Cornelio, “Being Catholic”

Cornelio, Jayeel Serrano. 2016. Being Catholic in the Contemporary Philippines: Young People Reinterpreting Religion. New York: Routledge.

Publisher’s Description: This book, based on extensive original research, examines the nature of Catholicism in the contemporary Philippines. It shows how Catholicism is apparently flourishing, with good attendance at Sunday Masses, impressive religious processions and flourishing charismatic groups, and with interventions by the Catholic hierarchy in national and local politics. However, focusing in particular on the beliefs and practices of young people, the book shows that young people are often adopting a different, more individualised approach to Catholicism, which is frequently out of step with the official position. It considers the features of this: a more personal and experiential relationship with God; a new approach to morality, in which right living is seen as more important than right believing; and a critical view of what is seen as the Catholic hierarchy’s misguidedness. The book argues that this reinterpreting of religion by young people has the potential to alter fundamentally the nature of Catholicism in the Philippines, but that, nevertheless, young people’s new approach involves a solid, enduring commitment and a strong view of their own Catholic, religious identity.

Ntarangwi, “The Street Is My Pulpit”

Ntarangwi, Mwenda. 2016. The Street Is My Pulpit: Hip Hop and Christianity in Kenya. Urbana-Champaign: University of Illinois Press. 

Publisher’s Description: To some, Christianity and hip hop seem antithetical. Not so in Kenya. There, the music of Julius Owino, aka Juliani, blends faith and beats into a potent hip hop gospel aimed at a youth culture hungry for answers spiritual, material, and otherwise. Mwenda Ntarangwi explores the Kenyan hip hop scene through the lens of Juliani’s life and career. A born-again Christian, Juliani produces work highlighting the tensions between hip hop’s forceful self-expression and a pious approach to public life, even while contesting the basic presumptions of both. In The Street Is My Pulpit, Ntarangwi forges an uncommon collaboration with his subject that offers insights into Juliani’s art and goals even as Ntarangwi explores his own religious experience and subjective identity as an ethnographer. What emerges is an original contribution to the scholarship on hip hop’s global impact and a passionate study of the music’s role in shaping new ways of being Christian in Africa.

Lauterbach, “Religious Entrepreneurs in Ghana”

Lauterbach, Karen.  2015.  Religious Entrepreneurs in Ghana.  In Cultural Entrepreneurship in Africa, Ute Röschenthaler and Dorothea Schulz, eds.  New York: Routledge.

Excerpt: This chapter is concerned with the relationship between entrepreneurship and religion.  It examines the making of Pentecostal churches and pastoral careers as a form of entrepreneurship and discusses what the religious dimension adds to our understanding of how entrepreneurship unfolds in Africa today.  The chapter analyzes in particular how striving for and attaining social and economic aspirations can be fulfilled through a pastoral career in Pentecostal churches in Ghana.  What is remarkable is that young men and women are able to ‘become someone’ in society, achieve status, and accumulate wealth through the making of pastoral careers in a general context where the possibilities for social climbing are constrained.

Beekers, “Pedagogies of piety”

Beekers, Daan.  2014.  Pedagogies of piety: Comparing young observant Muslims and Christians in the Netherlands.  Culture and Religion.  Early online publication.

Abstract:  In this article, I compare the active religious engagement found among many of today’s young Dutch Muslims and Christians. I show that such comparison requires a move beyond the separate frameworks through which these groups are commonly perceived, found both in widely shared public discourses (‘allochthons’ versus ‘autochthons’) and in academic research (minority studies versus the sociology of religion). In their stead, this comparative analysis examines in what ways both groups give shape to observant religious practice in the shared context of contemporary Dutch society. Based on ethnographic fieldwork, I show that young Christians as well as Muslims participate in social settings of religious pedagogy, where they are encouraged to attain, sustain and improve personal piety in today’s pluralist Dutch society. Such social participation does not preclude, but rather comes together with a strong emphasis on reflexivity and authenticity.

Jesus and the Gang: Book Review

Wolseth, Jon. 2011.  Jesus and the Gang: Youth Violence and Christianity in Urban Honduras. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona Press.

By: Henri Gooren (Oakland University)

This fine ethnography begins with a murder. “They shot him, they shot El Títere. El Títere is dead” (1). Children are shouting and running; soon a crowd forms near the shirtless corpse of a young man who was “barely twenty” (2). Wolseth describes the confusion and the excitement of the local people and the laconic reaction of an older woman, a neighbor of the victim’s grandmother: “It’s too bad that they shot him, but he was a gang member. I have sympathy only for the family” (2). That same night Wolseth discovers the victim was the best friend of his key informant, Sergio. “His closest gang buddy had been gunned down by a rival gang in front of his buddy’s house.[..] Sergio said, “They shot him seven times.[..] I remember that the people there said that when they put the first [shot] in him he said, ‘No, grandma. I left it [the gang],’ he said, yelled that way, and he fell to the ground. They shot him once here,” Sergio points to his stomach, “another here,” he points to his cheek, “and he shot him more” (4). Continue reading

Eskridge, “God’s Forever Family: The Jesus People Movement in America”

Eskridge, Larry. 2013. God’s Forever Family: The Jesus People Movement in America. New York : Oxford University Press.

Publisher’s Description: The Jesus People movement was a unique combination of the hippie counterculture and evangelical Christianity. It first appeared in the famed “Summer of Love” of 1967, in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district, and spread like wildfire in Southern California and beyond, to cities like Seattle, Atlanta, and Milwaukee. In 1971 the growing movement found its way into the national media spotlight and gained momentum, attracting a huge new following among evangelical church youth, who enthusiastically adopted the Jesus People persona as their own. Within a few years, however, the movement disappeared and was largely forgotten by everyone but those who had filled its ranks.

God’s Forever Family argues that the Jesus People movement was one of the most important American religious movements of the second half of the 20th-century. Not only do such new and burgeoning evangelical groups as Calvary Chapel and the Vineyard trace back to the Jesus People, but the movement paved the way for the huge Contemporary Christian Music industry and the rise of “Praise Music” in the nation’s churches. More significantly, it revolutionized evangelicals’ relationship with youth and popular culture. Larry Eskridge makes the case that the Jesus People movement not only helped create a resurgent evangelicalism but must be considered one of the formative powers that shaped American youth in the late 1960s and 1970s.

Mandes and Rogaczewska, “‘I don’t reject the Catholic Church—the Catholic Church rejects me'”

Mandes, Sławomir and Maria Rogaczewska.  2013.  “I don’t reject the Catholic Church—the Catholic Church rejects me”: How Twenty- and Thirty-somethings in Poland Re-evaluate their Religion.  Journal of Contemporary Religion 28(2): 259-276.

Abstract: Given measures of religious belief and participation, young adults in Poland are becoming increasingly disengaged from the Catholic Church. Broad theories of secularisation are less useful for making sense of this trend than an analysis of the role of Catholicism in Polish society in the twentieth century, which demonstrates the ways in which forms of belief are contingent upon wider social and political transformations. This article argues that, since 1989, attempts by the Catholic Church in Poland to influence public life through conservative social and political interventions have alienated young people who are looking for religious resources with which to make sense of their lives in a rapidly changing social milieu. Alongside disengagement from conservative, propositional forms of Catholic truth and rejection of direct authority, young people still possess ‘religious capital’ and look upon religious ideas to orientate their personal lives. However, disaffection from the propositional truths offered by the Church and disengagement from rituals and practices of ‘folk Catholicism’ at the level of the family and local parish have not led to widespread expressions of atheism among young people. Instead, there is a sacralisation of everyday life and there are attempts to use ‘religious capital’ to help young people make choices for life. The reconfigured ‘religious capital’ is often expressed through diffuse Catholic symbols and sentiment as well as the periodic use of major religious festivals as a means of finding access to some form of collective religious experience. The article concludes by reflecting on the implications of these changes for the future religious landscape of Polish society.

Lindhardt, “‘We, the Youth, Need to Be Effusive’”

Lindhardt, Martin.  2012.  ‘We, the Youth, Need to Be Effusive’: Pentecostal Youth Culture in Contemporary Chile.  Bulletin of Latin American Research 31(4): 485-498.

Abstract: This paper explores the recasting of Pentecostalism as a youth religion in contemporary Chile. I focus in particular on how young native Pentecostals, whose life experiences and social status differ from those of ex-Catholic converts, address the dilemma of being exposed to the religious culture of their parents, and their congregation, and to the secular youth culture beyond the religious community. I argue that, although faced with many challenges, young Pentecostals are able to define vital roles and positions for themselves within their church and in wider society, as they engage in a creative bricolage, embracing certain aspects of globalised youth ideologies as fundamental features of their Pentecostal self-identities.

Young “Evangelical Youth Culture: Christian Music and the Political”

Young, Shawn David.  2012. Evangelical Youth Culture: Christian Music and the Political.  Religion Compass 6(6): 323-338.

Abstract: Evangelical Christianity has become a powerful force in American popular media and the political arena. The reason for evangelicalism’s rise to prominence has been widely researched. Contemporary manifestations of popular evangelicalism remain connected to a mythology that can be traced to one of many expressions commonly associated with the American counterculture of the 1960s, specifically a revival of conservative Christianity known as the Jesus Movement, a new way of expressing Christian belief that largely targeted American youth. Today’s youth (not unlike youth in every generation) continue to seek identity. For the most part, the media paradigm that emerged during the 1970s and 1980s evolved into a parallel universe of evangelical culture, which operated as chief purveyor of both evangelical belief and identity. The result was a groundswell of new activity as the evangelical culture industry rallied around new, popular ways of expressing Christian belief; the most compelling example has been contemporary Christian music. This essay will focus primarily on Christian music as a potential causal agent in the lives of evangelical youth, and considers how these youth are formed by music while also challenging how popular music represents evangelical belief and identity.

Pype “The Making of Pentecostal Melodrama”

Pype, Katrien.  2012.  The Making of the Pentecostal Melodrama: Religion, Media, and Gender in Kinshasa.  Oxford: Berghan Books.

Publisher’s Description: How religion, gender, and urban sociality are expressed in and mediated via television drama in Kinshasa is the focus of this ethnographic study. Influenced by Nigerian films and intimately related to the emergence of a charismatic Christian scene, these teleserials integrate melodrama, conversion narratives, Christian songs, sermons, testimonies, and deliverance rituals to produce commentaries on what it means to be an inhabitant of Kinshasa.