Beck and Gundersen, “A Gospel of Prosperity?”

Beck, Sedefka V. and Sara J. Gundersen. A Gospel of Prosperity? An Analysis of the Relationship Between Religion and Earned Income in Ghana, the Most Religious Country in the World. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion.  Early online publication.

Abstract: This study tests for a relationship between religious affiliation and earned income in Ghana. While microeconomic analyses have studied the relationship between religion and several socioeconomic outcomes in the United States, remarkably few have done so in developing countries, and none has explored the religion-earnings relationship. Using the fifth round of the Ghana Living Standards Survey from 2005 to 2006, we find that, among women, religious denomination correlates with earned income. Specifically, Spiritualists, Pentecostals, and Methodists earn higher income than the Presbyterian base group, while Traditionalists earn less. This article investigates the relationship and posits some of its causes, including the influence of a trend in neo-Pentecostal religious groups that emphasizes wealth accumulation and self-confidence.

Premack, “Prophets, evangelists, and missionaries”

Premack, Laura.  2015. Prophets, evangelists, and missionaries: Trans-Atlantic interactions in the emergence of Nigerian Pentecostalism.  Religion 45(2): 221-238.

Abstract: This article historicizes the contemporary Pentecostal movement in Nigeria by examining relationships between Nigerian prophets, British missionaries, and American evangelists in the 1930s and 1940s. First, the article challenges assumptions about the genealogy and chronology of Nigerian Pentecostalism by taking a close look at the beginnings of the Christ Apostolic Church. Then, it discusses new evidence which reveals the surprising influence of a marginal American evangelist and renegade British missionary on the church’s doctrine. Making use of a wide range of evidence from Nigerian, Welsh, and American archives, the article argues that while the Aladura movement may have had indigenous origins, its development made significant use of foreign support and did so much earlier than has been appreciated by previous studies. The larger significance of this argument is that it shows the mutual constitution of American, British, and Nigerian Pentecostalism; instead of emerging first in the US and UK and then being taken to Africa, Pentecostalism’s development across the Atlantic was coeval.

Tishken and Heuser, “‘Africa always brings us something new'”

Tishken, Joel E. and Andreas Heuser.  2015. ‘Africa always brings us something new’: a historiography of African Zionist and Pentecostal Christianities.  Religion.  Early online publication.

Abstract: This article outlines and interrogates the historiography, major debates, critical works, and typological disputes in the study of African Zionist and African Pentecostal Christianities. We contend that despite the many valid historiographic and typological critiques advanced in recent decades, the categories of Zionist and Pentecostal continue to retain validity and utility to scholars and practitioners alike.

Mukonyora, “Four ways into an African sacred wilderness”

Mukonyora, Isabel.  2015. Four ways into an African sacred wilderness: a study of Johane Masowe’s teaching.  Religion.  Early online publication.

Abstract: This article focuses on four ways of explaining the term masowe in relation to the founder figure, Johane Masowe (1914–1973). First, the term refers to a liminal place or threshold for divine intervention. Johane Masowe claims authority as a prophet by making inexplicit yet obvious references to biblical stories about a sacred wilderness. Second, the term masowe draws attention to problems of displacement caused by colonialism and postcolonial oppression in Zimbabwe. Third, stories told by Johane Masowe’s devotees about the near-death experiences of the prophet turned masowe into a dangerous place wherein Satan-the-Witch caused suffering and death. Although the fourth meaning is yet to be examined more closely, it comes from Masowe Apostles who travel from as far away as Nairobi, Kenya, on pilgrimage to Johane Masowe’s burial shrine in Zimbabwe, thereby hinting at hopes for redemption in the form of life after death.

Mohr, “Zionism and Aladura’s shared genealogy”

Mohr, Adam.  2015. Zionism and Aladura’s shared genealogy in John Alexander Dowie.  Religion.  Early online publication.

Abstract: In this article, the author historically describes the process by which Faith Tabernacle Congregation was established by an Evangelist (and later Overseer) in John Alexander Dowie’s Christian Catholic Church in Zion. He then explains the similarity of both churches’ African missions – the Christian Catholic Church in South Africa and Faith Tabernacle in Nigeria. Both American churches, with a distinct genealogical relationship to one another, significantly affected very similar Christian movements, which were the Zionist movement in South Africa and the Aladura movement in Nigeria. Both of these movements are frequently credited with institutionalizing divine healing within African Christianity, and many scholars argue that African Pentecostalism begin within these movements. In the conclusion, the author reflects historiographically on this relationship: the Christian Catholic Church to Faith Tabernacle and particularly Zionism to Aladura. He argues that the historical relatedness between the two churches challenges the generally held notion that healing in African Christianity is only an expression or continuity of a ‘primal African religiosity.’ The Christian Catholic Church in South Africa and Faith Tabernacle in Nigeria did not represent the conjoining of opposing cultural forms, as in discussions of syncretism, but the hybridizing of very similar religious beliefs and practices with respect to disease, health, and healing.

Lindholm (ed.), “The Anthropology of Religious Charisma”

Lindholm, Charles.  2013.  The Anthropology of Religious Charisma: Ecstasies and Institutions.  New York: Palgrave MacMillan.

Publisher’s Description: How can the irrational force of charisma co-exist within rationalized religious institutions? To answer this question, this book provides the first comparative anthropological explorations of charisma as it occurs among Charismatic Catholics, Evangelical Protestants, Sufis, Hassidic Jews, Buddhist cultists, and Native American shamans in locations ranging from Massachusetts to Syria; from Taiwan to the Dominican Republic; from Angola to the jungles of Paraguay, from Rome to Brooklyn. These cases reveal how various religious traditions incorporate ecstatic charismatic experiences within their overarching organizational systems, and so provide new insight into the nature of religion today.

Table of Contents:

Introduction: Charisma in Theory and Practice; Charles Lindholm
1. Performing the Charismatic Ritual; Keping Wu
2. Knowledge and Miracles: Modes of Charisma in Syrian Sufism; Paulo G. Pinto
3. Female Sufis in Syria: Charismatic Authority and Bureaucratic Structure; Gisele Fonseca Chegas
4. The Gender of Charisma: Notes from a Taiwanese Buddhist Transnational NGO; C. Julia Huang-Lemmon
5. Residual Masculinity and the Cultivation of Negative-Charisma in a Caribbean Pentecostal Community; Brendan Jamal Thornton
6. Extraordinary Times: Charismatic Repertoires in Contemporary African Prophetism; Ruy Llera Blanes
7. The Routinization of Improvisation in Avá-Guaraní Shamanic Leadership; Eric Michael Kelley
8. Unruly Miracles: Embodied Charisma and Modern Sainthood, from Padre Pio to “Papa Buono”; Sara M. Bergstresser
9. Habad, Messianism, and the Phantom Charisma of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Scheerson; Yoram Bilu

Brennan, “Take Control: The Labor of Immediacy in Yoruba Christian Music”

Brennan, Vicki. 2012. “Take Control: The Labor of Immediacy in Yoruba Christian Music.” Journal of Popular Music Studies 24(4):411–429.

Excerpt: “While an analytic focus on the semiotic techniques whereby media produce immediacy is crucial to analyzing the social processes by which those media are themselves made invisible in experience, such an analysis only goes so far in elucidating the “creativity and control of human subjects” that Eisenlohr argues is erased in such processes. Therefore, in this article, I emphasize the discipline and disciplining work as well as the ethical practices that make such cultural and social processes possible. I do so through an analytic emphasis on what I call the labor of immediacy, that is, the practices whereby human subjects discipline themselves and rehearse the necessary actions that allow the mediated nature of immediate religious experiences to disappear. I argue that the perceived spontaneity of musical performance as well as the practical techniques through which religious sound artifacts are performed in new contexts in order to produce connections and circulate values, all rest on this labor of immediacy.

More specifically, in this article, I examine the labor of immediacy that underlies the use of sound recording and playback technology in facilitating and enhancing religious experiences and worship practices for members of the Cherubim and Seraphim Ayọ ni o Church in Lagos, Nigeria. The Ayọ ni o Church is a branch of the Cherubim and Seraphim Church Movement—a form of Yoruba independent Christianity. This movement began in colonial Nigeria, when early Yoruba Christians broke away from mission churches to establish congregations of their own. The Cherubim and Seraphim emphasized healing through prayer, Holy Spirit baptism, and charismatic forms of worship that featured the extensive use of music and dance. The Ayọ ni o Church is located in a large compound at the edge of Surulere, a predominantly Yoruba, middle-class suburb of Lagos. Each Sunday more than three thousand people attend worship services at the Ayọ ni o Church, many of them attracted by the church’s reputation for including spiritually powerful and emotional musical performances in their worship. This musical reputation was enhanced by the Ayọ ni o choir’s commercially produced and distributed recordings, along with the music videos and other promotional materials that support their recordings.

More than thirty albums have been recorded by the Ayọ ni o Choir since 1978. These recordings reproduce and circulate aesthetic values central to producing religious belonging and ethical forms of personhood. As I discuss in more detail below, the recordings thus play an important role in the everyday religious practices of church members. However, the recordings did not replace live musical performance during worship services. While worship without instruments—no guitars, keyboard, or even drums—was acceptable, worship without singing was inconceivable. The idea that there were living people in the same space as oneself, participating in a shared musical ritual, was important for ensuring the success of worship both in terms of its ability to provoke appropriate emotional responses from the congregation as well as in terms of attracting the Holy Spirit to enter the worship space. Therefore, while the songs on the recordings played an important role in church worship, they were always represented in the form of live performance.

In order to analytically detail the labor of immediacy that underlies and produces religious musical experiences for church members, I explore here how the recordings are used by choir musicians in their everyday lives, in individual musical practice, and in rehearsals. I describe how through the musical labor of training, practice, and rehearsal the choir members engage with the recordings in order to regulate affective and emotional responses and expressions during church worship. Their recontextualization of previously recorded songs does important spiritual work for church members by creating links between aesthetic and religious values and allowing those values to be recirculated through the community. While such performances may seem spontaneous in the context of church worship, in order for the recontextualization of a previously recorded song to be successful in achieving the spiritual goals of the congregation, a great deal of planning and work takes place.

In this article, I explore how the work of choir musicians during practice and rehearsals makes possible the recontextualization of recorded sounds during Yoruba Christian worship. Through disciplinary practices of listening and music-making that make use of the recordings, church musicians attune themselves to particular modes of behavior and produce appropriate forms of emotionality. These emotional responses can then be summoned contextually by church members in relation to a given situation. As I suggest in the conclusion of this article, these disciplined forms of emotion and embodiment are seen as necessary to survive and thrive in the midst of the uncertainty provoked by the political and economic transitions taking place in contemporary Nigeria.”

Maxwell, “What Makes a Christian?”

Maxwell, David.  2012.  What Makes a Christian: Perspectives from Studies of Pneumatic Christianity.  Africa 82(3): 479-491.

This essay reviews three monographs on African Pentecostalism and African Independent Christianity, Ruth Marshall’s Political Spiritualities, Thomas Kirsch’s Spirits and Letters, and Diedre Crumbley’s Spirit, Structure, and Flesh.  The review highlights the practice of Christian boundary-making among believers in religious contexts that are at the same time very unique and yet equally focused on the central role of the Holy Spirit in religious life and Christian identity.