McGee, “Brand New Theology”

McGee, Paula L.  2016. Brand® New Theology: The Wal-Martization of T.D. Jakes and the New Black Church. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.

Publisher’s Description: T.D. Jakes is a pastor and entrepreneur who presides over a vast megachurch and business operation. He has turned the gospel into his own successful brand—particularly through product lines such as “Woman Thou Art Loosed.”

According to author Paula McGee, Jakes is representative of a rising phenomenon, the New Black Church, a new form of prosperity gospel that signifies what she calls the “Wal-Martization” of religion. Her ideological critique is a vital tool for all who wish to understand the relation between religion and culture—especially those committed to the transformative power of the Gospel.

Bartel, “Giving Is Believing”

Rebecca C. Bartel, 2016. “Giving Is Believing: Credit and Christmas in Colombia” Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 84(4): 1006-1028.

Abstract: The Durkheimian divide between “belief” and “rite” remains a contested boundary in the study of religion. In response, this article takes up the concept of “credere,” the root of both belief and credit, to challenge the distinction between believing and practice. “Credere” further opens a new window for inquiry in religious studies: the role of the gift in finance capitalism. Based on two years of ethnographic fieldwork in Colombia, South America, this article challenges the disciplinary margins between political economy and religion. Relations between believing, practice, and finance capitalism are brought into new relief through a focus on gift-giving in a time of credit cards. In Colombia, the relationship between finance capitalism and Christianity reshapes the gift—from a gift based on social obligation to a gift based on credit.

Bartel, “Giving is Believing”

Bartel, Rebecca C.  2016. Giving Is Believing: Credit and Christmas in Colombia.  Journal of the American Academy of Religion.  Early online publication.

Abstract: The Durkheimian divide between “belief” and “rite” remains a contested boundary in the study of religion. In response, this article takes up the concept of “credere,” the root of both belief and credit, to challenge the distinction between believing and practice. “Credere” further opens a new window for inquiry in religious studies: the role of the gift in finance capitalism. Based on two years of ethnographic fieldwork in Colombia, South America, this article challenges the disciplinary margins between political economy and religion. Relations between believing, practice, and finance capitalism are brought into new relief through a focus on gift-giving in a time of credit cards. In Colombia, the relationship between finance capitalism and Christianity reshapes the gift—from a gift based on social obligation to a gift based on credit.

Koenig, “Almighty God and the Almighty Dollar”

Koenig, Sarah.  2016. Almighty God and the Almighty Dollar: The Study of Religion and Market Economies in the United States. Religion Compass 10(4): 83-97.

Abstract: This essay reviews several of the main ways in which scholars of religion have depicted relationships between religion and market economies in the United States. It traces sociological, historical, and ethnographic approaches to the study of religion and market economies, examining how scholars have navigated the tensions between religious declension, on the one hand, and celebration of free market ideals, on the other. It then suggests some directions for further study, including better integration of the studies of material goods, labor, and capitalism with studies of religion and market economies; new studies of religion and finance; greater attention to non-capitalist systems in U.S. history; and studies that recognize the permeable and co-constructed nature of religion and market economies.

Vähäkangas, “The Prosperity Gospel in the African Diaspora”

Vähäkangas, Mika.  2015. The Prosperity Gospel in the African Diaspora: Unethical Theology or Gospel in Context? Exchange 44(4): 353-380.

Abstract: The prosperity gospel in the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Hosanna Chapel, Helsinki, Finland, builds primarily on African indigenous worldviews rather than serving as a theological justification for capitalism. It is a contextual African interpretation of the gospel in a situation of tension between the expectations of extended families back home, those of the new society in which the immigrants find themselves, and the church. The African experience and heritage come to the fore especially in the strong emphasis placed on interpersonal relations, particularly with family members and God, as an essential part of prosperity. Naïve faith in the bliss of equal opportunities within capitalism is moderated by differentiation between realistic economic expectations and the special blessings that are endowed upon believers. When condemning the prosperity gospel wholesale, there is the risk of misinterpreting non-Western theologies and of morally castigating the weakest for their attempts to survive global capitalism instead of combating its oppressive structures.

Mohr, “Enchanted Calvinism”

Mohr, Adam. 2013. Enchanted Calvinism: Labor Migration, Afflicting Spirits, and Christian Therapy in the Presbyterian Church of Ghana. Rochester: University of Rochester Press.

Release Date: November 15, 2013

Publisher’s Description: Enchanted Calvinism’s central proposition is that Ghanaian Presbyterian communities, both past and present, have become significantly more enchanted–that is, more attuned to spiritual explanations of and remedies for suffering–as they have become more integrated into capitalist modes of production. The author draws on a specific Weberian concept of religious enchantment to frame the discussion of spiritual affliction and spiritual healing within the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, particularly under the conditions of labor migration: first, in the early twentieth century during the cocoa boom in Ghana and second, at the turn of the twenty-first century in the context of the healthcare migration from Ghana to North America. Relying on extensive archival research, oral historical interviews, and participant-observation group interviews conducted in North America, Europe, and West Africa, the study provides evidence that the more these Ghanaian Calvinists became dependent on capitalist modes of production, the more enchanted their lives, and, subsequently, their church became, although in different ways within these two migrations. One striking pattern that has emerged among Ghanaian Presbyterian labor migrants in North America, for example, is a radical shift in gendered healing practices, where women have become prominent healers, while a significant number of men have become spirit-possessed.

Wanner, “The city as promised land”

Wanner, Catherine. 2013. The city as promised land: moral reasoning, evil, and the dark side of capitalism in Ukraine. Religion 43(3): 365-384.

Abstract: The theological prescriptions of a believer’s burden preached at a large non-denominational Charismatic megachurch in Ukraine involve transforming the city in which one lives into a promised land. The means to do so involve making money and using that money to create ‘blessings’ for others. The actions of a group of entrepreneurs associated with this megachurch who have put this theology into practice have led to cross-cutting indictments of evil. The controversy that ensued over the proper response of a believer to suffering and urban plight reveals how the processes of moral reasoning to determine the sources of evil can be interpreted very differently when there is little agreement over the divine or demonic providence of money and what the public role of religion should be.

Maddox, “Prosper, consume and be saved”

Maddox, Marion. 2012. Prosper, consume and be saved. Critical Research on Religion. 1(1):108-113.

Abstract:  A Sydney-based megachurch with global reach, well-known for its ‘‘prosperity gospel’’ of financial acquisition, has developed an additional strand: a detailed theology of consumption. The affinity between a theology of guilt-free—indeed, obligatory—consumption and late capitalism goes some way towards explaining the attraction this minority strand of Christianity holds for politicians, including those without personal religious commitments, in a secular electorate.

Cao, “Renegotiating Locality and Morality”

Cao, Nanlai. 2013. Renegotiating Locality and Morality in a Chinese Religious Diaspora: Wenzhou Christian Merchants in Paris, France. The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology 14(1).

Abstract: This paper explores the social and economic implications of indigenous Christian discourses and practices in the Wenzhou Chinese diaspora in Paris, France. Popularly known as China’s Jerusalem, the coastal Chinese city of Wenzhou is home to thousands of self-started home-grown Protestant churches and a million Protestants. Drawing on multi-sited fieldwork, this study provides an ethnographic account of a group of Wenzhou merchants who have formed large Christian communities at home, along with migrant enclaves in Paris. The study shows how these migrant entrepreneurs and traders have brought their version of Christianity from China to France and how they perceive and deal with issues of illegality, moral contingency, native-place based loyalty and national belonging. It highlights the thoroughly intertwined relationship between an indigenised Chinese Christianity and the petty capitalist legacy of coastal southeast China in a secularised, exclusionary European context, and suggests that Christianity provides a form of non-market morality that serves to effectively legitimate Wenzhou’s pre-modern household economy in the context of market modernity.

O’Neill, “The Soul of Security”

O’Neill, Kevin Lewis. 2012. The Soul of Security: Christianity, Corporatism, and Control in Postwar Guatemala. Social Text 30(2):21-42.

Abstract: Amid unprecedented rates of deportation as well as an ever-growing gang problem, bilingual call centers have become viable spaces of control in postwar Guatemala. They provide deported ex–gang members with not only well-paying jobs but also a work environment structured by Protestant images and imperatives. Be humble. Be punctual. Be patient. These corporately Christian virtues minister to the deported at every turn, inviting them to assume and become subsumed by ascetic subjectivities. These are monkish dispositions that provide a vital lynchpin between the political, the economic, and the subjective. They also coordinate (at the level of conduct) projects of capitalist accumulation with efforts at regional security. This assemblage of industries and ethics, made in the name of control, is what this article understands as the soul of security.