Posts Tagged ‘Evangelical Protestantism’

The Anthropology of Protestantism: Book Review

February 14, 2014

Webster, Joseph. 2013. The Anthropology of Protestantism: Faith and Crisis among Scottish Fishermen. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

By: Matt Tomlinson (Australian National University)

This book is an innovative attempt to understand the relationship between language and materiality in terms of the Protestant doctrine of consubstantiation, “that view of the Christian Eucharist that attempts to explain the real (material and spiritual) presence of the body and blood of Jesus as existing alongside the real material presence of the bread and the wine” (208). It is anthropology with a theological aura, but also a skillfully crafted ethnography that will appeal to scholars who don’t normally mix the anthro- and the theo-.

Webster’s ethnographic subjects are elderly fishermen and their wives in the northeast Scottish village of Gamrie. They provide a boatload of evidence that they live in a world that is, as the author puts it, both modern and enchanted. Many are members of Brethren churches and radical individualists as well as strict fundamentalists. As individualists, they distrust any authority except their own, leading one critic to characterize their attitude as “every man is his own skipper and he can go wherever he likes” (59; n.b., as they go wherever they like, they are likely to be watched by their neighbors, who keep binoculars at home “to see what others were up to further down the brae” [6]). As fundamentalists, they hold the Bible to be literally true, and they enthusiastically track signs of the end of the world.

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Chipumuro, “Pastor, Mentor, or Father? The Contested Intimacies of the Eddie Long Sex Abuse Scandal”

January 22, 2014

Chipumuro, Todne. 2014. “Pastor, Mentor, or Father? The Contested Intimacies of the Eddie Long Sex Abuse Scandal.” Journal of Afrcana Religions 2(1):1-30.

Abstract: In September 2010, four young African American men filed lawsuits against Bishop Eddie Long and New Birth Missionary Baptist Church alleging that Long had sexually abused them as teens. Though the case generated a number of discussions about the institutional politics underwriting clerical privilege, missing was detailed attention to the interior social dynamics that connected the religious participants. Informed by an examination of the case’s legal texts and related local and electronic media, this article examines how the relationships between Long and his accusers were differentially constructed as pastoral relationships, mentorship ties, and spiritual kinship bonds. Applying anthropological frameworks that demonstrate how different forms of sociality can intersect to reinforce social structures, I use this timely investigation to argue that despite the variegated and con- tested character of the relationships, all are mutually organized by the social logic of patriarchy and the complex intimacies mediating contemporary Afro-Protestant religious belonging.

Webster, “The Immanence of Transcendence”

October 16, 2013

Webster, Joseph. 2013. The Immanence of Transcendence: God and the Devil on the Aberdeenshire Coast. Ethnos 78(3): 380-402.

Abstract: In Gamrie (a Scottish fishing village of 700 people and 6 Protestant churches), local experiences of ‘divine providence’ and ‘demonic attack’ abound. Bodily fluids, scraps of paper, video cassettes and prawn trawlers were immanent carriers of divine and demonic activity. Viewed through the lens of Weberian social theory, the experiences of Scottish fisher families show how the life of the Christian resembles an enchanted struggle between God and the Devil with the Christian placed awkwardly in-between. Because, locally, ‘there is no such thing as coincidence’, these Christians expected to experience both the transcendent ordering of life by divine providence through God’s immanence and the transcendent disordering of life by demonic attack through the Devil’s immanence. Where this ordering and disordering frequently occurred through everyday objects, seemingly mundane events – being given a washing machine or feeling sleepy in church – were experienced as material indexes of spiritual reality. Drawing on the work of Cannell (on transcendence), Keane (on indexicality) and Wagner (on symbolic obviation), this paper argues that attending to the materiality of Scottish Protestantism better equips the anthropology of religion to understand Christian experience by positing immanence as a kind of transcendence and transcendence as a kind of immanence.

Magolda and Gross, “Misinterpreting the Spirit and Heart: Religious and Paradigmatic Tensions in Ethnographic Research”

October 30, 2012

Magolda, Peter and Kelsey Ebben Gross (2012) “Misinterpreting the Spirit and Heart: Religious and Paradigmatic Tensions in Ethnographic Research.” Religion & Education 39(3):235-256.

Abstract: This article discusses the unique methodological challenges that 2 secular researchers encountered while studying an evangelical collegiate enclave. The article showcases the researchers’ retrospec- tive sense making of their fieldwork and offers insights for qualitat- ive researchers interested in studying faith-based organizations.

Nilsson, “Conserving the American Dream: Faith and Politics in the U.S. Heartland”

October 23, 2012

Nilsson, Erik (2012) “Conserving the American Dream: Faith and Politics in the U.S. Heartland.” Stockholm studies in social anthropology. Stockholm, Acta Universitatis Stockholmiensis.

Publisher’s Description: Recent decades have seen substantial changes in the U.S. political landscape. One particularly significant development has been the growing influence of a conservative coalition encompassing evangelical Christianity, interventionist foreign policy and neoliberal reform. This study explores the force and internal dynamics of this political assemblage. Based on fieldwork among conservative voters, volunteers and candidates in a small city in northwestern Ohio during a midterm election year, it probes the energy of conservative politics, its modes of attachment and influence, and the organizational forms through which it circulates. Contemporary conservative politics are shown to be centered on a particular epistemological intuition: that to be able to act, one must believe in something. This intuition implies an actively affirmative stance toward “beliefs” and “values.” The study also addresses methodological and analytical challenges that conservative politics pose for anthropological inquiry. It develops a “conversational” analytical attitude, arguing that in order to understand the lasting influence conservatism one has to take seriously the problems that it is oriented toward.

Han, “If You Don’t Work, You Don’t Eat”

October 15, 2011

Han, Ju Hi Judy (2011) ‘“If You Don’t Work, You Don’t Eat”: Evangelizing Development in Africa.’ In New Millennium South Korea: Neoliberal Capital and Transnational Movements, ed. Jesook Song. London: Routledge.

Excerpt:  Work or else starve – these unkind words were uttered partly out of frustration. Two South Korean Christian missionaries from Global Mission Frontier (GMF) were presenting a week-long economic development seminar to approximately 30 local government officials and municipal employees crowded inside a modest hotel room in Mwanza, Tanzania. The seminar leader, Deacon Shin, had begun by introducing himself as hailing from the prosperous land of Samsung and the LG Group (two of the world’s biggest conglomerates) but he failed to impress – the participants had never heard of these corporate brands. “How about Hyndai?” Deacon Shin asked in disbelief. “You must surely have seen all the Hyundai advertising during the World Cup?” Apparently not. Deacon Shin shook his head in dismay, and explained that there are large, powerful companies from Korea, and that their very success stands as proof of the miracle of Korean economic development . . . It was then that Deacon Shin suddenly instructed everyone to stand up and stretch  – and shout after him, “You don’t work, you don’t eat!” When some chuckled, he said firmly, “This is in the Bible!” and pointed to the Bible in his hand. Indeed, there it was in Second Thessalonians of the New Testament: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.” He explained that this verse captured the key to Korea’s economic miracle, and rallied the class in fist-pumping chants for several minutes: “No work, no eat! No work, no eat!”

 

 

 

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