McAlister, “The militarization of prayer in America”

McAlister, Elizabeth.  2016. The militarization of prayer in America: white and Native American spiritual warfare.  Journal of Religious and Political Practice.  Early online publication.

Abstract: This article examines how militarism has come to be one of the generative forces of the prayer practices of millions of Christians across the globe. To understand this process, I focus on the articulation between militarization and aggressive forms of prayer, especially the evangelical warfare prayer developed by North Americans since the 1980s. Against the backdrop of the rise in military spending and neoliberal economic policies, spiritual warfare evangelicals have taken on the project of defending the United States on the “spiritual” plane. They have elaborated a complex theology and prayer practice with a highly militarized discourse and set of rituals for doing “spiritual battle” and conducting “prayer strikes” on the “prayer battlefield”. The work draws on ethnographic fieldwork at an intensive spiritual warfare boot camp organized by a group of Native Americans who have founded a training base in Oklahoma dedicated to training recruits in the theology and practical strategy of spiritual warfare. Despite their hyper-aggressive rhetorical and ideological stance, members of this network in fact practice self-sacrificial rituals of fasting, holiness, and submission to the Holy Spirit. Native prayer warriors are using spiritual warfare prayer to assert a privileged place for themselves in Christian life as heirs of God’s authority over the stewardship of North American land and as central to the project of repairing sinful pasts both on and off the reservations, reconciling present racial conflict, and defending the land in spiritual battle against new immigrant invasions by foreign, demonic forces.

Hackman, “A Sinful Landscape”

Hackman, Melissa. A Sinful Landscape: moral and sexual geographies in Cape Town, South Africa. Social Analysis 59(3): 105-125.

Abstract: ‘Spiritual mapping’ is a transnational Pentecostal ‘spiritual warfare’ practice that aims to identify and fight ‘territorial spirits’, or demons that possess specific places. It was unique in Cape Town, South Africa, at the beginning of democracy, because it was both racialized and sexualized. This article examines how Pentecostals in Cape Town employed spiritual mapping techniques to identify and police groups they understood as morally and spiritually ‘dangerous’: black and ‘coloured’ communities and gays and lesbians. I argue that South African spiritual mapping was a response to the material and physical insecurities of democracy, particularly the declining economy, failed promises of the African National Congress, and some of the highest rates of crime in the world.

McCloud, “American Possessions”

McCloud, Sean. 2015. American Possessions: Fighting Demons in the Contemporary United States. New York: Oxford University Press.

Publisher’s Description: Stories of contemporary exorcisms are largely met with ridicule, or even hostility. Sean McCloud argues, however, that there are important themes to consider within these narratives of seemingly well-adjusted people who attend school, go shopping, watch movies, and also happen to fight demons. American Possessions examines Third Wave spiritual warfare, a late twentieth-, early twenty-first century movement of evangelicals focused on banishing demons from human bodies, material objects, land, regions, political parties, and nation states. While Third Wave beliefs may seem far removed from what many scholars view as mainstream religious practice, McCloud argues that the movement provides an ideal case study for identifying some of the most prominent tropes within the contemporary American religious landscape. Drawing on interviews, television shows, documentaries, websites, and dozens of spiritual warfare handbooks, McCloud examines Third Wave practices such deliverance rituals (a uniquely Protestant form of exorcism), spiritual housekeeping (the removal of demons from everyday objects), and spiritual mapping (searching for the demonic in the physical landscape). Demons, he shows, are the central fact of life in the Third Wave imagination. McCloud provides the first book-length study of this influential movement, highlighting the important ways that it reflects and diverts from the larger, neo-liberal culture from which it originates.

Maguire and Murphy, “Ontological (in)security”

Maguire, Mark and Fiona Murphy.  2015. Ontological (in)Security and African Pentecostalism in Ireland.  Ethnos.  Early online publication.

Abstract: The last number of years has seen the mushrooming of African Pentecostal churches, especially Prosperity Gospel churches, in the post-recession industrial landscapes of Ireland. This article aims to explore the growth of African Pentecostalism in Ireland from both the perspective of embodied and affective religious experience and the conditions for the possibility of those religious experiences. This article is based on several years of ethnographic research among African Pentecostals in Ireland. It attends especially to the sensorious forms of worship and the Jesus walks that Pentecostals organise to transform the Irish symbolic landscape. Drawing on recent anthropological theory, the article draws out the contradictions, doubts, boundaries and limitations perceived and lived in totalising Pentecostal discourses and practices. Here, we develop the concept of ontological (in)security in order to theorise these doubts and limitations as well as the power

McAlister, “Possessing the Land for Jesus”

McAlister, Elizabeth.  2014.  Possessing the Land for Jesus.  In Spirited Things: The Work of “Possession” in Afro-Atlantic Religions, Paul Christopher Johnson, ed.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Excerpt: “The American and Haitian religious actors I follow here are not part of the vast nongovernmental organization complex that has made Port-au-Prince a ‘Republic of NGOs.’  Rather, I am interested in independent missions and congregations that are also linked to global networks.  North American evangelicals, including Haitian Americans in the diaspora, form relationships with Haitian church congregations precisely in the sphere of privatized humanitarian assistance that neoliberal economic policies have created as the primary theater of operations for aid, relief, recovery, rebuilding, and development.  After the quake in Haiti, biblical quotations about land resonated with conflicts over land occupied by tent encampments, competition for international relief monies, and discussions about the best way to rebuild the nation.  It was in this context that dispossessed Pentecostals began to think, speak, and strategize about ‘God’s people possessing the land.'”

McAlister, “Humanitarian Adhocracy, Transnational New Apostolic Missions, and Evangelical Anti-Dependency in a Haitian Refugee Camp”

McAlister, Elizabeth. 2013. Humanitarian Adhocracy, Transnational New Apostolic Missions, and Evangelical Anti-Dependency in a Haitian Refugee Camp. Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions 16(4):11-34.

Abstract: This article addresses religious responses to disaster by examining how one network of conservative evangelical Christians reacted to the Haiti earthquake and the humanitarian relief that followed. The charismatic Christian New Apostolic Reformation (or Spiritual Mapping movement) is a transnational network that created the conditions for post-earthquake, internally displaced Haitians to arrive at two positions that might seem contradictory. On one hand, Pentecostal Haitian refugees used the movement’s conservative, right-wing theology to develop a punitive theodicy of the quake as God’s punishment of a sinful nation. On the other hand, rather than resign themselves to victimhood and passivity, their strict moralism allowed these evangelical refugees to formulate an uncompromising critique of the Haitian government, the United Nations peacekeeping mission, and foreign humanitarian relief. They rejected material humanitarian aid when possible and developed a stance of Christian self-sufficiency, anti-foreign-aid, and anti-dependency. They accepted visits only from American missionaries with “spiritual,” and not material, missions, and they launched their own missions to parts of Haiti unaffected by the quake.