Archive for May, 2014

Dengah, “How Religious Status Shapes Psychological Well-being”

May 27, 2014

Dengah, H. J. François.  2014. How Religious Status Shapes Psychological Well-being: Cultural Consonance as a Measure of Subcultural Status among Brazilian Pentecostals.  Social Science and Medicine.  Early online publication.

Abstract: Research on subjective social status has long recognized that individuals occupy multiple social hierarchies, with socioeconomic status (SES) being but one. The issue, as such, has been to identify culturally meaningful measures of social status. Through cognitive anthropological theory and methods, I show that it is possible to identify multiple cultural models of “status,” and objectively measure an individual’s level of adherence, or consonance, with each—effectively placing them within the multidimensional space of social hierarchies. Through a mixed qualitative and quantitative study of 118 Brazilian Pentecostals carried out from 2011-2012, I show that dominant and limitedly-distributed cultural models of status operate simultaneously and concurrently in the lives of those who hold them. Importantly, each marker of cultural status moderates the other’s association with psychological well-being. I argue that the importance of a given social hierarchy is framed by cultural values. For Brazilian Pentecostals, their limitedly distributed model of religious status alters the influence of more dominant societal indicators on psychological well-being. The interaction between religious and secular lifestyle statuses on psychological health is stronger than the association of SES, effectively explaining 51% of the variance. This finding suggests that among some populations, limitedly distributed cultural models of status may be a dominant force in shaping measures of well-being.

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Yidana, “From Divine Word to Divine Wealth”

May 27, 2014

Yidana, Adadow.  2014. From Divine Word to Divine Wealth: Sociological Analysis of the Developmental Phases of Pentecostal Churches in Ghana.  Asian Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences 2(2): 346-354.

Abstract: There is an ongoing debate regarding the proliferation of Pentecostal churches in Africa and Ghana in particular. Consequently, Pentecostal denominations are seen as routes through which people gain fame and make wealth. Using a data collection in Ghana in the city of Tamale between July and December 2013, this paper provides an analysis of the different developmental phases of Pentecostal churches in Ghana. The results points to an increasing numbers of Pentecostal churches in Ghana. This increased is partly due to the increasing number of educated elites who have taken advantage of the economic potential in establishing Pentecostal churches. The paper reveals that the real intention of almost all pastors who have planted their churches is to see it grow to become a mega church or reaching a true entrepreneurial stage. The paper further reveals that it is not just a one stop journey, but has to pass through stages before achieving the self fulfilling stage. The paper thus concludes that in as long as the industry remains lucrative, a number of educated elites will join the vacation.

Sites and Politics of Religious Diversity in Southern Europe: Book Review

May 21, 2014

Mapril, José and Ruy Blanes (eds). 2013. Sites and Politics of Religious Diversity in Southern Europe: The Best of All Gods. Leiden and Boston: Brill.

By: Kim Knibbe (University of Groningen)

The anthropology of religion in the South of Europe is alive and well. That is the resounding conclusion after reading this volume. Furthermore, it has stepped out well beyond the bounds of the classic ‘anthropology of the Mediterranean’. In an important sense, this volume also falls outside the scope of the anthropology of Christianity, since its subject is religious diversity, and it includes studies of Islam, Sikhism, Umbanda and Candomblé, New Age, and neo-paganism. In fact, only a small number of chapters deal with Christianity as their main subject matter. Nevertheless, the volume raises some important questions that are worth discussing in this forum.

The introduction by the editors does a good job of introducing the subject and providing a framework for the very diverse contributions to the volume. It starts out with the question of the religious heritage of Europe that emerged around the issue of a European constitution: can this be thought of only in terms of Christianity (in other discussions, ‘Judeo-’ is sometimes added in front of Christianity, still not self-evidently part of what is thought of as the European heritage)? This volume aims to show that the groups discussed here conceptualize Europe in quite different ways, and create new cartographies of this place called Europe. Each of these cartographies in their own right can be read as a challenge to the ‘secularist hegemony’ of public opinion and, one might add, of Eurocrats (1). Europe, even the south of Europe, which appeared so homogenously Christian in the anthropology of the Mediterranean, is quite diverse in terms of religion.

While religious diversity is not a new phenomenon, in the light of the ‘return of religion’ in public debate (if not in fact, since religion had never really gone away) the editors argue that it is something worth noting and exploring. How do different groups shape the relationship between religion and culture on the one hand, and place on the other hand? How are migrant groups subject to ‘double marginalization,’ as migrants and as ‘religiously other,’ and how do they resist this? The south of Europe is particularly interesting, they argue, because it is at the edges of the Schengen area, the place where boundary work is particularly urgent since it is a gateway for migrants from Africa and the Middle East to Europe. Read the rest of this entry »

Ketola et al., “New communities of worship”

May 15, 2014

Ketola, Kimmo, Tuomas Martikainen, Hanna Salomäki.  2014. New communities of worship: Continuities and mutations among religious organizations in Finland.  Social Compass 61(2): 153-171.

Abstract: The authors provide a summary of three key developments that have brought change to the field of religious organizations in Finland: the emergence of new Lutheran communities (the St Thomas Mass, the so-called Nokia Revival and the fundamentalist Luther Foundation Finland); Ashtanga yoga as a form of spirituality; and the spread of migrant religious communities. The article sets these developments in the context of late modern communal belonging and discusses how religious communities have been transforming over the last two to three decades in Finland.

Kaufman, “A Plea for Ethnographic Methods”

May 14, 2014

Kaufman, Tone Stangeland.  2014.  “A Plea for Ethnographic Methods and a Spirituality of Everyday Life in the Study of Christian Spirituality: A Norwegian Case of Clergy Spirituality.” Spiritus: A Journal of Christian Spirituality 14(1): 94-102.

Excerpt: What counts as “real spirituality” or “real pastoral spirituality”? What can be sustainable sources of spiritual nourishment for clergy and others who are employed by the church? These questions might call for a wider understanding of pastoral spirituality than has traditionally been the case, and also for the willingness to look for such spirituality outside the explicitly “religious or spiritual sphere.” The quotes above are taken from open ended, in-depth interviews with ordained pastors in my Norwegian, Lutheran context. The twenty-one strategically sampled interviewees of this study on clergy spirituality all served as pastors in the Church of Norway (CofN) at the time they were interviewed.

At the outset of my research, my focus was primarily the contemplative or devotional practices of the clergyHowever, during the analysis, the salience and significance of everyday practices related to children and family life began emerging as a pattern worth exploring more in depth. This is a discovery that I would have probably not reached had I only studied classical texts written by spiritual figures such as Julian of Norwich, St. John of the Cross, or Evelyn Underhill.

This essay, then, has a twofold purpose; one material and one methodological. Materially, it makes a plea for the significance of an everyday spirituality not only for lay (people), but also for clergy, at least in non-Catholic traditions. This might also apply to lay leaders and deacons in Catholic contexts. Methodologically, I want to suggest that an ethnographic approach might enrich the study of Christian spirituality by expanding the sources (or data) to be explored, and by challenging or nuancing existing categories of the field. The ethnographic lens gives access to the spiritual experiences of contemporary people who have not written—or are not in the position to write—spiritual texts themselves.

Ridgely, “Connected Christians”

May 14, 2014

Ridgely, Susan B.  2014.  “Connected Christians: New Practices in Evangelical Spirituality.”  Spiritus: A Journal of Christian Spirituality 14(1): 84-93.

Excerpt: Having been reared on Focus on the Family’s Adventures in Odyssey and having been home schooled through high school, it was not surprising that Seth wanted his children to grow up to embrace Jesus and to live according to the Bible. Nor was it surprising that this millennial father, and second-generation evangelical, desired to express his religious commitments through a tattoo on his forearm that will read, “Veritology,” a term coined in a Focus on the Family (Focus) DVD seminar. “Veritology: What is Truth?” headlined The Truth Project’s first lesson, a lesson that asked the question that has anchored Seth’s life since he first saw the series two years ago: “Do our actions reflect what we believe to be ?” Seth explained, “you can go back and basically analyze your beliefs, not just the things you say you believe, but what you actually believe, by looking at how you behave. And I think that has been—it’s been both convicting and it’s been amazingly inspirational to me.” As Seth interpreted Focus’s question, it licensed his movement away from reliance on traditional Evangelical authorities, organizations, and the material they’ve produced. In this way, Seth reflected the “New evangelicals,” as Tom Krattenmaker calls them: Young “[b]elievers eschewing locked-down doctrinal declarations and political battles to tend to the specific and the local.” These young evangelicals might be seen as part of the “emergent church” or Gordon Lynch’s Generation X Christianity, but none of them used those terms or viewed themselves as part of a movement. Rather, like many of his generation, Seth shied away from the rigidness of Christian institutions or the labels of broad movements, while magnifying the piece of his tradition that demanded that he be in relationship with others. This emphasis on relationship with God and community has led me to term Seth and his fellow second-generation evangelicals “connected Christians.” In this short essay I compare the religious practices of Seth and twenty other “connected Christians” with those practiced by fifteen of their first-generation co-religionists. Here, I explore how feeling comfortable in their Evangelical tradition and confident in their relationships with both God and the world has oriented the second-generation toward what they perceive to be unique spiritual expressions of faith that have been shaped by, but are distinct from, their parents.

Klassen, “The Politics of Protestant Healing”

May 14, 2014

Klassen, Pamela.  2014.  The Politics of Protestant Healing: Theoretical Tools for the Study of Spiritual Bodies and The Body Politic.”  Spiritus: A Journal of Christian Spirituality 14(1): 68-75. 

Excerpt: Spirituality and healing are a potent combination that is as likely to provoke skeptical critique as convinced testimony. Claims that physical healing may occur as a result of spiritual conviction or influence have long been problematic for most medical institutions, while lucrative for some religious ones. In this paper, I argue that scholars of religion who seek to study the confluence of spirituality and healing ethnographically must attend carefully to this tension between skepticism and testimony. As concepts or claims, both spirituality and healing are not exact, fully quantifiable, or fully measureable. The question for the ethnographer, who seeks to set spirituality and healing within cultural and political contexts, then becomes: what forms of legitimation do those testifying to the healing powers of spirituality use to make sense of it, and what forms do skeptics use to render claims of spiritual healing literally incredible? Answering this question requires that any scholar studying the confluence of spirituality and healing attend to how political economies and social imaginaries shape the practices of legitimation that support and constrain spiritual healing.

Gunther Brown, “Feeling is Believing”

May 14, 2014

Gunther Brown, Candy.  2014.  “Feeling is Believing: Pentecostal Prayer and Complementary and Alternative Medicine.”  Spiritus: A Journal of Christian Spirituality 14(1): 60-67.

Excerpt: Sensory experience is pivotal to postmodern culture. A globalized world seems newly interconnected, yet individuals may feel more isolated than ever before. Scientific technologies and modern medicine have achieved remarkable triumphs and exhibited devastating limitations that leave people unsatisfied and searching for “more.” Modernization has not resulted in secularization, but sources of religious knowing—revealed Scripture, inherited tradition, institutional authority—have become unsettled. Postmoderns want more than intellectual certainty; they long for direct experiences of what is really real. In the United States and globally, many postmodern Christians combine “scientific” medicine with diverse touch-oriented “religious” and “spiritual” healing practices to find healing, reassurance that God is present with them personally, and hope for their future lives on earth and in the world to come.

This essay draws on ten years of ethnographic research, in the United States and across globally diffuse social networks, on Christian prayer for divine healing and participation in complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). I argue that touch-oriented healing practices attract adherents by promising sensory experience of the sacred. Bodily experiences in turn shape religious perceptions and may open a revolving door between religious world-views.

Kaell, “Walking Where Jesus Walked: American Christians and Holy Land Pilgrimage”

May 10, 2014

Kaell, Hillary. 2014. Walking Where Jesus Walked: American Christians and Holy Land Pilgrimage. New York: New York University Press. 

Publisher’s Description: Since the 1950s, millions of American Christians have traveled to the Holy Land to visit places in Israel and the Palestinian territories associated with Jesus’s life and death. Why do these pilgrims choose to journey halfway around the world? How do they react to what they encounter, and how do they understand the trip upon return? This book places the answers to these questions into the context of broad historical trends, analyzing how the growth of mass-market evangelical and Catholic pilgrimage relates to changes in American Christian theology and culture over the last sixty years, including shifts in Jewish-Christian relations, the growth of small group spirituality, and the development of a Christian leisure industry.

Drawing on five years of research with pilgrims before, during and after their trips, Walking Where Jesus Walked offers a lived religion approach that explores the trip’s hybrid nature for pilgrims themselves: both ordinary—tied to their everyday role as the family’s ritual specialists, and extraordinary—since they leave home in a dramatic way, often for the first time. Their experiences illuminate key tensions in contemporary US Christianity between material evidence and transcendent divinity, commoditization and religious authority, domestic relationships and global experience.

Hillary Kaell crafts the first in-depth study of the cultural and religious significance of American Holy Land pilgrimage after 1948. The result sheds light on how Christian pilgrims, especially women, make sense of their experience in Israel-Palestine, offering an important complement to top-down approaches in studies of Christian Zionism and foreign policy.

Reinhardt, “Soaking in tapes: the haptic voice of global Pentecostal pedagogy in Ghana”

May 2, 2014

Reinhardt, Bruno. 2014. Soaking in tapes: the haptic voice of global Pentecostal pedagogy in Ghana. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 20(2):315-336.

Abstract: Can a voice touch? This possibility is indeed what underlies ‘soaking in tapes’, a devotional practice performed in Anagkazo Bible and Ministry Training Center, a Pentecostal seminary based in Accra, Ghana. Soaking in tapes is a form of impartation, or grace transmission, homologous to the biblical method of laying on of hands. In this article, I explore the conditions of possibility of this transposition of touch into speaking and hearing, arguing that the haptic voice of soaking in tapes is predicated upon a cultivated receptivity and a specific bond connecting addresser and addressee. I situate the practice in the school’s broader pedagogical apparatus, where it operates simultaneously as a spiritual exercise, a method of discipleship, and a technology of church government. I conclude by showing how soaking in tapes gives a pedagogical inflection to the general tactility and flow-orientated materiality of global Pentecostal power.

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