Abstract: In this article I analyse the narratives of conversion to Evangelical churches in St Petersburg by inquiring how Russians engage with the Evangelical churches and how they construct a meaningful conversion identity. My analysis shows how the social and political changes of post-Soviet Russia are experienced in religious terms and whether they have social implications that are reflected in identity-building as both Russian and Evangelical. Individual identity always reflects time and place, and the social and societal context in which an individual lives. Through this route I also broaden the understanding of Russian societal attitudes towards present-day ‘religious dissidents’. My research is based on 19 thematic interviews and participant observations in church meetings in St Petersburg between 2006 and 2009. Most of the interviewees belonged to communities that could be categorised as neo-Pentecostal. The study revealed that both a personal religious quest, especially during the societal turmoil that existed after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the influence of friends or relatives were significant impulses for conversion. The resources sustaining the conversion as an ongoing process are communal, but also involve an individual self-improvement project within the construction of a new Evangelical self.
Beck, Sedefka V. and Sara J. Gundersen. A Gospel of Prosperity? An Analysis of the Relationship Between Religion and Earned Income in Ghana, the Most Religious Country in the World. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. Early online publication.
Abstract: This study tests for a relationship between religious affiliation and earned income in Ghana. While microeconomic analyses have studied the relationship between religion and several socioeconomic outcomes in the United States, remarkably few have done so in developing countries, and none has explored the religion-earnings relationship. Using the fifth round of the Ghana Living Standards Survey from 2005 to 2006, we find that, among women, religious denomination correlates with earned income. Specifically, Spiritualists, Pentecostals, and Methodists earn higher income than the Presbyterian base group, while Traditionalists earn less. This article investigates the relationship and posits some of its causes, including the influence of a trend in neo-Pentecostal religious groups that emphasizes wealth accumulation and self-confidence.
Publisher’s Description: Mission and Money; Christian Mission in the Context of Global Inequalities offers academic discussion about the mission of the Church in the context of contemporary economic inequalities globally, challenging the reader to reconsider mission in the light of existing poverty, and investigating how economic structures could be challenged in the light of ethical and spiritual considerations. The book includes contributions on the subjects of poverty and inequality from the theologians, economists and anthropologists who gave keynote presentations at the European Missiological Conference (IAMS Europe) that took place in April 2014 in Helsinki, Finland. This conference was a major step forward in terms of discussion between missiologists and economists on global economic structures and their influence on human dignity.
Introduction – Jonas Adelin Jørgensen and Mari-Anna Auvinen-Pöntinen
A Challenge of Theological-Missiological Reflection on Money and Mobility in the Globalizing World – Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen
Ethics and Global Economics – Vesa Kanniainen
Asian Perspectives on Global Economic Inequality – Felix Wilfred
Christian Mission in a World under the Grip of an Unholy Trinity: Inequality, Poverty and Unemployment – Tinyiko Sam Maluleke
Poverty and Power: African Challenges to Christian Mission – Gerrie ter Haar
The Mission of the Church amidst European Social and Economic Crisis: The Case of Greece – Evi Voulgaraki-Pissina
Interreligious Liberation Theologies, Money and Just Relations – Ulrich Duchrow
Economic Development and Christian Mission: A Perspective from History of Mission – Jonathan J. Bonk
Mission and Money in Two Recent Mission Documents: The WCC’s Together towards Life and Pope Francis’s Evangelii Gaudium – Stephen Bevans
Mission and Money—Mapping the Field – Mika Vähäkangas
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.
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.
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.
Abstract: This paper focuses on the practice of tithing as an extraordinary form of religious giving. Tithing involves habitually giving ten percent of one’s income to the church, and since this is such a significant portion of a person’s income, its giving should reflect that significance. The paper seeks to understand why people tithe, and whether they expect anything in return from the community to which they tithe. In an attempt to find answers, attention is placed on members of the South African division of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, as this denomination has exhibited an upward trend in tithe-giving behaviour over the last decade. The information gathered through participant-observation is analysed by placing it within an anthropological discourse of gift-exchange. Through this lens, the paper argues that tithing functions to produce group solidarity by maintaining the relationships between clergy, laity and their deity.
Abstract: In the United States, white evangelicals are more economically conservative than other Americans. It is commonly assumed that white evangelicals oppose redistributive social policies because of their individualistic theology. Yet Canadian evangelicals are just as supportive of redistributive social policy as other Canadians, even though they share the same tools of conservative Protestant theology. To solve this puzzle, I use multi-sited ethnography to compare how two evangelical congregations in the United States and Canada talked about poverty and the role of government. In both countries, evangelicals made sense of their religious responsibilities to “the poor” by reference to national identity. Evangelicals used their theological tools differently in the United States and Canada because different visions of national solidarity served as cultural anchors for religious discourse about poverty. To understand the political and civic effects of religion, scholars need to consider the varied ways that religious groups imagine national community within religious practice.
Publisher’s Description: Narrowing in from the broader context of the north Atlantic, through northern Europe, to Britain, northeast Scotland, and finally the fishing village of Gamrie, this anthropology of Protestantism examines millennialist faith and economic crisis. Through his ethnographic study of the fishermen and their religious beliefs, Webster speaks to larger debates about religious radicalism, materiality, economy, language, and the symbolic. These debates (occurring within the ostensibly secular context of contemporary Scotland) also call into question assumptions about the decline of religion in modern industrial societies. By chronicling how these individuals experience life as “enchanted,” this book explores the global processes of religious conversion, economic crisis, and political struggle.
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.