Abstract: Since the turn of the twenty-first century, the rapid growth of Peru’s extractive industries has unleashed diverse forms of political resistance to an economic system dependent on ecological destruction and human harm. In the central highlands of Peru, a Catholic scientific project based out of the Archdiocese of Huancayo undertook six years of research on heavy-metal contamination in the Mantaro Valley. This included lead-exposure studies in the notoriously polluted city of La Oroya, home to the country’s largest polymetallic smelter. How did the Catholic Church become an apt institution for the production of science in this region? Drawing on fieldwork with the Revive the Mantaro Project, this article conceptualizes the integration of religious and scientific practitioners and practices and the political landscape that necessitated, shaped, and limited them. Technocratic governance and anti-leftist sentiments made science a suitable political idiom for the Catholic Church to enact its ethos of abundance and demand the legitimacy of life beyond bare life. A state of endemic corruption and epistemic mistrust also obliged Catholic accompaniment to scientific practices to generate trust for the researchers and to provide ethical credibility as their knowledge entered the fray of national mining politics. Ultimately contending with entrenched systems of power, the Revive the Mantaro Project’s significance extended beyond political efficacy; its practices enacted a world of democracy, rights, and legal protections not yet of this world.
Excerpt: This essay considers the politics of hunting in Guatemala City. Amid the crack and the Christianity, in the service of so much captivity, Alejandro and his pastor track down drug users, as if they are animals, to remind them, in classic Christian fashion, that they are human—that, in the words of so many missionaries before them, it is not enough to be human, one must also act human. These efforts at ontological policing upset an increasingly bundled set of images about pastoralism today. Across the humanities and the social sciences, from a range of theoretical and methodological commitments, scholars deliver steadfast portraits of neoliberal withdrawal. And their terms tell all: dispossession and disposability; expulsion and exposure; precarity and social abandonment. While each advances an analytically distinct proposition, each also contributes to a single, powerful image of the failed shepherd, of people left to die.
Abstract: In my paper I discuss alcoholics in the Russian Baptist rehabilitation ministry by comparing them to drug addicts. In the outside world, as well as in the early stages of the rehabilitation program, alcoholics and illicit drug abusers are perceived as different cultural groups. However, during the program, rehabilitants learn Russian Baptist dogma and theology, and soon afterwards the distinction becomes obsolete for them. I address narratives of distinction and the Russian Baptist response to them. Then I reconstruct the Russian Baptist theory of addiction to demonstrate why alcoholism and substance dependence are not regarded as a problem, but rather as consequences of the real problem, which is a life in sin.
Excerpt: “I first became interested in research with Latter-day Saints because Mormonism’s famous distinctiveness allowed me to question some of my own discipline’s theoretical claims about what religion in general, and Christianity in particular, is like and how it is supposed to work. When I was asked by the editors of this journal to write a short piece on Mormon anthropology, it seemed to me that two kinds of task were implied: first, to provide some indicative references to the anthropology written about Latter-day Saints, which Ann Taves has said is less familiar to scholars of religion including herself; and second, more broadly, to offer a brief account of what a comparative, plural, and perspective-sensitive approach to Mormonism—now also being called for by scholars in other fields, notably in a key issue of Mormon Studies Review —might look like from the point of view of an anthropologist. Another way of putting this second task would be to ask what the object “Mormonism” might look like from the viewpoint of anthropology and what the object “anthropology” might look like from the viewpoint of Mormonism, and so to begin to imagine the kinds of conversation that could take place between people involved in these two practices.
Abstract: While the notion of the individual figures prominently in the debate about Christian personhood, the concept of relational selves has shaped the existing literature on Japanese selfhood. I take this seeming divergence between “individual Christian” and “interdependent Japanese” as the point of departure to probe how Japanese-Brazilian Pentecostal migrants in contemporary Japan understand and experience their sense of self. The article is based on 14 months of fieldwork in Toyota, Japan, which consisted of participant observation, interviews, and surveys among Brazilian and Japanese residents there. The discourses about the category of religion serve as a major source of data to tease out cultural understandings about “the authentic self.” I will argue that Pentecostal personhood does not fit within either the “individual” or the “relational.” The concept of “accompanied self” will then be proposed to accurately capture the kind of self that many migrant converts strive to embody.
Wignall, Ross. 2016. From Swagger to Serious: Managing Young Masculinities between Faiths at a Young Men’s Christian Association Centre in The Gambia. Journal of Religion in Africa 46(2-3): 288-323.
Abstract: A renewed focus on studies of masculinity in Africa has so far failed to account for the growing importance of nonproselytizing Faith-Based Organisations (FBOs) in the gendering process. This article seeks to address this issue through a case study of the Gambian branch of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA). YMCA leaders generate a culture of dynamic leadership that equates to a form of ‘hegemonic masculinity’ based on love, self-sacrifice, and obligation. This article shows how this process is implicated in a series of tensions between the young men and their peers, families, elders, and leaders. While many young men want to ‘have swagger’, they are called ‘stubborn’ and urged to ‘get serious’. Through an ethnographic portrait, the author uses these tensions to explore how YMCA ideals of manhood may be superimposing forms of Euro-American, Christian masculinity onto Muslim Gambian men, replicating colonial modes of control, inequality, and oppression.
van Klinken, Adriaan. 2016. Pentecostalism, Political Masculinity and Citizenship: The Born-Again Male Subject as Key to Zambia’s National Redemption. Journal of Religion in Africa 46(2-3): 129-157.
Abstract: Africa has become a key site of masculinity politics, that is, of mobilisations and struggles where masculine gender is made a principal theme and subjected to change. Pentecostalism is widely considered to present a particular form of masculinity politics in contemporary African societies. Scholarship on African Pentecostal masculinities has mainly centred around the thesis of the domestication of men, focusing on changes in domestic spheres and in marital and intimate relations. Through an analysis of a sermon series preached by a prominent Zambian Pentecostal pastor, this article demonstrates that Pentecostal discourse on adult, middle- to upper-class masculinity is also highly concerned with men’s roles in sociopolitical spheres. It argues that in this case study the construction of a born-again masculinity is part of the broader Pentecostal political project of national redemption, which in Zambia has particular significance in light of the country constitutionally being a Christian nation. Hence the article examines how this construction of Pentecostal masculinity relates to broader notions of religious, political and gendered citizenship.
Abstract: While Christianity is among the fastest growing religions in the reform era, state-led sporadic demolition campaigns have targeted unauthorized church structures and sites in order to contain massive Christian growth, especially in regions where there is a high concentration of Christian population. Such campaigns often stir heated international concerns about China’s religious freedom violations, naturally making church-state relations the recurring central theme of both public and academic discourses on the church in China. However, a heightened emphasis on church-state tensions and religious persecution may obscure the cultural and spatial dimensions of local church development. Focusing on the case of the recent campaign against rooftop crosses in Wenzhou—the most Christianized Chinese city, I go beyond the one-dimensional framework of church-state relations by offering a multifaceted analysis of the local religious scene in the political economic contexts of contested spatial modernity and of central-local relations amid the party-building process. In so doing, I methodologically place Chinese Christian studies at the center of contemporary China studies.
Abstract:Neo-Pentecostalism is characterized as offering freedoms and empowerment for women, a limited role in navigating patriarchy, or strengthening patriarchal control. In Nairobi, Kenya, neo-Pentecostalism is concerned with a morality built around an idealized model of the nuclear family in which a wife is subservient to her husband. It might appear that women’s ministries empower female members to challenge structures of control, but such challenges are resisted and women are expected only to survive within existing structures. Single women are expected to live amongst the prejudices of society and dissuaded from any attempt to alter the societal structures that leave them marginalized.
Publisher’s Description: There is a paradox in American Christianity. According to Gallup, nearly eight in ten Americans regard the Bible as either the literal word of God or the inspired by God. At the same time, surveys have revealed gaps in these same Americans’ biblical literacy. These discrepancies reveal the complex relationship between American Christians and Holy Writ, a subject that is widely acknowledged but rarely investigated.
The Bible in American Life is a sustained, collaborative reflection on the ways Americans use the Bible in their personal lives. It also considers how other influences, including religious communities and the internet, shape individuals’ comprehension of scripture. Employing both quantitative methods (the General Social Survey and the National Congregations Study) and qualitative research (historical studies for context), The Bible in American Life provides an unprecedented perspective on the Bible’s role outside of worship, in the lived religion of a broad cross-section of Americans both now and in the past.
The Bible has been central to Christian practice, and has functioned as a cultural touchstone, throughout American history, but too little is known about how people engage it every day. How do people read the Bible for themselves outside of worship? How have denominational and parachurch publications influenced the interpretation and application of scripture? How have clergy and congregations influenced individual understandings of scripture? These questions are especially pressing in a time when denominations are losing much of their traditional cultural authority, technology is changing reading and cognitive habits, and subjective experience is continuing to eclipse textual authority as the mark of true religion.
From the broadest scale imaginable, national survey data about all Americans, down to the smallest details, such as the portrayal of Noah and his ark in children’s Bibles, this book offers insight and illumination from scholars across the intellectual spectrum. It will be useful and informative for scholars seeking to understand changes in American Christianity as well as clergy seeking more effective ways to preach and teach about scripture in a changing environment.
Table of Contents
Part One: Overview
1. “The Bible in American Life Today” by Philip Goff, Arthur Farnsley, and Peter Thuesen
Part Two: Past
2. “America’s First Bible: Native Uses, Abuses, and Re-uses of the Indian Bible of 1663” by Linford D. Fisher
3. “The Debate over Prophetic Evidence for the Authority of the Bible in Cotton Mather’s Biblia Americana” by Jan Stievermann
4. “Navigating the Loss of Interpretive Innocence: Reading the ‘Enlightenment’ Bible in Early Modern America” by Robert E. Brown
5. “Reading the Bible in a Romantic Era” by Beth Schweiger
6. “The Origins of Whiteness and the Black (Biblical) Imagination: The Bible in the ‘Slave Narrative’ Tradition” by Emerson B. Powery
7. “Biblical Women in the Woman’s Exponent: The Bible in Nineteenth-Century Mormonism” by Amy Easton-Flake
8. “Scriptualizing Religion and Ethnicity: The Circle Seven Koran” by Sylvester Johnson
9. “Reading the Bible in War and Crisis to Know the Future” by Matthew Avery Sutton
10. “Reference Bibles and Interpretive Authority” by B.M. Pietsch
11. “The Soul’s Train: The Bible and Southern Folk and Popular Music” by Paul Harvey
12. “Where Two or Three are Gathered: The Adult Bible Class Movement and the Social Life of Scripture” by Christopher D. Cantwell
13. “The Word is True: King James Onlyism and the Quest for Certainty in American Evangelical Life” by Jason A. Hentschel
14. “Selling Trust: The Living Bible and the Business of Biblicism” by Daniel Vaca
15. “The Bible and the Legacy of First Wave Feminism” by Claudia Setzer
16. “Let Us Be Attentive: The Orthodox Study Bible, Converts, and the Debate on Orthodox Lay Uses of Scripture” by Garrett Spivey
Part Three: Present
17. “The Continuing Distinctive Role of the Bible in American Lives: A Comparative Analysis” by Corwin Smidt
18. “Emerging Trends in American Children’s Bibles, 1990-2015” by Russell W. Dalton
19. “The Curious Case of the Christian Bible and the U.S. Constitution: Challenges for Educators Teaching the Bible in a Multi-Religious Context” by John F. Kutsko
20. “Transforming Practice: American Bible Reading in Digital Culture” by John B. Weaver
21. “Readers and their E-Bibles: The Shape and Authority of the Hypertext Canon” by Bryan Bibb
22. “How American Women and Men Read the Bible” by Amanda Friesen
23. “Feels Right Exegesis: Qualitative Research on How Millennials Read the Bible” by J. Derrick Lemons
24. “Crowning the King: The Use of Production and Reception Studies to Determine the Most Popular English-Language Bible Translation in Contemporary America” by Paul Gutjahr
25. “Literalism as Creativity: Making a Creationist Theme Park, Reassessing a Scriptural Ideology” by James S. Bielo
26. “The Bible in the Evangelical Imagination” by Daniel Silliman
27. “Feeling the Word: Sensing Scripture at Salvation Mountain” by Sara M. Patterson
Part Four: Retrospective
28. “The Bible: Then and Now” by Mark Noll