Posts Tagged ‘North America’

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.

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.

Tarango, “Choosing the Jesus Way”

April 22, 2014

Tarango, Angela.  2014. Choosing the Jesus Way: American Indian Pentecostals and the Fight for the Indigenous Principle.  Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press.

Publisher’s Description: Choosing the Jesus Way uncovers the history and religious experiences of the first American Indian converts to Pentecostalism. Focusing on the Assemblies of God denomination, the story begins in 1918, when white missionaries fanned out from the South and Midwest to convert Native Americans in the West and other parts of the country. Drawing on new approaches to the global history of Pentecostalism, Angela Tarango shows how converted indigenous leaders eventually transformed a standard Pentecostal theology of missions in ways that reflected their own religious struggles and advanced their sovereignty within the denomination.

Key to the story is the Pentecostal “indigenous principle,” which encourages missionaries to train local leadership in hopes of creating an indigenous church rooted in the culture of the missionized. In Tarango’s analysis, the indigenous principle itself was appropriated by the first generation of Native American Pentecostals, who transformed it to critique aspects of the missionary project and to argue for greater religious autonomy. More broadly, Tarango scrutinizes simplistic views of religious imperialism and demonstrates how religious forms and practices are often mutually influenced in the American experience.

Bean, “Compassionate Conservatives?”

March 11, 2014

Bean, Lydia.  2014.  Compassionate Conservatives? Evangelicals, Economic Conservatism, and National Identity.  Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 53(1): 164–186.

Abstract: In the United States, white evangelicals are more economically conservative than other Americans. It is commonly assumed that white evangelicals oppose redistributive social policies because of their individualistic theology. Yet Canadian evangelicals are just as supportive of redistributive social policy as other Canadians, even though they share the same tools of conservative Protestant theology. To solve this puzzle, I use multi-sited ethnography to compare how two evangelical congregations in the United States and Canada talked about poverty and the role of government. In both countries, evangelicals made sense of their religious responsibilities to “the poor” by reference to national identity. Evangelicals used their theological tools differently in the United States and Canada because different visions of national solidarity served as cultural anchors for religious discourse about poverty. To understand the political and civic effects of religion, scholars need to consider the varied ways that religious groups imagine national community within religious practice.

Cooper, “The Theology of Emergency”

February 3, 2014

Cooper, Melinda.  2014.  The Theology of Emergency: Welfare Reform, US Foreign Aid and the Faith-Based Initiative.  Theory, Culture, and Society.  Advanced online publication.

Abstract: This article addresses the rise of faith-based emergency relief by examining the US President’s Emergency Plan for HIV/AIDS (PEPFAR), a public health intervention focused on the AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa. It argues that the theological turn in humanitarian aid serves to amplify ongoing dynamics in the domestic politics of sub-Saharan African states, where social services have assumed the form of chronic emergency relief and religious organizations have come to play an increasingly prominent role in the provision of such services. In the context of an ongoing public health crisis, PEPFAR has institutionalized the social authority of the Pentecostal and charismatic churches, leading to a semantic confluence between the postcolonial politics of emergency and the Pentecostal/Pauline theology of kairos or event. Far from being confined to the space of foreign aid, however, the faith-based turn in humanitarianism is in keeping with ongoing reforms in domestic social policy in the United States. While on the one hand the sustained welfare programmes of the New Deal and Great Society have been dismantled in favour of a system of emergency relief, on the other hand the federal government has intensified its moral, pedagogical and punitive interventions into the lives of the poor. The wilful transfer of welfare services to overtly religious service providers has played a decisive role in this process. The article concludes with a critical appraisal of the links between African and North American Pentecostal-evangelical churches and questions the revolutionary mission ascribed to Pauline political theology in recent political theory.

Day, “Faith on the Avenue”

November 12, 2013

Day, Katie. 2013. Faith on the Avenue: Religion on a City Street. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Publisher’s Description: In a richly illustrated, revelatory study of Philadelphia’s Germantown Avenue, home to a diverse array of more than 90 Christian and Muslim congregations, Katie Day explores the formative and multifaceted role of religious congregations within an urban environment. Germantown Avenue cuts through Philadelphia for eight and a half miles, from the affluent neighborhood of Chestnut Hill through the high crime section known as “the Badlands.” The congregations along this route range from the wealthiest to the poorest populations in Philadelphia. Some congregants are immigrants who find safety and support in close fellowship, while others are long-time residents whose congregations work actively to provide social services. Cities undergo constant change, and their congregations change with them. As Day observes, some congregations have sprung up in former commercial strips, harboring new arrivals and recreating a sense of home, and others form an anchor for a neighborhood across generations, providing a connection to the past and a hope of stability for the future. Drawing on years of research, in-depth interviews with religious leaders and congregants, and a wealth of demographic data, Day demonstrates the powerful influence cities exert on their congregations, and the surprising and important impact congregations have on their urban environment.

Flores, “God’s Gangs”

November 4, 2013

Flores, Edward Orozco. 2013. God’s Gangs: Barrio Ministry, Masculinity, and Gang Recovery. New York: NYU Press.

Release Date: December 11, 2013

Publisher’s Description: Los Angeles is the epicenter of the American gang problem. Rituals and customs from Los Angeles’ eastside gangs, including hand signals, graffiti, and clothing styles, have spread to small towns and big cities alike. Many see the problem with gangs as related to urban marginality—for a Latino immigrant population struggling with poverty and social integration, gangs offer a close-knit community. Yet, as Edward Orozco Flores argues in God’s Gangs, gang members can be successfully redirected out of gangs through efforts that change the context in which they find themselves, as well as their notions of what it means to be a man.  Flores here illuminates how Latino men recover from gang life through involvement in urban, faith-based organizations. Drawing on participant observation and interviews with Homeboy Industries, a Jesuit-founded non-profit that is one of the largest gang intervention programs in the country, and with Victory Outreach, a Pentecostal ministry with over 600 chapters, Flores demonstrates that organizations such as these facilitate recovery from gang life by enabling gang members to reinvent themselves as family men and as members of their community. The book offers a window into the process of redefining masculinity. As Flores convincingly shows, gang members are not trapped in a cycle of poverty and marginality. With the help of urban ministries, such men construct a reformed barrio masculinity to distance themselves from gang life.

Bakker, “Sister Churches”

October 30, 2013

Bakker, Janel Kragt. 2013. Sister Churches: American Congregations and Their Partners Abroad. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Publisher’s Description: The growth of Christianity in the global South and the fall of colonialism in the middle of the twentieth century caused a crisis in Christian missions, as many southern Christians spoke out about indignities they had suffered and many northern Christians retreated from the global South. American Christians soon began looking for a fresh start, a path forward that was neither isolationist nor domineering. Out of this dream the ”sister church” model of mission was born. In this model, rather than Western churches sending representatives into the ”mission field,” they set up congregation-to-congregation partnerships with churches in the global South. In Sister Churches Janel Bakker draws on extensive fieldwork and interviews with participants in these partnerships to explore the sister church movement and in particular its effects on American churches. Because Christianity is numerically and in many ways spiritually stronger in the global South than it is in the global North—while the imbalance in material resources runs in the opposite direction—both northern and southern Christians stand to gain. Challenging prevailing notions of friction between northern and southern Christians, Bakker argues that sister church relationships are marked by interconnectivity and collaboration.

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