Tomlinson, “Christian Difference”

Tomlinson, Matt. 2017. “Christian Difference: A review essay.” Comparative Studies in Society and History. 59(3):743-753.

Abstract: The discipline called the “anthropology of Christianity” began to gain traction in the early to mid-2000s when interested scholars focused on Christianity as an object of collaborative and comparative cross-cultural analysis. Along with several landmark works of Joel Robbins, one foundational text is Fenella Cannell’s edited volume The Anthropology of Christianity, published in 2006. In her introductory essay, Cannell poses a pointed question for the volume and the discipline itself: “What difference does Christianity make?” Bracketing the question of whether “difference” can or should be defined (Green 2014), several anthropologists have taken inspiration from Cannell, including Naomi Haynes (2014) in the concluding essay to a recent special issue of Current Anthropology, and myself and Debra McDougall (2013) in an edited volume on Christian politics in Oceania. Difference, as the criterion by which continuity and transformation are evaluated, is arguably the key concept for an effective anthropological engagement with Christianity.

Lynch, “Ritual, Social Change, and Globalization”

Lynch, Andrew P. 2016. “Ritual, Social Change, and Globalization: The Catholic Liturgy in Modern Australia.” In Religious Diversity Today: Experiencing Religion in the Contemporary World. Edited by Liam D. Murphy, 1-22. Santa Barbara: Praeger.

Excerpt: “In this chapter, I will examine how two different Catholic communities use ritual to help make sense of an ever-changing social environment. This use of ritual will be analyzed through an examination of the impact that globalization, secularization, and post secularism are having on society, and in particular religious groups, in contemporary times.”

Occasional Paper: Riches, “Urban Indigenous Australian Pentecostal Christianity”

My Identity is ‘Indigenous Australian’ and ‘Christian’ and it’s Not An Oxymoron: Urban Indigenous Australian Pentecostal Christianity

Tanya Riches (Fuller Theological Seminary)

Introduction

Within post-mission Australia, the state effectively manages perceptions of Indigenous peoples (both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) through the media, which often perpetuates rather than contradicting false stereotypes. In a contemporary neoliberal global political regime that values efficiency and rationality, Australia’s first nations are often characterized as homogenous, inefficient and non-rational. Recent publicity over threatened closure of over one hundred and fifty remote rural communities provides a case in point. In statements to the public, Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett defended his position, citing drunkenness, domestic violence, lack of work ethic, and even general untidiness as reasons for the removal of Australians from their land[1]. In this way, cabinet ministers at both state and federal levels capitalize upon the general population’s ignorance about Australia’s Indigenous peoples[2]. However, there are hundreds of Indigenous nations and cultures, including the islands of the Tiwi and Torres Strait (Rolls, Johnson, and Reynolds 2010).[3] While connection to land as a central feature best represents Indigenous cultural and spiritual continuity, many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples live and work in Australia’s urban cities. And, although spirituality is as for any group, highly various in practice, the ABS reports 73% of Australia’s Indigenous population self-identify as Christian. Continue reading

James, ed. “A Moving Faith: Megachurches Go South.”

James, Jonathan, ed. 2015. A Moving Faith: Megachurches Go South. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications.

Publishers’s Description: A Moving Faith captures the dynamic shift of Christianity to the South and portrays a global movement that promises prosperity, healing, empowerment, and gender equality by invoking neo-Pentecostal and Charismatic resources. It postulates that neither North America nor Europe is the current center of the Christian faith.

The book provides a detailed overview of how migration of Christians from the South enriches the North, for instance, Pope Francis brings newness, freshness, and the vigor characteristic of the South. While describing Christianity’s growth in the South, it suggests that, in fact, there is no center for this global faith. It explores this great move of Christianity by focusing on representative mega churches in South Korea, Brazil, Peru, Ghana, Nigeria, Australia, India, and the Philippines.

Abraham and Stewart, “Desacralizing Salvation”

Abraham, Ibrahim B. and Francis Stewart. 2014. Desacralizing Salvation in Straight Edge Christianity and Holistic Spirituality. International Journal for the Study of New Religions 5(1). 

Abstract: Drawing on fieldwork in the punk scenes of the UK, USA and Australia, this article critically examines Christianity and holistic spirituality within punk’s Straight Edge subculture, a movement rejecting alcohol, drugs, and casual sex. Focusing on conceptualizations of salvation within Straight Edge Christianity and Straight Edge holistic spirituality, this article engages Heelas and Woodhead’s notion of the “subjectivization’”of contemporary religious identities to compare and contrast these forms of new religious practice. Straight Edge Christianity and Straight Edge holistic spirituality are shown to demonstrate the double movement of the ‘desacralization’ of religion in late modernity. Straight Edge Christianity illustrates the emergence of religion in traditionally secular cultural spaces, while Straight Edge holistic spirituality illustrates a movement away from the transcendent and supernatural, towards the location of salvation within wholly material concerns and therapeutic practices.

Jennings, “Imagining Jesus doing a Whole Lotta Shakin'”

Jennings, Mark.  2014. Imagining Jesus doing a Whole Lotta Shakin’: Pentecostal worship, popular music and the politics of experience.  Culture and Religion 15(2): 211-226.

Abstract: This paper commences with a brief outline of the history of the symbiotic relationship between popular music and Pentecostalism in the USA. While early rockers learned many of the techniques of ecstasy from Pentecostal worship, in recent times Pentecostal/charismatic songwriters and worship leaders have completed the circle, re-appropriating popular music forms for use in church. This is particularly the case in Australia, where Hillsong and Planetshakers have led the way in composing worship music using rock, pop and hip-hop forms. Drawing from ethnographic data from my own participant observation at an Australian Pentecostal church, I attempt to address the question ‘Can the ecstatic encounter with God which is central to Pentecostalism be accessed in other, “unbaptized” (i.e. non-Christian) musical contexts?’ The ambivalence of responses from the members of ‘Breakfree’ Christian church point to the fact that this is a political issue: at stake is the authority to determine which experiences are ‘Christian’, and which not.

Jennings, “Imagining Jesus doing a Whole Lotta Shakin'”

Jennings, Mark.  2014. Imagining Jesus doing a Whole Lotta Shakin’: Pentecostal worship, popular music and the politics of experience.  Culture and Religion 15(2): 211-226.

Abstract: This paper commences with a brief outline of the history of the symbiotic relationship between popular music and Pentecostalism in the USA. While early rockers learned many of the techniques of ecstasy from Pentecostal worship, in recent times Pentecostal/charismatic songwriters and worship leaders have completed the circle, re-appropriating popular music forms for use in church. This is particularly the case in Australia, where Hillsong and Planetshakers have led the way in composing worship music using rock, pop and hip-hop forms. Drawing from ethnographic data from my own participant observation at an Australian Pentecostal church, I attempt to address the question ‘Can the ecstatic encounter with God which is central to Pentecostalism be accessed in other, “unbaptized” (i.e. non-Christian) musical contexts?’ The ambivalence of responses from the members of ‘Breakfree’ Christian church point to the fact that this is a political issue: at stake is the authority to determine which experiences are ‘Christian’, and which not.

Jennings, “Breaking Free to the Limit”

Jennings, Mark.  2014.  Breaking Free to the Limit: Playing with Foucault, Otto, and Pentecostal Experience.  Journal of Contemporary Religion 29(1): 33-45.

Abstract: This article explores different phenomenological approaches to understanding one of the central elements of Pentecostal spirituality: the ecstatic experience of the divine (often referred to as the ‘encounter’ of the divine). The article begins with a description, based upon participant observation, of a typical church service at ‘Breakfree’ Pentecostal church in suburban Perth, Western Australia. I then outline two phenomenological categories—one theistic, one non-theistic—which shed light on the significance of this experience. These categories are Rudolf Otto’s ‘numinous’ and Michel Foucault’s ‘limit experience’. It is demonstrated that neither of these can be prioritised, as both require an a priori position on the status of the divine. Instead of choosing one or the other, it is argued that both Otto and Foucault provide a resource for understanding and assessing the Breakfree encounter. The article concludes with the observation that a more playful methodology—one that allows the scholar to draw on theistic and non-theistic categories simultaneously—is required.

Koepping, “Spousal Violence among Christians”

Koepping, Elizabeth.  2013.  Spousal Violence among Christians: Taiwan, South Australia and Ghana.  Studies in World Christianity. Volume 19, Page 252-270.

Abstract: Local, often unconscious, understanding of male and female informs people’s views irrespective of the religious ideology of (for Christians) the imago dei. This affects church teaching about and dealings with spousal violence, usually against wives, and can be an indicator of the failure of contextualising, from Edinburgh to Tonga and Seoul to Accra, actually to challenge context and ‘speak the Word of God’ rather than of elite-defined culture. In examining five denominations (Assembly of God, Methodist, Lutheran, Roman Catholic, True Jesus Church) in Ghana, South Australia and Taiwan, ecclesial attitudes to divorce are shown to have a crucial effect on an abused woman’s decision regarding the marriage, especially where stated clerical practice differs from precept. Adding that to the effects of church teaching, the side-lining of pressure and support groups and the common failure of churches to censure spousal violence of pastors, leads the writer to suggest that any prophetic voice is strangled by shameful culture-bound collusion.

Rocha, “Transnational Pentecostal Connections”

Rocha, Cristina. 2013. Transnational Pentecostal Connections: an Australian megachurch and a Brazilian Church in Australia. Pentecostudies 12(1):62-82.

Abstract: The paper analyses transnational flows of Pentecostalism between Australia and Brazil. It analyses the establishment of CNA, a Brazilian church that caters for the increasing number of Brazilian students in Sydney. It also investigates the ways in which Hillsong, an Australian Pentecostal megachurch, has influenced CNA and has been alluring young Pentecostal Brazilians to Australia. Scholars have paid little attention to how religious institutions in the host country may influence rituals and facilitate the establishment of the new church. I argue that churches created by migrants are not established in a deterritorialized diasporic vacuum. Reterritorialization engenders hybridity. Following an admiration for Australian churches due to Australia being part of the English-speaking developed world, CNA is a hybrid of a conservative Brazilian Baptist church and the very informal Hillsong church. I contend that it is precisely this hybridity that makes young Brazilians adhere to it since the church works as an effective bridge between Brazilian and Australian cultures. Furthermore, this paper demonstrates the polycentric nature of Pentecostalism, as Australia is becoming a centre for the dissemination of Hillsong-style Pentecostalism in Brazil.