Mahadev, “Economies of Conversion and Ontologies of Religious Difference”

Mahadev, Neena. 2018. “Economies of Conversion and Ontologies of Religious Difference: Buddhism, Christianity, and Adversarial Political Perception in Sri Lanka.” Current Anthropology 59(6): 665-690.  

Conflicts over conversion often involve divergent logics about religious publicity and persuasion. Shortly after the turn of the millennium, Sri Lankan Buddhists began expressing renewed hostility toward Christians, who are seen as “unethically” converting Sri Lankans away from their native religions. They see the material accoutrements of Christian grace as estranging Buddhists from righteous, karmic inheritances. Distinctive economies of religious persuasion are perceived to engender differences in the essential character of persons. Buddhist nationalists tend to take evangelical Christian economic and religio-moral inclinations (prosperity gospels, charitability, and expansionism) as malignant attributes of Christian personhood (greed, zeal, misguided forgiveness, fraudulent economic manipulation). Anti-conversion discourses paint conversion to Christianity as an insidious socialization process that threatens Buddhism and generates fraudulence and anti-nationalism. These anxieties over religious difference crystallized in allegations that a Sinhala convert to Christianity—a businessman and philanthropist—was culpable for the death of a prominent Buddhist monk. The iconic conversion of the alleged culprit, seen alongside prior conversion trends, makes evident a periodized history of “pragmatic” conversions (a) from Buddhism to Christianity (colonial era), (b) from Christianity back to Buddhism (decolonization), and (c) from Buddhism to charismatic Christianity (during “nationalization” of the economy amid global neoliberalization). Religio-economic affinities are split along partisan lines in Sri Lanka, thereby intensifying the conflictual interplay between evangelical conviction and nativist skepticism.

Bauman, “Pentecostals, Proselytization, and Anti-Christian Violence”

Bauman, Chad M.  2015.  Pentecostals, Proselytization, and Anti-Christian Violence in Contemporary India.  Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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.