblicism as Literate Practice: A Critical Review. Reading Research Quarterly. Early online publication.

Abstract: Practices of Biblical reading and interpretation are central to the literacy lives of those who call themselves evangelical Christians. More than one third of the U.S. population identifies as evangelical Christians, making evangelical Biblicism a pervasive and influential—if under-the-radar—literacy practice in U.S. life. Scholars of American evangelicalism have traditionally understood belief in the Bible as authoritative as one defining characteristic of the evangelical subculture in the United States. However, scholars interested in language, interpretation, and textual practices are only beginning to map out the contours of the literacy practices and ideologies entailed by American evangelical Biblicism. Critically reviewing scholarship across history, anthropology, religious studies, and sociology, I characterize evangelical Biblicism as an interpretive tradition mediated by a complex set of sociocultural practices and textual ideologies. From this standpoint, Biblicism involves the unceasing work of establishing and sustaining a transitive relationship among biblical text, right beliefs, and righteous actions. This set of relations gives rise to an interpretive tension that evangelicals have historically navigated between the necessity of interpretive freedom, allowing the Bible to live anew for each generation of believers (presence in the world), and the unchanging Truth of God’s word (the purity of the Word). Evangelicals dialogically mediate the transitivity among text, belief, and action—and attendant tensions between the purity of the Biblical Word and its presence in the world—in textual communities. Bibles themselves function as mediating literacy artifacts and articles of commerce in a global evangelical print culture. This understanding of American evangelical Biblicism as literate practice raises new questions and issues for literacy scholarship, related to how young people are introduced to evangelical Biblicist traditions and practices; how evangelical Biblicist traditions, practices, and ideologies travel around, across, and beyond textual communities; and how evangelical Biblicism shapes teaching and learning in schools.


Direct Sales and Direct Faith: Book Review

April 1, 2014

Cahn, Peter S. 2011. Direct Sales and Direct Faith in Latin America. New York: Palgrave MacMillan.

By: Rebecca Bartel (University of Toronto)


In the first pages of this ethnography of direct faith and direct sales, the reader becomes intimately acquainted with Luisa and her family, perhaps one of the most remarkable elements of Cahn’s study. Cahn’s focus on one character gives an in-depth account of deeply imbedded positive thought practices, and the reader is quickly drawn into the life of Luisa and her unfaltering adherence to Omnilife, a direct sales company and, more important, a vehicle for transforming her life. Luisa, a Mexican Roman Catholic and Omnilife sales representative, embodies what Cahn defines as “direct faith”: a “kind of intimate relationship with the divine, unmediated by clergy, saints, or sin” (2). Direct faith is rooted in positive thought, the “innate ability to affect the material world through one’s mind” (3), and for Cahn this direct faith is most eloquently animated through Luisa and her family’s commitment to Omnilife. Direct sales, according to Cahn, provide a worldview that looks backwards to a time when prosperity came naturally (15). Read the rest of this entry »

%d bloggers like this: