Posts Tagged ‘United States’

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.

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.

Willenbrink, “The Act of Being Saved”

April 15, 2014

Willenbrink, Hank.  2014.  The Act of Being Saved: Hell House and the Salvific Performative.  Theatre Journal 66(1): 73-92.

Excerpt: …Can a ritual designed to convert take the form of a theatrical performance? Moreover, can we take these conversions to be sincere, given their birth in an amateur performance with a predilection for excessive, violent theatrics? Whether or not one agrees with how conversions are brought about, Hell Houses are triggering changes in their audiences—people are being “saved” by theatre. While performance theory explains how Hell House works, the performance’s ability to alter faith exposes the limits of our contemporary theoretical foundations with regard to performances espousing religious belief.

This essay analyzes how Hell House performances operate and theorizes how conversions can occur within theatrical representation. As religious rhetoric continually fuels our political climate, an examination of Hell House offers the opportunity to understand how an audience member can change through representation. I have coined the term salvific performative to refer to the embodied act connected to religious conversion. The utterance “I take Jesus Christ to be my personal Lord and Savior” is this act. It is salvific because these are words concerning salvation, and a performative because the utterance is “doing something rather than merely saying something.” The performative alters the biography and identity of one enacting a new faith. In Hell House, because of the reliance upon theatrical mechanisms, the salvific performative is intricately tied to the production. Given the salvific performative’s scope, by virtue of its connection to conversion, its usefulness as a theoretical term has far-reaching potential. My goal is not to describe all conversions, but to show, through a thorough interrogation of the salvific performative in Hell House, how a conversion is tied to its context; that is to say, a convert does not change his or her faith apropos of nothing. To understand conversion, we must understand the context from which a change of religious faith emerges. In the case of Hell House, the salvific performative is one way by which a spectator changes from a passive observer of theatrically represented reality into a participant in the reality articulated through the representation. Thus, a spectator turned convert in Hell House sees theatrical artifice as “truth.”

Juzwik, “American Evangelical Biblicism”

April 4, 2014

Juzwik, Mary M. 2014. American Evangelical Biblicism as Literate Practice: A Critical Review. Reading Research Quarterly. Early online publication.

Abstract: Practices of Biblical reading and interpretation are central to the literacy lives of those who call themselves evangelical Christians. More than one third of the U.S. population identifies as evangelical Christians, making evangelical Biblicism a pervasive and influential—if under-the-radar—literacy practice in U.S. life. Scholars of American evangelicalism have traditionally understood belief in the Bible as authoritative as one defining characteristic of the evangelical subculture in the United States. However, scholars interested in language, interpretation, and textual practices are only beginning to map out the contours of the literacy practices and ideologies entailed by American evangelical Biblicism. Critically reviewing scholarship across history, anthropology, religious studies, and sociology, I characterize evangelical Biblicism as an interpretive tradition mediated by a complex set of sociocultural practices and textual ideologies. From this standpoint, Biblicism involves the unceasing work of establishing and sustaining a transitive relationship among biblical text, right beliefs, and righteous actions. This set of relations gives rise to an interpretive tension that evangelicals have historically navigated between the necessity of interpretive freedom, allowing the Bible to live anew for each generation of believers (presence in the world), and the unchanging Truth of God’s word (the purity of the Word). Evangelicals dialogically mediate the transitivity among text, belief, and action—and attendant tensions between the purity of the Biblical Word and its presence in the world—in textual communities. Bibles themselves function as mediating literacy artifacts and articles of commerce in a global evangelical print culture. This understanding of American evangelical Biblicism as literate practice raises new questions and issues for literacy scholarship, related to how young people are introduced to evangelical Biblicist traditions and practices; how evangelical Biblicist traditions, practices, and ideologies travel around, across, and beyond textual communities; and how evangelical Biblicism shapes teaching and learning in schools.

 

Marti and Ganiel, “The Deconstructed Church”

March 27, 2014

Marti, Gerardo and Gladys Ganiel.  2014.  The Deconstructed Church: Understanding Emerging Christianity.  Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Publisher’s Description: The Emerging Church Movement (ECM) is a creative, entrepreneurial religious movement that strives to achieve social legitimacy and spiritual vitality by actively disassociating from its roots in conservative, evangelical Christianity and ”deconstructing” contemporary expressions of Christianity. Emerging Christians see themselves as overturning outdated interpretations of the Bible, transforming hierarchical religious institutions, and re-orienting Christianity to step outside the walls of church buildings toward working among and serving others in the ”real world.”

Drawing on ethnographic observations from emerging congregations, pub churches, neo-monastic communities, conferences, online networks, in-depth interviews, and congregational surveys in the US, UK, and Ireland, Gerardo Marti and Gladys Ganiel provide a comprehensive social scientific analysis of the development and significance of the ECM. Emerging Christians are shaping a distinct religious orientation that encourages individualism, deep relationships with others, new ideas about the nature of truth, doubt, and God, and innovations in preaching, worship, Eucharist, and leadership.

Miller, “The Age of Evangelicalism”

March 4, 2014

Miller, Steven P.  2014.  The Age of Evangelicalism: America’s Born-Again Years.  Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Publisher’s Description: For years, evangelicalism has figured prominently in the American cultural and political landscape, seen everywhere from the election of openly devout President George W. Bush to the wild popularity of Christian self-help books and end-times thrillers like the Left Behind series and prompting sociologist Alan Wolfe to write, in 2003, ”We are all evangelicals now.” In fact, Wolfe responded not at the emergence or height of the phenomenon, but near its conclusion. Evangelical Christianity became central to American culture over several decades, beginning as early as the 1970s, but by 2008, that historical moment was ending.

Steven P. Miller offers an in-depth exploration of the place and meaning of evangelical Christianity in the United States between 1970 and 2008, America’s born-again years, when evangelical Christianity entered the American mainstream in ways both obviously and subtly influential. The Age of evangelicalism began in the 1970s, propelled by the rapid ascendance of an avowedly born-again president, Jimmy Carter, and the equally rapid emergence of the Christian Right. It climaxed three decades later with the presidential campaigns of George W. Bush, who synthesized Carter’s Jesus talk and the Christian Right’s cultural activism. During this period, the influence of evangelical Christianity extended well beyond its churches. Evangelicalism-broad enough to include both Hal Lindsey’s best-selling 1970 prophecy guide, The Late, Great Planet Earth and, thirty years later, Tammy Faye Bakker Messner’s emergence as a gay icon-meant that it influenced even its many detractors and bemused bystanders, who resided in an increasingly secular nation.

During the Age of Evangelicalism, Miller demonstrates, born-again Christianity was far from a subculture. It provided a language, medium, and foil by which millions of Americans came to terms with the end of the ”American Century.”

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.

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.

Barton, ‘Pray the Gay Away’

December 16, 2013

Barton, Bernadette C.  2012.  Pray the Gay Away: The Extraordinary Lives of Bible Belt Gays.  New York: NYU Press.

Publisher’s Description:

In the Bible Belt, it’s common to see bumper stickers that claim One Man + One Woman = Marriage, church billboards that command one to “Get right with Jesus,” letters to the editor comparing gay marriage to marrying one’s dog, and nightly news about homophobic attacks from the Family Foundation. While some areas of the Unites States have made tremendous progress in securing rights for gay people, Bible Belt states lag behind. Not only do most Bible Belt gays lack domestic partner benefits, lesbians and gay men can still be fired from some places of employment in many regions of the Bible Belt for being a homosexual.
In Pray the Gay Away, Bernadette Barton argues that conventions of small town life, rules which govern Southern manners, and the power wielded by Christian institutions serve as a foundation for both passive and active homophobia in the Bible Belt. She explores how conservative Christian ideology reproduces homophobic attitudes and shares how Bible Belt gays negotiate these attitudes in their daily lives. Drawing on the remarkable stories of Bible Belt gays, Barton brings to the fore their thoughts, experiences and hard-won insights to explore the front lines of our national culture war over marriage, family, hate crimes, and equal rights. Pray the Gay Away illuminates their lives as both foot soldiers and casualties in the battle for gay rights.
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