Archive for June, 2014

Kollman, “World-Historical Turn in the History of Christianity and Theology”

June 24, 2014

Kollman, Paul. 2014. Understanding the World-Christian Turn in the History of Christianity and Theology. Theology Today. 71(2): 164-177.

Abstract: Growth in Christianity has spurred the appearance of the subfield of world Christianity, whose assumptions increasingly shape scholarship on Christianity. What I term the world-Christian turn, which is often linked to mission studies, yields more comprehensive approaches to the Christian past, connecting local histories of Christian communities to larger-scale historical movements and producing innovative comparative perspectives on Christianity past and present. In Catholic theology, this turn has encouraged new comparative and contextual theologies. Yet support for Christian mission and the world-Christian turn need not go together. Two cases in point: comparative theology tends to eschew mission while the work of Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI, is suspicious of some impulses behind the world-Christian turn and their potential for undermining Christian mission. Such cases notwithstanding, I argue that missiology is a promising resource for the field of world Christianity.

 

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Kallinen, “Christianity, fetishism, and the development of secular politics in Ghana”

June 17, 2014

Kallinen, Timo.  2014. Christianity, fetishism, and the development of secular politics in Ghana: A Dumontian Approach.  Anthropological Theory 14(20: 153-168.

Abstract: The paper discusses the impact of Christianity on the institutions of divine kingship and chiefship among the Asante people of Ghana during the late pre-colonial and colonial periods. The thrust of the paper is that separate categories of religion and politics emerged in Asante society as the colonial administration sought to facilitate missionary work and conversion while at the same time they supported the chiefs as the secular rulers of the country. The analysis is based on Dumont’s ideas on the differentiation of the political category and the characteristics of the modern state. Dumont’s own work on secularization focused on long-term historical developments that were markedly different from the abrupt changes described here. Nevertheless, his ideas help us significantly in comprehending the profoundness and radicality of this transformation. Additionally, the aim of the paper is to provide some historical background for understanding debates about the nature and value of traditional chieftaincy in present-day Ghana.

Heo, “The Divine Touchability of Dreams”

June 10, 2014

Heo, Angie. 2014. “The Divine Touchability of Dreams.” In Sensational Religion, edited by Salley M. Promey. Yale: Yale University Press.

Excerpt: “In Port Said, a city between Egypt’s Suez Canal and the Mediterranean, an icon of the Virgin Mary exudes holy oil …. [s]ince 1990, year after year the image had attracted thousands of Coptic Christian pilgrims to the Church of Saint Bishoi, where it is housed. Unlike other surrounding icons in the sanctuary, painted and consecrated by priestly hands, this one is an ‘autoconsecrating’ poster replica. It produces and reproduces holy oil by itself. This oil leaves behind worn paper traces in its liquid trail as it travels from the Virgin’s outstretched hands to the plastic canopy that captures the oil beneath her feet. From there, the priests of the church collect and distributes the oil as a form of remembrance …..

Devotees understand the origin of the icon’s miraculous activity to reside in the drama of one women’s dream. On the evening of February 20, 1990, the Virgin Mary (by way of saintly visitation) healed Samia Youssef Badilious of breast cancer. Samia dreamed that the Virgin, assisted by three other saints, preformed surgery on her. Within the space of the dream, Samia lay down on a white table as the saints held her hands. Then the Virgin touched the cancerous breast. Startled by a burning bolt of sensation that rushed through her body, Samia pulled her right hand away. The Virgin grabbed it back and held her hand. When Samia awoke, she discovered that she had been healed….”

A Matter of Belief: Book Review

June 9, 2014

Joshi, Vibha. 2012. A Matter of Belief: Christian Conversion and Healing in North-East India. New York: Berghahn Books.

Reviewed by Jessica Hardin (Pacific University)

This is a book about how animism and Christianity are practiced together among Angami people in Nagaland in North-East India. Vibha Joshi provides a wide overview of indigenous religious practices, the contemporary Christian landscape, and colonial/missionary history building on fieldwork spanning from 1985 through to 2011. Most broadly, the book aims to show how Christianity provides a framework for political peace for conflict arising between Naga nationalist groups and the Indian government. Specifically, Joshi argues that Christianity provides a language and organization for reconciliation, even if she remains skeptical of its capacities to truly “heal society.” The motivation for this book is to provide a deep overview of the historical complexity of the emergence of Christianity and the ways Christianity is intertwined with nationalism in North-East India. The book provides a wide scope of historical, political, and geographic context and, as such, is less a book about Christianity per se and more about (1) the relationship between indigenous religions and Christianity in beliefs and practice and (2) the political uses of Christianity from colonialism through to contemporary calls for peace, reconciliation, and unity.

The book is explicitly situated in conversation with the Anthropology of Christianity (5-11). Joshi writes that she did not start this project as a study of Christianity, but instead came to study Christianity through her work with Angami healers. She writes, “one could say that my research at the outset and throughout has focused on Naga as a people, including its healers, some of whom are Christian” (6). Nonetheless, Joshi frames the book as about conversion to Christianity. She explores both “the pragmatic” and “the passionate” (3) dimensions of large-scale conversion and aims to draw attention to the contradictions and tensions that arise when Christianity is put to the work of nationalism, calls for cultural homogeneity, and peace. One of the contradictions that Joshi highlights is that the rituals, attire, and art that expresses Naga-ness, which were originally discouraged by missionaries in the early phases of evangelism, are now taking center stage at public Christian celebrations. Joshi does not expand on how this tension is experienced by her interlocutors as much as suggests points of interaction between indigenous religion, Christianity, and historical context. Overall Joshi asks, “what, then, can a new religion offer, and what is appropriated by the converts?” (7). Read the rest of this entry »

Mission Station Christianity: Book Review

June 6, 2014

Hovland, Ingie. 2013. Mission station Christianity: Norwegian missionaries in colonial Natal and Zululand, southern Africa 1850-1890. Leiden and Boston: Brill.

By: Casey Golomski (University of the Witwatersrand)

 

In Mission Station Christianity, Ingie Hovland gives religious studies scholars and anthropologists a concise and useful case study of the Norwegian Missionary Society’s (NMS) colonial encounters with Zulu peoples in nineteenth century Southern Africa. The book is part of Brill’s interdisciplinary Studies in Christian Mission series that presents historical, global case studies of transcultural missionary movements. This is her first book.  Read the rest of this entry »

Jennings, “Imagining Jesus doing a Whole Lotta Shakin'”

June 3, 2014

Jennings, Mark.  2014. Imagining Jesus doing a Whole Lotta Shakin’: Pentecostal worship, popular music and the politics of experience.  Culture and Religion 15(2): 211-226.

Abstract: This paper commences with a brief outline of the history of the symbiotic relationship between popular music and Pentecostalism in the USA. While early rockers learned many of the techniques of ecstasy from Pentecostal worship, in recent times Pentecostal/charismatic songwriters and worship leaders have completed the circle, re-appropriating popular music forms for use in church. This is particularly the case in Australia, where Hillsong and Planetshakers have led the way in composing worship music using rock, pop and hip-hop forms. Drawing from ethnographic data from my own participant observation at an Australian Pentecostal church, I attempt to address the question ‘Can the ecstatic encounter with God which is central to Pentecostalism be accessed in other, “unbaptized” (i.e. non-Christian) musical contexts?’ The ambivalence of responses from the members of ‘Breakfree’ Christian church point to the fact that this is a political issue: at stake is the authority to determine which experiences are ‘Christian’, and which not.

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