Posts Tagged ‘Conversion’

Robbins, Schieffelin, and Vilaça, “Evangelical Conversion and the Transformation of the Self in Amazonia and Melanesia”

July 23, 2014

Robbins, Joel, Bambi B, Schieffelin, and Aparecida Vilaça. 2014. Evangelical Conversion and the Transformation of the Self in Amazonia and Melanesia: Christianity and the Revival of Anthropological Comparison. Comparative Studies in Society and History 56(3):559–590.

Abstract: The last several decades have seen both a renewed anthropological interest in the possibility of cross-cultural comparison and the rapid rise of the anthropology of Christianity. These two trends should be mutually supportive. One of the promises of the anthropology of Christianity from the outset has been that it will allow people to compare how processes of Christianization have unfolded in different parts of the world and to consider how the resulting Christian configurations are similar to and different from one another. But to this point, relatively little detailed comparative empirical work on Christianity has appeared. Our aim here is to contribute to remedying this situation. Drawing on recent theoretical work on comparison, we set comparative work on Christianity on a new footing. Empirically, we examine how processes of Evangelical Christianization have transformed notions of the self in one Amazonian society (Wari’) and two unrelated societies in Melanesia (Bosavi and Urapmin). We define the self for comparative purposes as composed of ideas of the mind or inner self, the body, and relations between people. In our three cases, Christianization has radically transformed these ideas, emphasizing the inner self and downplaying the importance of the body and of social relations. While our empirical conclusions are not wholly unexpected, the extent to which the details of our three cases speak comparatively to one another, and the extent to which the broad processes of Christian transformation they involve are similar, are surprising and lay a promising foundation for future comparative work in the anthropology of Christianity.

Droogers, “The Cultural Dimensions of Pentecostalism”

July 22, 2014

Droogers, André. 2014. The Cultural Dimension of Pentecostalism. In The Cambridge Companion to Pentecostalism, edited by Cecil M. Robeck Jr. and Amos Young, 195-214, New York: Cambridge University Press.

Excerpt: “The scope of this chapter is to draw the map of the pentecostal cultural landscape and make an inventory of actors and factors, patterns and processes. The expansion of Pentecostalism amid profound changes in the world will first lead to a discussion of two recent trends in the world cultural situation: a chance in perspective and a recognition of the human capacity for meaning-making. Subsequently four aspects of the relationship between Pentecostalism and culture receive attention: that Pentecostalism appears to offer a ‘portable identity,’ the question of the degree to which continuity and rupture with the surrounding culture occur, the conversion process, and a repertoire model of a church 0r community. A section on the methodology of the study of the cultural dimension of Pentecostalism appears before the concluding summary …..”

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 »

Wilfred (ed), “The Oxford Handbook of Christianity in Asia”

April 24, 2014

Wilfred, Felix.  2014. The Oxford Handbook of Christianity in Asia.  Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Publisher’s Description: Despite the ongoing global expansion of Christianity, there remains a lack of comprehensive scholarship on its development in Asia. This volume fills the gap by exploring the world of Asian Christianity and its manifold expressions, including worship, theology, spirituality, inter-religious relations, interventions in society, and mission. The contributors, from over twenty countries, deconstruct many of the widespread misconceptions and interpretations of Christianity in Asia. They analyze how the growth of Christian beliefs throughout the continent is linked with the socio-political and cultural processes of colonization, decolonization, modernization, democratization, identity construction of social groups, and various social movements. With a particular focus on inter-religious encounters and emerging theological and spiritual paradigms, the volume provides alternative frames for understanding the phenomenon of conversion and studies how the scriptures of other religious traditions are used in the practice of Christianity within Asia.
The Oxford Handbook of Christianity in Asia draws insightful conclusions on the historical, contemporary, and future trajectory of its subject by combining the contributions of scholars in a wide variety of disciplines, including theology, sociology, history, political science, and cultural studies. It will be an invaluable resource for understanding Christianity in a global context.

Table of Contents:

General introduction
Part I: Mapping of Asian Christianity
1. Christianity in West Asia – H. Teule
2. South Asian Christianity in Context – Felix Wilfred
3. Christian Minorities on the Central Asian Silk Roads – Sebastien Peyrouse
4. On the Trail of Spices: Christianity in Southeast Asia – Georg Evers
5. Identity and Marginality – Christianity in East Asia – Edmond Tang

Part II: Cross Cultural Flows and Pan-Asian Movements of Asian Christianity
6. Asian Theological Trends – Michael Amaladoss
7. Scriptural Translations and Cross-textual Hermeneutics – Archie C. C. Lee
8. The Contributions of the Asian Ecumenical Movements to World Ecumenism – Aruna Gnanadason
9. Inter-Asia Mission and Global Missionary Movements from Asia – Sebastian Kim
10. Pentecostalism and Charismatic Movements in Asia – Allan Anderson
11. Forms of Asian Indigenous Christianities – Paul Joshua
12. Gender, Sexuality, and Christian Feminist Movements – Sharon A. Bong

Part III: Asian Christianities and the Social-Cultural Processes
13. Modernity and Change of Values: Asian Christian Negotiations and Resistance – Angela Wai Ching Wong
14. Caveats to Christianization: Colonialism, Nationalism and Christian – Julius Bautista
15. Socio-Political developments in the Middle-East and Their Impact on Christian – Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid
16. Asian Christianity and Politics of Conversion – Rudi Heradia
17. Political Democratization and Asian Churches: The Case of Taiwan – Po Ho Huang
18. The Role of Christianity in Peace and Conflict in Asia – Liyanage Anthony Jude Lal Fernando
19. Christianity and the cause of Asian Women – Gemma Cruz
20. Education in Asia – Lun-Li
21. Christian Social Engagement in Asia – Felix Wilfred

Part IV: Asian Christianity in its Interaction with Asian Religious Traditions
22. Changing Paradigms of Asian Christian Attitude to Other Religions – Wesley Ariarajah
23. Jewish – Christian relationships in the West Asia – History, Major Issues, Challenges – David M. Neuhaus
24. Muslim Perceptions of Asian Christianity: A survey – Ataullah Siddiqui
25. The Multiverse of Hindu Engagement with Christianity – Ananta K. Giri
26. Christian Tradition in the Eyes of Asian Buddhists: The Case of Japan – Dennis Hirota
27. Encounter between Confucianism and Christianity – Jonatha Tan
28. Asian Christianity and Religious Conversion: Issues and Debates – Richard Fox Young
29. Asian Christian Art and Architecture – Gudrun Löwner

Part V: Some Future Trajectories of Asian Christianity
30. Christians in Asia Read Sacred Books of the East – George Gispert-Sauch
31. Multiple Religious Belonging or Complex Identity – An Asian Way – Bagus Laksana
32. Asian Christian Spirituality – Peter Phan C.
33. Asian Christian Forms of Worship and Music – Swee Hong
34. Revisiting Historiographies: New Directions – Daniel Pilario
35. Asian Christianity and Public Life -The Interplay – Felix Wilfred
36. Migration and New Cosmopolitanism in Asian Christianity – Mario Francisco
37. Western Christianity in the Light of Christianity in Asia: A Western Christian’s Reflection – Francis Clooney

Yamane, “Becoming Catholic”

February 4, 2014

Yamane, David.  2014. Becoming Catholic: Finding Rome in the American Religious Landscape.  Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Publisher’s Description: Conversion has been an essential element of Christianity, and especially of Roman Catholicism, for centuries–from the Apostle Paul’s dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus to the spiritual transformations of such prominent modern individuals as Cardinal Newman, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Thomas Merton, and G.K. Chesterton. In a 1926 essay, Chesterton expressed reluctance to describe his conversion, on account of “a strong feeling that this method makes the business look much smaller than it really is.”

As David Yamane shows in Becoming Catholic, the business was not only spiritually but literally very large, and growing ever larger: roughly 150,000 Americans join the Catholic Church each year, and more than one in fifty American adults is a Catholic convert. Altogether, these 5.85 million individuals are the fifth-largest religious group in America. In this first significant study of the phenomenon of Roman Catholic conversion in the contemporary United States, Yamane provides an in-depth look at the process of adult initiation in the twenty-first century Catholic Church, including the new process of spiritual formation–called the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA)–that was ushered in by Vatican II. The RCIA process, which has become an integral part of Catholic parish life, takes individuals on a journey through four distinct, formative periods, punctuated by elaborate ritual transitions, before they are finally baptized at Easter.

Drawing on years of observational fieldwork and candid interviews with more than 200 individuals undergoing the initiation process, Yamane follows would-be Catholics through all four stages of the RCIA and offers an incisive new perspective on what it means to choose Catholicism in America today.

Radford, “Contesting and negotiating religion and ethnic identity”

January 28, 2014

Radford, David.  2014.  “Contesting and negotiating religion and ethnic identity in Post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan.”  Central Asian Survey (Published online 23 January 2014).

Abstract: Post-Soviet Central Asia has inherited a set of circumstances conducive to the revitalization of religion. The renewal of Muslim awareness and identity in Central Asia may not be surprising, but the growth of Christianity is, especially in its Protestant form within indigenous Muslim communities. This article, based on qualitative field research, reviews one example of this development: the process of conversion to Protestant Christianity among Muslim Kyrgyz in Kyrgyzstan. A prominent aspect of this social movement has been the ways in which Kyrgyz Christians have entered into a dynamic process of engaging with issues of identity and what it means to be Kyrgyz – a process that has sought to locate their new Christian religious identity within, rather than on the margins of, familial and ethnic identity, and one that challenges the normative understanding of Kyrgyz identity: that to be Kyrgyz is to be Muslim. While providing the context for Kyrgyz conversion, this discussion primarily focuses on the way Kyrgyz Christians utilize a number of different discursive strategies to contest normative Kyrgyz identity constructs and to legitimize a Kyrgyz Christian identity.

Herbal, “Turning to Tradition”

October 24, 2013

Herbal, (The Rev.) D. Oliver.  2014.  Turning to Tradition: Converts and the Making of an American Orthodox Church.  Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Publisher’s Description: Recent years have seen increasing numbers of Protestant and Catholic Christians converting to Eastern Orthodox Christianity. In this book D. Oliver Herbel examines Christian converts to Orthodoxy who served as exemplars and leaders for convert movements in America during the twentieth century. These convert groups include Carpatho Rusyns, African Americans, and Evangelicals.

Religious mavericks have a long history in Americaa tradition of being anti-tradition. Converts to orthodoxy reject such individualism by embracing an ancient form of Christianity even as they exemplify it by choosing their own religious paths. Drawing on archival resources including Rusyn and Russian newspapers, unpublished internal church documents, personal archives, and personal interviews, Herbel presents a close examination of the theological reasons for the exemplary converts’ own conversions as well as the reasons they offered to persuade those who followed them. He considers the conversions within the context of the American anti-tradition, and of racial and ethnic tensions in America. This book offers the first serious investigation of this important trend in American religion and the first in-depth investigation of any kind of African-American Orthodoxy.

Stout and Dein, “Alpha and evangelical conversion”

October 2, 2013

Stout, Anna and Simon Dein.  2013.  Alpha and evangelical conversion.  Journal of Beliefs and Values 34(2): Published Online 26 September 2013.

Abstract: A semi-structured interview study was conducted among 11 ‘Born Again’ Christians eliciting their conversion narratives. Informants emphasised the importance of embodying the Holy Spirit and developing a personal relationship with Christ in the process of conversion. The Alpha Course played an important role in this process.

Marzouki and Roy (eds), “Religious Conversions in the Mediterranean World”

September 9, 2013

Marzouki, Nadia and Olivier Roy (eds).  2013.  Religious Conversions in the Mediterranean World.  New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Publisher’s Description:

While globalization and the European construction increasingly undermine the model of the nation-state in the Mediterranean world, conversions reveal the capacity of religion to disrupt, and unsettle previous understandings of political and social relations. Converts’ claims and practice are often met with the hostility of the state and the public while converts can often be perceived either as traitors or as unconscious and weak tools of foreign manipulation.

Based on first-hand ethnographical research from several countries throughout the Mediterranean region, this book is the first of its kind in studying and analyzing contemporary conversions and their impact on recasting ideas of nationalism and citizenship. In doing so, this interdisciplinary study confronts historical, anthropological, political science and sociological approaches which offers an insight into the national, legal and political challenges of legislating for religious minorities that arise from conversions. Moreover, the specific examination of contemporary religious conversion contributes more widely to debates about the delinking of religion and culture, globalization, and secularism.

Contents:

1. Evangelicals in the Arab world: the Example of Lebanon; Fatiha Kaoues
2. Purifying the Soul and Healing the Nation, Conversions to Evangelical Protestantism in Algeria; Nadia Marzouki
3. Religious Mobilities in the City: African Migrants and New Christendom in Cairo; Julie Picard
4. Pentecostal Judaism and Ethiopian-Israelis; Don Seeman
5. Ambiguous Conversions: The Selective Adaptation of Religious Cultures in Colonial North Africa; Heather J. Sharkey
6. Converts at work: Confessing a conversion; Loïc Le Pape
7. Being a Black Convert to Judaism in France; Aurélien Mokoko Gampiot
8. Converting to ‘Mormonisms’ in France: a Conversion both Religious and Cultural?; Chrystal Vanel
9. Participating Without Converting, the Case of Muslims Attending St. Anthony’s Church in Istanbul; Benoît Fliche

Young and Seitz, ed, “Asia in the Making of Christianity”

June 26, 2013

Young, Richard Fox and Jonathan A. Seitz, eds. 2013. Asia in the Making of Christianity: Conversion, Agency, and Indigeneity, 1600s to the Present. London: Brill.

Contributors: Richard Fox Young, Jonathan A. Seitz, Nola Cooke, Richard Burden, Joseph Tse-Hei Lee, La Seng Dingrin, Erik de Maaker, Sipra Mukherjee, Gregory Vanderbilt, Jonas Adelin Jorgensen, Chad M. Bauman, Franklin Rausch, Rhonda Semple, Matthias Frenz, Edwin Zehner

Publisher’s Description: Drawing on first person accounts, Asia in the Making of Christianity studies conversion in the lives of Christians throughout Asia, past and present. Fifteen contributors treat perennial questions about conversion: continuity and discontinuity, conversion and communal conflict, and the politics of conversion. Some study individuals (An Chunggŭn of Korea, Liang Fa of China, Nehemiah Goreh of India), while others treat ethnolinguistic groups or large-scale movements. Converts sometimes appear as proto-nationalists, while others are suspected of cultural treason. Some transition effortlessly from leadership in one religious community into Christian ministry, while others re-convert to new forms of Christianity. The accounts collected here underscore the complexity of conversion, balancing individual agency with broader social trends and combining micro- with macrocontextual approaches

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