Fer, “Youth with a Mission in the Pacific Islands”

Fer, Yannick. 2016. “Youth With a Mission in the Pacific Islands: From Evangelical globalization to the reshaping of local cultural identities.” in F. Magowan et C. Schwartz (eds.), 2016, Christianity, Conflict, and Renewal in Australia and the Pacific, Leiden/Boston, Brill, pp. 81-101.

Abstract: The rise of Pentecostal-charismatic movements in Polynesia today is opening up new spaces for converts to engage in the contemporary dynamics of globalization, encouraging them to question the intertwined links between religion, culture, and the land, as shaped by local Christian cultures. A complex articulation of converts’ voluntary disaffiliation from traditional religion and their critical reappropriation of Christianity create dilemmas of identity, as Polynesian “Christian tradition” finds no unanimous response within the Pentecostal-charismatic field. Indeed, in recent decades, these movements have led to a double diversification, brought about on the one hand, by the growth of The Christianity of the South and, on the other hand, by the increasing separation of charismatic streams from classical Pentecostal theology.

The charismatic network Youth with a Mission (YWAM), which has been present in Oceania for forty years, exemplifies this global transformation of the Pentecostal-charismatic field and its local impact upon reshaping the identity of Pacific Islander youth. After situating this network within contemporary Pacific Island Protestantism and the post-World War ii American context, this chapter examines the patterns of YWAM global culture, including its positive representation of cultural diversity. I show how these trends generated a militant reappropriation and renewal of cultural identities within the Christian space among young Polynesian converts at the outset of the 1980s. In particular, the Island Breeze movement, a YWAM ministry launched in 1979 by the Samoan Sosene Le’au, claims to seek the “redemption of cultures” and advocates the use of Polynesian dances as both an expression of Christian faith and a universal missionary tool. Finally, an analysis of the links between the YWAM global charismatic culture and this local religious renewing and reshaping of Polynesian cultural identities illuminates several points of adjustment or tension: between individual “new birth”, regional migrations and cultural authenticity; and between historical relationships of domination and the emergence of a “Christian indigeneity influenced by the global theology of “spiritual warfare”.

Fer, “Politics of Tradition”

Fer, Yannick. 2015. “Politics of Tradition: Charismatic Globalization, Morality, and Culture in Polynesian Protestantism.” In The Anthropology of Global Pentecostalism and Evangelicalism. Simon Coleman and Rosalind I.J. Hackett, eds. 228-242. New York: NYU Press.

Morris, “Polynesians and Mormonism”

Morris, Paul.  2015. Polynesians and Mormonism: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the “Islands of the Sea.”  Nova Religio 18(4): 83-101.

Abstract: Polynesia has a particular place in the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). The region that heralded the Church’s first overseas missions includes seven of the world’s top ten nations in terms of the proportion of Mormons in the population, and it is home to six Mormon temples. The Polynesian Latter-day Saint population is increasing in both percentage and absolute numbers, and peoples in the Pacific “islands of the sea” continue to play a central role in the Mormon missionary imaginary. This article explores Polynesians in the LDS Church and critically evaluates different theories seeking to explain this growing religious affiliation. Scholars of Mormonism and commentators explain this growth in terms of parallels between Mormonism and indigenous Polynesian traditions, particularly family lineage and ancestry, and theological and ritual affinities. After evaluating these claims in light of scholarly literature and interviews with Latter-day Saints, however, I conclude that other reasons—especially education and other new opportunities—may equally if not more significantly account for the appeal of Mormonism to Polynesians.

Sissons, “The Polynesian Iconoclasm: Religious Revolution and the Seasonality of Power”

Sissons, Jeffrey. 2014. The Polynesian Iconoclasm: Religious Revolution and the Seasonality of Power. New York: Berghahn Books.

Publisher’s Description: Within little more than ten years in the early nineteenth century, inhabitants of Tahiti, Hawaii and fifteen other closely related societies destroyed or desecrated all of their temples and most of their god-images. In the aftermath of the explosive event, which Sissons terms the Polynesian Iconoclasm, hundreds of architecturally innovative churches – one the size of two football fields – were constructed. At the same time, Christian leaders introduced oppressive laws and courts, which the youth resisted through seasonal displays of revelry and tattooing. Seeking an answer to why this event occurred in the way that it did, this book introduces and demonstrates an alternative “practice history” that draws on the work of Marshall Sahlins and employs Bourdieu’s concepts of habitus, improvisation and practical logic.

Farhadian, “Introducing World Christianity”

Farhadian, Charles E.  (2012) Introducing World Christianity. Madden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

Publisher’s Description: This interdisciplinary introduction offers students a truly global overview of the worldwide spread and impact of Christianity. It is enriched throughout by detailed historic and ethnographic material, showing how broad themes within Christianity have been adopted and adapted by Christian denominations within each major region of the world.

  • Provides a comprehensive overview of the spread and impact of world Christianity
  • Contains studies from every major region of the world, including Africa, Asia, Latin America, the North Atlantic, and Oceania
  • Brings together an international team of contributors from history, sociology, and anthropology, as well as religious studies
  • Examines the significant social, cultural, and political transformations in contemporary societies brought about through the influence of Christianity
  • Takes a non-theological approach, focusing instead on the impact of and response to Christianity
  • Discusses Protestant, Evangelical, Catholic, and Orthodox forms of the faith
  • Features useful maps and illustrations
  • Combines broader discussions with detailed regional analysis, creating an invaluable introduction to world Christianity

This is an engaging multidisciplinary introduction to the worldwide spread and impact of Christianity. Bringing together chapters from leading scholars in history, sociology, anthropology, and religious studies, this book examines the major transformations in contemporary societies brought about through the influence of Christianity.

Each chapter shows how the broad themes within Christianity have been adopted and adapted by Christian denominations within each major region of the world. In this way, the book paints a global picture of the impact of Christianity, enriched by detailed historic and ethnographic material for each particular region. Throughout, the chapters examine Protestant, Evangelical, Catholic and Orthodox forms of Christianity. The combination of broader perspectives and deep analysis of particular regions, illuminating the social, cultural, political, and religious features of changes brought about by Christianity, makes this book essential reading for students of world Christianity.