Montemaggi, Francesca. 2017. “The making of the relational Christian self of New Monastics in the UK, US, and Canada.” In Monasticism in Modern Times, Isabelle Jonveaux and Stefania Palmisano, eds. 209-227. London: Routledge.
Abstract: The chapter presents an overview of Anglo-American new monasticism based on ethnographic research in the UK, US, and Canada. New monastics are lay members of grass-roots communities, who do not belong to an established Monastic order; rather each community is autonomous and agrees a ‘rule’, a set of moral values and aspirations on how to live one’s life. The cross-national sample of communities points to the inclusivity as the overarching value for new monastics. This refers to inclusivity inside the group of fellow monastics and people attending monastic activities, but also to inclusivity of people at the margin of society, in particular in urban areas. This is expressed through the notion of hospitality. Taking as inspiration old monastic practices of the monastery as a safe haven, New monastic communities seek to ‘welcome the stranger’ in their midst. However, in contrast with old monastic communities, they choose to be located in inner-city areas to have a transformative impact on neighbourhoods facing socio-economic inequality. The chapter argues that inclusivity directs the formation of a Christian self that is relational and in dialectical opposition to – what they feel to be – the individualism of mainstream society.
Abstract: While Christian involvement in progressive social movements and activism is increasingly recognized, this literature has rarely gone beyond conceptualising religion as a resource to consider instead the ways in which individual activists may articulate their religious identity and how this intersects with the political. Based on ten in-depth interviews with Christian supporters of the London Occupy movement, this study offers an opportunity to respond to this gap by exploring the rich meaning-making processes of these activists. The article suggests that the location of the Occupy camp outside St Paul’s Cathedral was of central importance in bringing the Christian Occupiers’ religio-political identities to the foreground, their Christianity being defined in opposition to that represented by St Paul’s. The article then explores the religio-political meaning-making of the Christian Occupiers and introduces the term ‘activist religiosity’ as a way of understanding how religion and politics were articulated, and enacted, in similar ways. Indeed, religion and politics became considerably entangled and intertwined, rendering theoretical frameworks that conceptualise religion as a resource increasingly inappropriate. The features of this activist religiosity include post-institutional identities, a dislike of categorisation, and, centrally, the notion of ‘doings’—a predominant focus on engaged, active involvement.
Abstract: In 2012 the Bologna chapter of We Are Church, a group of lay liberal Catholics who lobby the Vatican to adopt a more progressive position on various issues, including homosexuality, sought to pursue a dialogue with the city’s LGBTQ community. The relative success of those conversations depended upon We Are Church persuading their anticlerical interlocutors, whose antipathy toward the Vatican runs deep, that they were an entirely different entity to the Catholic “hierarchy.” But in prevailing in this endeavor, they created a further obstacle for themselves: the more convincingly they distinguished themselves from orthodox Catholicism, the less convincing was their eponymous declaration of “We Are Church”; the further they traveled toward the positions held by their LGBTQ activist counterparts, the more likely they were to be dismissed as unrepresentative of Catholicism, and thus irrelevant. Thus in this case ethics across borders depends not only upon finding affinities and sustaining differences but also upon finding affinities over how to sustain differences. Similarly, I suggest that debates in anthropology surrounding radical difference may benefit from attending to the ways in which such difference itself can be the subject of agreement or disagreement.
Abstract: This essay examines the Responsible Procreation campaign of Acción Cultural Popular (ACPO) within the context of “zones of crisis” characterized not only by the legacy of long-standing violence but by tensions experienced within the Catholic Church and Colombian society at large during the tumultuous decades of the 1960s and 1970s. ACPO centered its Responsible Procreation campaign on a radical critique of authoritarian and exclusionary gender relations that could only be remedied by guaranteeing women’s access to education and their participation as equals in household and community decision making. As a Catholic-affiliated organization, ACPO enjoyed legitimacy many secular organizations did not, enabling it to provide spaces where rural Colombians, especially women, could experiment with voice and agency and explore alternative visions of citizenship and community development without fear of reprisal or social ostracism. Christian social activism, the essay concludes, often laid the basis for the proliferation today of social movements spearheaded by rural women.
Abstract: This article analyzes the Catholic Church’s involvement in social conflicts resulting from resource extraction activities in Peru. The nature and degree of the Catholic Church’s involvement vary greatly according to the type of conflict and the diversity of standpoints of the Church at the local level. The article focuses on three distinctive, widely known conflicts against the expansion of extractive activities. It shows that the importance conventionally given to the role of particular religious figures, their adherence to progressive ideologies, and the defense of the Church’s strategic interests do not fully encompass the complexity of local processes. In contrast, the article contends that the Church’s institutional embeddedness in local networks is the most influential factor in the involvement of Catholic organizations in anti-mining conflicts. Embeddedness coincides with a spirituality that prioritizes local people’s agency, whereby the priests and Church organizations accompany and follow the initiatives of local communities instead of taking a leading role. This does not mean that the Church takes a passive stance in these conflicts. Priests and other pastoral agents have incorporated environmental and human rights discourses into an explicit religious framework that amplifies the social space of the Church and provides legitimacy for mobilizations. In parallel, locally generated doctrinal frameworks permeate the official discourse of the Catholic Church, reinforcing the position of those committed to the defense of local demands.
Abstract: This article examines the political dimensions of Pentecostalism in Nigeria, beginning with the historical development of Pentecostal political engagement since independence in 1960. A common observation is that much of global Pentecostalism is apolitical, but an assessment of Nigerian Pentecostalism shows a diversity of political orientations in response to inter-religious competition, as well as changing socio-economic contexts and theological orientations. Herein, I focus on the “third democratic revolution” involving the struggle for sustainable democracy (the first two being the anti-colonial struggle that brought independence and the 1980s-1990s challenge to one-party and military rule). As well, I examine different political strategies employed by Nigerian Pentecostals and assess their impact on direct political behavior, civil society practices and political culture.
Abstract: American evangelicals have a history of engagement in social issues in general and anti-slavery activism in particular. The last 10 years have seen an increase in both scholarly attention to evangelicalism and evangelical focus on contemporary forms of slavery. Extant literature on this engagement often lacks the voices of evangelicals themselves. This study begins to fill this gap through a qualitative exploration of how evangelical and mainline churchgoers conceptualize both the issue of human trafficking and possible solutions. I extend Michael Young’s recent work on the confessional schema motivating evangelical abolitionists in the 1830s. Through analysis of open-ended responses to vignettes in a survey administered in six congregations I find some early support for a contemporary salvation schema. It is this schema, I argue, that underpins evangelicals’ framing of this issue, motivates their involvement in anti- slavery work, and specifies the scope of their critique. Whereas antebellum abolitionists thought of their work in national and structural terms contemporary advocates see individuals in need of rescue. The article provides an empirical sketch of the cultural underpinnings of contemporary evangelical social advocacy and a call for additional research.
Publisher’s Description: In the late 1970s, the New Christian Right emerged as a formidable political force, boldly announcing itself as a unified movement representing the views of a “moral majority.” But that movement did not spring fully formed from its predecessors. American Evangelicals and the 1960s refutes the thesis that evangelical politics were a purely inflammatory backlash against the cultural and political upheaval of the decade. Bringing together fresh research and innovative interpretations, this book demonstrates that evangelicals actually participated in broader American developments during “the long 1960s,” that the evangelical constituency was more diverse than often noted, and that the notion of right-wing evangelical politics as a backlash was a later creation serving the interests of both Republican-conservative alliances and their critics. Evangelicalism’s involvement with—rather than its reaction against—the main social movements, public policy initiatives, and cultural transformations of the 1960s proved significant in its 1970s political ascendance. Twelve essays that range thematically from the oil industry to prison ministry and from American counterculture to the Second Vatican Council depict modern evangelicalism both as a religious movement with its own internal dynamics and as one fully integrated into general American history.