Abstract: This paper addresses the academic conversation on Protestant missions to the Indigenous peoples of coastal British Columbia during the second half of the nine- teenth century through a consideration of the role of revivalist piety in the conversion of some of the better known Indigenous Methodist evangelists identified in the scholarly literature. The paper introduces the work of existing scholars critically illuminating the reasons (religious convergence and/or the want of symbolic and material resources) typically given for Indigenous, namely, Ts’msyen, conversion. It also introduces Methodist revivalist piety and its instantiation in British Columbia. And, finally, it offers a critical exploration of revivalist piety and its role in conversion as set within a broader theoretical inquiry into the academic study of ritual and religion.
Abstract: The public role of religious objects is highly contested in Quebec, epitomized by the Charter of Values in 2013. In this heated political atmosphere, rural Catholics continue to create and care for more than 3,000 wayside crosses. They note that these colourful, fifteen-foot devotional objects often remain invisible to passersby, unless a cross “calls” someone to it. Proceeding from this observation, this article unites studies of mate- rial culture with recent work on secularism to argue that the crosses exemplify a form of engagement with secularism that corresponds to what anthropologist Matthew Engelke calls “ambient faith”: religiosity that filters in and out of sensory and conscious space. Extending this idea, I argue that ambient objects exert an authority often missed in stud- ies of public religion, which still focus largely on political discourse and legal codes about marked objects (e.g. the hijab). As ambient objects, wayside crosses are powerful because they ‘act’ on human beings, thereby mediating a dichotomy between “modernity” and traditional Catholicism by laying claim to both at once.
Publisher’s Description: This book investigates an African diaspora Christian community in Calgary, Alberta, and explores the ways in which the church’s beliefs and practices impact the lives of its migrant congregation. Importantly, it details the expressed utility of two central ideas: the Prosperity Gospel and Holy Spirit Power. As congregants and church materials persistently maintained, these two aspects of African Pentecostalism supply operative spiritual machinery to overcome the difficulties of living in Canada, as well as the means to thrive in a foreign land. Additionally, the connection between these elements and the democratization of power is explored, and Tom Aechtner provides an analysis of how the church cultivates a form of Christian Pan-Africanism among its multiethnic and multinational population. The book assesses the roles that African Pentecostalism plays in ameliorating longings for home and promoting the need to spiritually reform Canada. Aechtner also describes how African Pentecostalism relates to the mediation of responses to racism in the nation’s officially multicultural society.
Abstract: Between the War of 1812 and the emergence of a self-sufficient Canadian Methodism in the 1850s, the combination of geopolitical instability, transatlantic evangelicalism, indigenous and settler enthusiasm for religious revival, and the ideas of romantic nationalism produced a distinctly Ojibwe Christianity. This Christianity is known to us primarily through the letters, journals, and publications of a small group of Algonquian-speaking intellectuals educated in American colleges who mobilized the ideology and institutional networks of the Protestant missionary project to mount a vigorous challenge to the encroachments of settler colonialism occurring on both sides of the Great Lakes. Ojibwe Christians participated in a movement to transform the world into a multiracial Christian commonwealth, a movement within which they could remain committed to a historiographical and nation-building project meant to establish an autonomous, or at least semi-autonomous, Indian polity within the imperialist state.
Abstract: Messianic Judaism is an American-born movement of congregations that hold evangelical beliefs and follow Jewish practices. Scholars have viewed it chiefly as a new religious movement (NRM) or a controversial branch of Judaism. As a result, they have downplayed or ignored its largely evangelical Christian base. The first study of ‘gentile believers,’ this article argues that Messianic Judaism is best understood through the lens of religious seeking, a trend usually associated with alternative spiritualities and still under-theorized vis-à-vis conservative Christians, like evangelicals. First, it traces why Messianic Judaism appeals to growing numbers of North American Christians. Second, and more broadly, it argues that seeking is a spiritually satisfying religious practice that, for evangelicals, reiterates central themes of born-again life. Their experiences also clarify the limits that may constrain religious seeking; they seek to deepen and actualize a biblical worldview in religious sites viewed as proximate to their own.
Publisher’s Description: The Mi’kmaq of eastern Canada were among the first indigenous North Americans to encounter colonial Europeans. As early as the mid-sixteenth century, they were trading with French fishers, and by the mid-seventeenth century, large numbers of Mi’kmaq had converted to Catholicism. Mi’kmaw Catholicism is perhaps best exemplified by the community’s regard for the figure of Saint Anne, the grandmother of Jesus. Every year for a week, coinciding with the saint’s feast day of July 26, Mi’kmaw peoples from communities throughout Quebec and eastern Canada gather on the small island of Potlotek, off the coast of Nova Scotia. It is, however, far from a conventional Catholic celebration. In fact, it expresses a complex relationship between the Mi’kmaq, Saint Anne, a series of eighteenth-century treaties, and a cultural hero named Kluskap.
Finding Kluskap brings together years of historical research and learning among Mi’kmaw peoples on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. The author’s long-term relationship with Mi’kmaw friends and colleagues provides a unique vantage point for scholarship, one shaped by not only personal relationships but also by the cultural, intellectual, and historical situations that inform postcolonial peoples. The picture that emerges when Saint Anne, Kluskap, and the mission are considered in concert with one another is one of the sacred life as a site of adjudication for both the meaning and efficacy of religion—and the impact of modern history on contemporary indigenous religion.
Abstract: This dissertation investigates the development of progressive Christianity. It explores the ways in which progressive Christian churches in Canada adopt biblical criticism and popular theology. Contributing to the anthropology of Christianity, this study is primarily an ethnographic and linguistic analysis that juxtaposes contemporary conflicts over notions of the Christian self into the intersecting contexts of public discourse, contending notions of the secular and congregational dynamics. Methodologically, it is based upon two-and-a-half years of in-depth participant observation research at five churches and distinguishes itself as the first scholarly study of progressive Christianity in North America. I begin this study by outlining the historical context of skepticism in Canadian Protestantism and arguing that skepticism and doubt serve as profoundly religious experiences, which provide a fuller framework than secularization in understanding the experiences of Canadian Protestants in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In doing so, I draw parallels between the ways that historical and contemporary North American Christians negotiate the tensions between their faith and biblical criticism, scientific empiricism and liberal morality. Chapter Two seeks to describe the religious, cultural and socio-economic worlds inhabited by the progressive Christians featured in this study. It focuses on the worldviews that emerge out of participation in what are primarily white, middle-class, liberal communities and considers how these identity-markers affect the development and lived experiences of progressive Christians. My next three chapters explore the ways that certain engagements with text and the performance or ritualization of language enable the development of a distinctly progressive Christian modality. Chapter Three investigates progressive Christian textual ideologies and argues that the form of biblical criticism that they employ, along with entrenched concerns about the origins of the Christian faith ultimately, leads to a rejection of the biblical narrative. Chapter Four examines the ways in which progressive Christians understand individual ‘deconversion’ narratives as contributing to a shared experience or way of being Christian that purposefully departs from evangelical Christianity. The final chapter analyses rhetoric of the future and argues that progressive Christians employ eschatological language that directs progressive Christians towards an ultimate dissolution.
First Paragraph: “The myth of Azusa Street is one that asserts that people from all over the world, of different races, ethnicities, genders, languages, cultures and classes came together in unity in the outpouring of the Spirit where everyone has a voice in glossolalic utterance. Myth is a powerful cultural symbol for affording Pentecostals a sense of place and equality in religious and social contexts, but a myth none- theless; not because the multicultural context of the early days of Pentecost was untrue—the historical records show that Azusa Street was multiracial and multiethnic with William Seymour, the son of emancipated African- American slaves taking a prominent role in the revival’s leadership and evidence of Latino/a inclusion in the re- vival; but myth because the ideal of equality and racial reconciliation quickly collapsed in the early history of Pentecostalism. Despite the diverse cultural representation of Azusa, where marginalized voices could be heard and allowed to participate in the revival, Pentecostal institu- tions quickly accommodated to the dominate culture, seg- regated blacks and whites, assert a patriarchal power structure that denied women ministerial status, marginal- ized the voices of other ethnicities and cultural groups, and placed white Anglo-Saxon males in authority.”
Publisher’s Description: Spirits of Protestantism reveals how liberal Protestants went from being early-twentieth-century medical missionaries seeking to convert others through science and scripture, to becoming vocal critics of missionary arrogance who experimented with non-western healing modes such as Yoga and Reiki. Drawing on archival and ethnographic sources, Pamela E. Klassen shows how and why the very notion of healing within North America has been infused with a Protestant “supernatural liberalism.” In the course of coming to their changing vision of healing, liberal Protestants became pioneers three times over: in the struggle against the cultural and medical pathologizing of homosexuality; in the critique of Christian missionary triumphalism; and in the diffusion of an ever-more ubiquitous anthropology of “body, mind, and spirit.” At a time when the political and anthropological significance of Christianity is being hotly debated, Spirits of Protestantismforcefully argues for a reconsideration of the historical legacies and cultural effects of liberal Protestantism, even for the anthropology of religion itself.