Abstract: In the wake of welfare reform, there has been growing scholarly attention to ‘religious neoliberalism’ and, specifically, to the practices and politics of faith-based organizations in neoliberalized landscapes of social service provision. While much of this scholarship has suggested a seamless ‘fusion’ between conservative evangelicalism and neoliberal ideology, ethnographic research has tended to reveal the far more complicated, and contradictory, reality of evangelical social projects as they play out on the ground. Presenting the first in-depth ethnography of a faith-based job-readiness program, this article examines the contradictory logics operative within the project of what we call ‘evangelizing employability.’ Targeting joblessness, the program urges entrepreneurial independence. Targeting godlessness, the program urges righteous dependence on God. The project of evangelizing employability reveals the extraordinary utility of religion for the enactment of neoliberal priorities and policies of work enforcement and contributes to our understanding of religious neoliberalism and its class-based contradictions.
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.
Abstract: In evangelical churches across the United States, volunteers assist other church members in transforming household budgets into lenses that reveal God’s kingdom on earth, reframing the force and volatility of markets as divine mystery. The strategies of financial ministry are distinctive, yet they engage a more general conundrum that pits economic success against conflicting ethical projects; they illuminate the process of ethical management in the financial economy. The ministries’ uses of budgets also challenge the idea that market devices gain power primarily by formatting economic transactions and establishing conditions for market exchange. Evangelical financial ministries show how, in everyday calculative practices, a device such as a household budget renders the spiritual economic, and the economic spiritual. In the exercise of evangelical ethics, financial ministry returns the divine touch to the invisible hand.
Abstract: Protestantism has expanded rapidly in Brazil in recent decades. The question we tackle in this paper is whether Protestantism has had a positive influence on male earnings in this setting, either through its influence on health and productivity, by way of social networks or employer favor and reduced discrimination, or through other mechanisms. We tackle the problem of the selectivity of religious conversion and affiliation using microdata from the Brazilian censuses of 1970, 1980, 1991, and 2000, and analyzing the association between Protestantism and earnings at the group rather than the individual level. Our results show a strong association between the proportion of Protestants in a region, and the earnings of men in one educational group: those with less than five years of education. Upon introducing race into our models, we found that the association between religion and the earnings of less educated men is concentrated in regions in which there is a substantial non-white population. The relationships we have uncovered contribute to the literature on racial inequality and discrimination in Brazil, which to date has given little space to the role of religion in moderating the pernicious effect of race on economic outcomes in Brazil. The substantial association we found between religion and earnings contrasts with much of the research that has been carried out on the influence of religion on earnings in the United States.
Abstract: This article explores a Pentecostal vision of economic development in Central America and considers how it becomes ‘really real’ for adherents, in part, through a sense of place. These Christians maintain that economic progress can only occur through the direct intervention of the Holy Spirit, whose role in development becomes apparent to them as they encounter a correspondence between three elements at three different churches: the church’s level of prosperity; the intensity of the Holy Spirit; and the level of development associated with the broader locality. The article first describes this development project and explores the town of Copán Ruinas, Honduras – considered the least developed of the three places – and then provides an ethnographic account of all three churches, moving ‘up’ from Copán Ruinas through San Pedro Sula (the wealthiest city in Honduras) and ending in Guatemala City. To track the differences between these churches, the article attends to the variations in texture between them.