Abstract: In this work I analyse the ethnographic case study of the icon of Our Lady of the Wall as establishing a unique ritual landscape among the cement slabs of the Israeli-Palestinian Wall separating Jerusalem from Bethlehem. Although the Wall has been widely described as a technology of occupation on one side and as a device to ensure security on the other, through Latour’s concept of assemblages I unearth its agency in developing a Christian shrine. Through a decade of weekly recitations of the Rosary along the Wall near Checkpoint 300, the Elizabethan nuns of the Caritas Baby Hospital have been invoking Mary’s help to dismantle the Wall. This weekly ritual represents both political dissent against the bordering action enacted by the Wall, as well as giving visibility to the plea of the Palestinian Christian right to live in this territory in the face of their status as an ethnoreligious minority.
Kraybill, Jeanine E. 2016. “Non-ordained: Examining the Level of Female Religious Political Engagement and Social Policy Influence within the American Catholic Church.” Fieldwork in Religion 11(2): DOI: 10.1558/firn.32964
Abstract: The Catholic Church, constructed on an all-male clerical model, is a hierarchical and gendered institution, creating barriers to female leadership. In interviewing members of the clergy and women religious of the faith, this article examines how female non-ordained and male clerical religious leaders engage and influence social policy. It specifically addresses how women religious maneuver around the institutional constraints of the Church, in order to take action on social issues and effect change. In adding to the scholarship on this topic, I argue that part of the strategy of women religious in navigating barriers of the institutional Church is not only knowing when to act outside of the formal hierarchy, but realizing when it is in the benefit of their social policy objectives to collaborate with it. This maneuvering may not always safeguard women religious from institutional scrutiny, as seen by the 2012 Doctrinal Assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, but instead captures the tension between female religious and the clergy. It also highlights how situations of institutional scrutiny can have positive implications for female religious leaders, their policy goals and congregations. Finally, this examination shows how even when women are appointed to leadership posts within the institutional Church, they can face limitations of acceptance and other constraints that are different from their female religious counterparts working within their own respective religious congregations or outside organizations.
Abstract: Although Q’eqchi’-Maya Mainstream Catholics and Charismatic Catholics in the Guatemala highlands share many of the same physical and social spaces, the relationship between them is a tense one due to their differing modes of ritual practice. Although this conflict rarely comes to a head directly, on one particular occasion a highly ranked member of a Mainstream congregation, and indeed an outspoken critic of the Charismatics, entered the village chapel during the latter’s weekly service and proceeded openly to criticize their ritual practices, leaders’ religious knowledge, and relationship to the larger institutional Catholic Church. This article analyzes this event as a means of furthering our understanding of what happens when unexpected circumstances threaten the integrity of a religious group’s ritual. How do participants try to circumvent, mitigate or otherwise manage such an occurrence? Examining the spoken and embodied actions taken by both the speaker criticizing the congregation and his intended audience sheds light on the interactive strategies each used to manage their social and ethical standing during the uneasy interaction. This article draws critical attention to the way adherents to two related but distinct forms of Christianity establish and contest their modes of religious authority through language, discourse, and bodily behavior. By investigating an episode in which two modes of Christian practice came into direct confrontation with each other, we can better understand how differing ways of being Christian are dialogically constituted.
Abstract: This article analyzes the Catholic Church’s involvement in social conflicts resulting from resource extraction activities in Peru. The nature and degree of the Catholic Church’s involvement vary greatly according to the type of conflict and the diversity of standpoints of the Church at the local level. The article focuses on three distinctive, widely known conflicts against the expansion of extractive activities. It shows that the importance conventionally given to the role of particular religious figures, their adherence to progressive ideologies, and the defense of the Church’s strategic interests do not fully encompass the complexity of local processes. In contrast, the article contends that the Church’s institutional embeddedness in local networks is the most influential factor in the involvement of Catholic organizations in anti-mining conflicts. Embeddedness coincides with a spirituality that prioritizes local people’s agency, whereby the priests and Church organizations accompany and follow the initiatives of local communities instead of taking a leading role. This does not mean that the Church takes a passive stance in these conflicts. Priests and other pastoral agents have incorporated environmental and human rights discourses into an explicit religious framework that amplifies the social space of the Church and provides legitimacy for mobilizations. In parallel, locally generated doctrinal frameworks permeate the official discourse of the Catholic Church, reinforcing the position of those committed to the defense of local demands.
Abstract: This article examines intercessory prayer, specifically, petitions to the divine as they are performed in Mass and in prayer groups at a Catholic convent in the midwestern United States. It demonstrates that these petitions function on multiple levels. Petitions are designed primarily as a form of communication with the divine, intended to elicit divine aid. In addition to functioning as requests to the divine, the petitions function on a number of socio-communicative levels: first, as an index of the presence of the divine; second, as a means for individuals to communicate social support to copresent participants; and third, as a mode of peer socialization. Finally, these multiple functions of prayer provide spiritual and social support that may contribute, in the context of the convent, to the inhabitant nuns’ documented success in achieving physical and mental well-being throughout their lives.
“On each trip, certain interpenetrations are articulated and shaped by group leaders, Many, however, are not. At the back of the bus, pilgrims make the experience meaningful in ways that guides and tour operators may not expect and cannot predict. Pilgrims keep these deeply felt connections to themselves, and they color each trip in very personal ways.” (Kaell 2014: 80)
Although I have been working with American Holy Land pilgrims for over three decades, both as anthropologist and as tour guide, Hillary Kaell’s book surprised me. The perspective she has chosen – accompanying and talking with women before, during and after the voyage – places the voyage within a longue durée that was invisible to me as tour guide, and only partially visible as researcher. Rather than privilege the narratives spoken into bus microphones by guides and pastors/priests, Kaell places her microphone with the woman in the back, who rarely expresses her desires or thoughts in public on the tour. This perspective is a useful corrective to scholars who focus on ecclesiastical guidelines, sermons, recited public prayers, guides’ explanations, and the goals made explicit by the pilgrim/tour industry or the pastors who organize and lead groups. Kaell’s concentration on the lived experience of 50-75 year-old Catholic and evangelical American women traveling to the Holy Land demonstrates how the geographical, political or even biblical context of the sites and routes of the Holy Land may serve as the background for an intensely personal trajectory. This personal path is a continuation of the home lives of ‘middle-old’ aged women, who make up a major portion of Holy Land pilgrims. Without ignoring denominational distinctions, Kaell reminds us that the pilgrimage experience is rooted in profoundly American, (mainly) middle-class values that cut across traditional religious lines. Continue reading →
Excerpt: “Addressing an audience of conservative leaders and lobbyists in February 2012, evangelical pundit and former governor Mike Huckabee boldly announced, “We are all Catholics now.” The surprising rallying cry, coming from an ordained Southern Baptist pastor, was in response to a controversy over an Obama administration proposal to require private employers, including religious organizations, to provide insurance coverage for contraception. Catholic bishops came out vigorously opposing the measure, and Huckabee’s show of solidarity, in the name of religious liberty and defeating President Obama, was adopted by a variety of high-profile conservatives, including evangelicals as well as other non-Catholics. In July, in what was heralded as an unprecedented move, evangelical flagship Wheaton College joined Catholic University of America in a lawsuit against the federal mandate.
Such politics of affinity may seem counterintuitive, but they make sense in the context of an election year when two GOP contenders (Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum) and the party’s vice presidential nominee (Paul Ryan) were Roman Catholics with strong support among conservative evangelicals. Indeed, evangelicals and Roman Catholics have found ways to get along for decades, demonstrating repeated, albeit cautious, willingness to forge mean- ingful partnerships despite stark doctrinal differences and mutual recrimi- nations. From the ecumenism of the Billy Graham crusades to the abortion activism of the religious right, to interfaith dialogue groups like Catholics and Evangelicals for the Common Good (spearheaded by veteran bridge-builders like Ron Sider), evangelicals and Catholics routinely find common cause around moral, political, and social issues. In recent years, leaders and intel- lectuals of both traditions have come together to form coalitions and working groups, issuing influential (and controversial) manifestos such as the landmark “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” document of 1994 and the Manhattan Declaration of 2009. The charismatic renewal movement opened up multiple lines of communication and joint worship that continue to influence adherents in both camps. And as is evident in this book, especially in chapters 2, 9, and 10, politically and socially engaged evangelicals have been borrowing conceptual tools and mobilization strategies from Catholic activists for many years.
Aside from formal partnerships and dialogues, there are subtle and implicit resonances between contemporary evangelical and Catholic sensi- bilities that are less conspicuous but worth investigating as well. This chapter is an attempt to think about notable features and cultural characteristics of evangelicalism’s new social engagement that recall or resonate with Roman Catholic theology and practice, with an emphasis on shared motivational themes especially as applied to ministries of social welfare. While the fact that evangelicals and Catholics are able to come together around certain social and political issues is significant, issue agreement is only one marker of elective affinity. By framing my discussion in terms of resonance (intentional or otherwise) rather than collaboration, I point to underlying affinities between these two traditions, and, more important, I highlight the ways that divergent traditions separated by centuries of theology and ritual practice may find themselves drawn into closer alignments in their modalities of religious and social action, resulting from gradual shifts in public consciousness. The possible ways in which uniquely evangelical influences make their way into Catholic ministries and services merit exploration as well, but this is not within the purview of my discussion here.”
This article examines the different effects Christianity has among Christians of Damascus. Instead of focusing on devout subjects, I trace out the ramifications Christianity has in different settings. Christianity sets different kinds of foregrounds and backgrounds which in this article are attended to during the Feast of the Holy Cross. During this Christian feast, a great variety of themes are brought into play with different kinds of relations to what it is to be a Christian in Damascus. I argue that what I term tonalities of immediacy is a fertile way to understand how contingencies and histories are played upon in concrete situations. The problem of belief, I argue, is not settled by pointing to a particular Christian and Western heritage or to default reactions against imagined certainties; rather the interplay between faith and scepticism may be a productive lens through which to grasp local Christian concerns.
In the Christian tradition, representing the divine has often been considered both an impossible and yet necessary endeavour rooted in the human need in certain moments of weakness to visualize God. In this article, based on research findings from fieldwork carried out with urban indigenous groups in La Paz, Bolivia, I suggest that the articulation of local and Catholic representational traditions and practices has produced an understanding of the religious image not so much as an object of detached contemplation or a reference to a religious symbol but rather as an energized element which physically shapes the relationship and exchange between the material and the spiritual world. I suggest that through a study of Andean religious images we may be able to produce an alternative ontological perspective on the relationship between the spiritual, material, and living worlds.
Dans la tradition chrétienne, la représentation du divin est souvent considérée comme une gageure impossible et pourtant nécessaire, motivée par la nécessité humaine de visualiser Dieu dans les moments de faiblesse. À partir des matériaux de terrain obtenus auprès de groupes autochtones urbains à La Paz, en Bolivie, l’auteur suggère ici que l’articulation des traditions et pratiques de représentation locales et catholiques a conduit à concevoir l’image religieuse moins comme un objet de contemplation détachée ou une référence à un symbole religieux que comme un élément chargé d’énergie, qui donne physiquement forme à la relation et aux échanges entre le monde matériel et le monde spirituel. L’article suggère qu’à travers l’étude des images religieuses andines, on pourrait élaborer un autre point de vue ontologique sur la relation entre les mondes spirituel, matériel et vivant.