Abstract: The image of a violated social contract has long held a distinctive place in African American Christian thought about injustice. This essay discusses the efforts made by members of Pentecostal churches in Buffalo, New York, to enter into forms of contract with God that supersede the broken social contracts they see as devaluing their lives. These believers listen to God’s words as expressed in prophetic utterances for “confirmation” of the significance of events. In their view, “catching the word” through faithful listening enables them to create social commitments on their own terms, whereas their creative capacities are liable to be alienated from them if they listen improperly. Applying David Graeber’s revisionist treatment of “fetishism” as a form of social creativity, this essay explores how believers create their blessings within a dialogic space involving themselves, God, the devil, and pastor- prophets with exceptional abilities to listen to and convey the terms of the divine contract.
Marleen de Witte, “Encountering Religion through Accra’s Urban Soundscape” in Jonathan Darling and Helen Wilson (eds.), 2016, Encountering the City: Urban Encounters from Accra to New York. London and New York: Routledge. Pp. 133-150.
Excerpt: Encountering the bustling West-African city of Accra is an intense sonic experience. The metropolis is alive with sounds. Everywhere music is in the air, pulsating from portable radios, car speakers, and open-air drinking spots. Taxis honk their way through traffic jams; street hawkers market their wares; markets and transport hubs are cacophonies of voices: talking, calling, shouting, hissing, bargaining, quarrelling, laughing, singing, preaching. Amidst the fullness of sounds in the city, religious sounds claim a prominent place, day and night. Roaming evangelists on street corners, markets and in buses try to persuade their audiences of the word of God with raucous voices or loudspeakers at full volume. Charismatic radio preachers and Ghanaian gospel hits enter urban space on the airwaves, while singing and praying voices of devout Christians escape private rooms and church buildings through open louver windows…This chapter explores how religious diversity is encountered and negotiated through the urban soundscape.
Publisher’s Description: For most of the last century, popular and scholarly common sense has equated American evangelicalism with across-the-board social, economic, and political conservatism. However, if a growing chorus of evangelical leaders, media pundits, and religious scholars is to be believed, the era of uncontested evangelical conservatism is on the brink of collapse-if it hasn’t collapsed already. Combining vivid ethnographic storytelling and incisive theoretical analysis, New Monasticism and the Transformation of American Evangelicalism introduces readers to the fascinating and unexplored terrain of neo-monastic evangelicalism. Often located in disadvantaged urban neighborhoods, new monastic communities pursue religiously inspired visions of racial, social, and economic justice-alongside personal spiritual transformation-through diverse and creative expressions of radical community. In this account, Wes Markofski has immersed himself in the paradoxical world of evangelical neo-monasticism, focusing on the Urban Monastery-an influential neo-monastic community located in a gritty, racially diverse neighborhood in a major Midwestern American city. The resulting account of the way in which this movement reflects and is contributing to the transformation of American evangelicalism challenges entrenched stereotypes and calls attention to the dynamic diversity of religious and political points of view which vie for supremacy in the American evangelical subculture. New Monasticism and the Transformation of American Evangelicalism is the first sociological analysis of new monastic evangelicalism and the first major work to theorize the growing theological and political diversity within twenty-first-century American evangelicalism.
Abstract: This article examines the interplay of different processes of cultural and subjective fragmentation experienced by conservative evangelical Anglicans, based on an ethnographic study of a congregation in central London. The author focuses on the evangelistic speaking practices of members of this church to explore how individuals negotiate contradictory norms of interaction as they move through different city spaces, and considers their response to tensions created by the demands of their workplace and their religious lives. Drawing on Georg Simmel’s ‘The Metropolis and Mental Life’, the author argues that their faith provides a sense of coherence and unity that responds to experiences of cultural fragmentation characteristic of everyday life in the city, while simultaneously leading to a specific consciousness of moral fragmentation that is inherent to conservative evangelicalism.
Publisher’s Description: Christianity and Culture in the City: A Postcolonial Approach offers an introduction to the broad diversity of contemporary Christianities in a rich, complex, changing, and challenging city context. Cruz focuses upon a variety of changing communities with dynamic and striking cultural experiences, and the volume provides both scholarly and practical insights as to how Christianities in the city relate to and transform city institutions and communities that are undergoing dramatic shifts and invite opportunities for intentional study.
This book offers a provocative interdisciplinary examination to shed light upon the ways in which diverse city communities appropriate Christianity to better engage their economic, cultural, political, and religious environment. A post-colonial theoretical framework will help inform how Christianity serves to empower and reinvent fragmented, oppressed, and struggling city populations. The reader is offered various conceptual, theoretical, and pragmatic insights and knowledge for better interpreting, affirming, and engaging diverse Christianities in the city in a postcolonial era.
In the Christian tradition, representing the divine has often been considered both an impossible and yet necessary endeavour rooted in the human need in certain moments of weakness to visualize God. In this article, based on research findings from fieldwork carried out with urban indigenous groups in La Paz, Bolivia, I suggest that the articulation of local and Catholic representational traditions and practices has produced an understanding of the religious image not so much as an object of detached contemplation or a reference to a religious symbol but rather as an energized element which physically shapes the relationship and exchange between the material and the spiritual world. I suggest that through a study of Andean religious images we may be able to produce an alternative ontological perspective on the relationship between the spiritual, material, and living worlds.
Dans la tradition chrétienne, la représentation du divin est souvent considérée comme une gageure impossible et pourtant nécessaire, motivée par la nécessité humaine de visualiser Dieu dans les moments de faiblesse. À partir des matériaux de terrain obtenus auprès de groupes autochtones urbains à La Paz, en Bolivie, l’auteur suggère ici que l’articulation des traditions et pratiques de représentation locales et catholiques a conduit à concevoir l’image religieuse moins comme un objet de contemplation détachée ou une référence à un symbole religieux que comme un élément chargé d’énergie, qui donne physiquement forme à la relation et aux échanges entre le monde matériel et le monde spirituel. L’article suggère qu’à travers l’étude des images religieuses andines, on pourrait élaborer un autre point de vue ontologique sur la relation entre les mondes spirituel, matériel et vivant.
Abstract: In Hong Kong, over half of the Protestant churches are located in the upper-floor units in commercial and residential buildings. Because of their physical locations, these churches are sometimes dubbed ‘upper-floor churches’. Unlike those that occupy stand-alone religious buildings or dwell in church-run schools and social service centres, these are often invisible in the landscapes of the city. Through analysis of a case study, this paper aims to explore the spatial practices that a Protestant community has adopted in acquiring, representing, and ritualising a business unit in a residential high-rise for building up their church. Our analysis of the case study shows that in a metropolis like contemporary Hong Kong, the construction of sacred space is full of tensions between utilitarian calculations and concerns of human relations and religious values. While the congregation had been very creative in transforming a commercial unit into a religious site, it did not show much awareness of the oppressive powers of the capitalist market and had a strong tendency to represent its spatial practices as commodities for consumption.