Abstract: Anti-Christian violence in India has increased dramatically since the late 1990s, and there are now, on average, several hundred attacks on Christians every year. In this violence, Pentecostals are disproportionately targeted. This article begins by providing the historical and political context for anti-Christian violence, and then seeks to account for the disproportionate targeting of Pentecostals. While there are certain obvious factors, such as the more assertive evangelizing of Pentecostals (and other Evangelicals) vis-à-vis mainstream Christian groups, the article explores and highlights several less obvious factors, and in particular the peculiar social, theological, ecclesiastical and liturgical aspects of Pentecostalism that make this form of Christianity particularly objectionable to Hindu nationalists, as well – importantly – as to many mainstream and upper-caste/upper-class Indian Christians.
Abstract: A crisis of urban violence has emerged in northern Central America during the past two decades. Although youth gangs are responsible for only a portion of this violence, punitive approaches to dealing with gang violence have sharpened public hostility toward gang members and created a context conducive to the practice of “social cleansing” aimed at reducing gang violence by eliminating gang-affiliated youth through extrajudicial executions. Against this backdrop of public anger and resentment aimed at gang youth, a sizeable number of Evangelical-Pentecostal pastors and lay workers have developed ministries aimed at rescuing gang members and restoring them to society, often making considerable sacrifices and taking personal risks in the process. After describing the difficul-ties and risks associated with leaving the gang, this article takes a sociological approach to gang member conversions to discover the resources that Evangelical-Pentecostal congregations and gang ministries offer to former gang members facing the crisis of spoiled identity. I draw on semistructured interviews conducted in 2007 and 2008 with former gang members and gang ministry coordinators in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, and a handful of follow-up interviews conducted in 2013.
Publisher’s Description: “I’m not perfect,” Mateo confessed. “Nobody is. But I try.” Secure the Soul shuttles between the life of Mateo, a born-again ex-gang member in Guatemala and the gang prevention programs that work so hard to keep him alive. Along the way, this poignantly written ethnography uncovers the Christian underpinnings of Central American security. In the streets of Guatemala City—amid angry lynch mobs, overcrowded prisons, and paramilitary death squads—millions of dollars empower church missions, faith-based programs, and seemingly secular security projects to prevent gang violence through the practice of Christian piety. With Guatemala increasingly defined by both God and gangs, Secure the Soul details an emerging strategy of geopolitical significance: regional security by way of good Christian living.
Publisher’s Description: Every year, there are several hundred attacks on India’s Christians. These attacks are carried out by violent anti-minority activists, many of them provoked by what they perceive to be Christians’ propensity for aggressive proselytization, and/or by rumored or real conversions to the faith. In this violence, Pentecostal Christians are disproportionately targeted.
Bauman finds that the violence against Pentecostals and Pentecostalized Evangelicals in India is not just a matter of current social, cultural, political, and interreligious dynamics internal to India, but is rather related to identifiable historical trends, as well as to historical and contemporary transnational flows of people, power, and ideas.
Based on extensive interviews and ethnographic work, and drawing upon the vast scholarly literature on interreligious violence, Hindu nationalism, and Christianity in India, this volume accounts for this disproportionate targeting through a detailed analysis of Indian Christian history, contemporary Indian politics, Indian social and cultural characteristics, and Pentecostal belief and practice.
While some of the factors in the targeting of Pentecostals are obvious and expected (e.g., their relatively greater evangelical assertiveness), other significant factors are less acknowledged and more surprising, among them the marginalization of Pentecostals by “mainstream” Christians, the social location of Pentecostal Christians, and transnational flows of missionary personnel, theories, and funds.
Meneses, Eloise, Lindy Backues, David Bronkema, Eric Flett, and Benjamin L. Hartley. 2014. Engaging the Religiously Committed Other: Anthropologists and Theologians in Dialogue. Current Anthropology. Preprint – issue, volume, page not available.
Abstract: Anthropology has two tasks: the scientific task of studying human beings and the instrumental task of promoting human flourishing. To date, the scientific task has been constrained by secularism, and the instrumental task by the philosophy and values of liberalism. These constraints have caused religiously based scholarship to be excluded from anthropology’s discourse, to the detriment of both tasks. The call for papers for the 2009 meetings of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) recognized the need to “push the field’s epistemological and presentational conventions” in order to reach anthropology’s various publics. Religious thought has much to say about the human condition. It can expand the discourse in ways that provide explanatory value as well as moral purpose and hope. We propose an epistemology of witness for dialogue between anthropologists and theologians, and we demonstrate the value added with an example: the problem of violence.
Publisher’s Description: Between 1999 and 2000, sectarian fighting fanned across the eastern Indonesian province of North Maluku, leaving thousands dead and hundreds of thousands displaced. What began as local conflicts between migrants and indigenous people over administrative boundaries spiraled into a religious war pitting Muslims against Christians and continues to influence communal relationships more than a decade after the fighting stopped. Christopher R. Duncan spent several years conducting fieldwork in North Maluku, and in Violence and Vengeance, he examines how the individuals actually taking part in the fighting understood and experienced the conflict.
Rather than dismiss religion as a facade for the political and economic motivations of the regional elite, Duncan explores how and why participants came to perceive the conflict as one of religious difference. He examines how these perceptions of religious violence altered the conflict, leading to large-scale massacres in houses of worship, forced conversions of entire communities, and other acts of violence that stressed religious identities. Duncan’s analysis extends beyond the period of violent conflict and explores how local understandings of the violence have complicated the return of forced migrants, efforts at conflict resolution and reconciliation.
Abstract: During the Indonesian occupation of Timor-Leste (1975-99), the Roman Catholic Church grew in importance to the East Timorese people. This is demonstrated by the large increase in Timorese affiliation to the Church: 25-30% of the populace were baptized Catholics in 1975 compared with over 90% in the 1990s. Various explanations have been offered for this growth, many of which identify ‘extrinsic’ factors such as the religious prescriptions of Indonesian law or the pressures of Islamization. While acknowledging the importance of these factors, this paper argues that certain intrinsic factors substantially influenced the identification of the Timorese experience of occupation with Catholic faith and solidarity. An understanding of these intrinsic factors can provide a more expansive understanding of Timorese culture, experience and history. Drawing on original research into the faith and experience of Timorese people during the occupation, the author explores the relationship between suffering, resistance and the Catholic faith of the Timorese in four areas: language; ‘a spirituality of resistance’; martyrdom; and sanctuary and advocacy for the persecuted. The paper draws on the insights of French philosopher and literary critic, René Girard, regarding the importance of Christianity in the context of violence. Girard has argued for a particular understanding of the centrality of the victim in human culture and of how Christianity helps to reveal this centrality. Girard’s perspective sheds light on how the Timorese came to terms with their experience of suffering and violence under Indonesian occupation through their identification with Jesus Christ and the Church.
Abstract: This article discusses the forceful transformation of the female body in Brazilian Pentecostalism in urban Mozambique and argues for an understanding of Pentecostal conversion as embodying spiritual warfare. Presenting the case of avenging spirits, such as the spirit spouse, it explores how spirits interfere in women’s new socio-economic positions and intimate relationships. Pentecostal women learn to stay in control of their body under guidance of the Holy Spirit and a ‘violent’ war against the spirit spouse unfolds. The prevalence of ‘violence’ implies that we should critically question a perception of conversion as bringing healing and harmony.
First Paragraph: “I’ve been thinking lately about the circumstances under which Coptic Christians emerge on the Egyptian socio-political landscape. Those circumstances tend to be, in a word, ugly. Copts become a visible religious community when they are attacked. And then Westerners in particular wonder: “Who are the Copts?” (I should also point out, however, that although well aware of the existence of Copts, or al-aqbat in Arabic, most Egyptian Muslims are equally unfamiliar with Coptic religiosity.) This strange play between visibility and invisibility is the problematic that I take up here, arguing that what is desirable for Copts in a new Egypt is a visibility that takes seriously their religiosity. I do so by drawing on ethnographic fieldwork I have been doing among Copts and reflecting on recent events in Egypt.”