This article investigates the construction and transmission of charisma through online channels and its role in the formation of religious identities. Mindful of Max Weber’s observation that charisma inhabits the relationship between a leader and his/her followers, I argue for a critical reappraisal of the theoretical model in the light of the ubiquity in the twenty-first century of new, virtual forms of social encounter. I focus my analysis on the Christian creationist movement in the United States and particularly on an influential leader called Ken Ham. Using digital ethnographic methods, I show how Ham constructs charisma online and how a virtual community forms itself around his charismatic claims. I illustrate how this virtual community intersects with offline worlds and suggest that the theme park attractions that Ham’s organisation runs (Creation Museum, Ark Encounter) are imbued with deflected charisma by virtue of their association with his online avatar.
Abstract: This article suggests that the gendered aspects of charisma have so far been overlooked in recent scholarship and seeks to align studies of charismatic religious leaders more fully with studies of masculinity and the ‘masculinisation’ of Charismatic churches. Based on research conducted at the Church of Christ the King (CCK) in Brighton and Hove, UK, I analyses how leadership operates as a key language for mediating masculinity, giving young men ways of being manly within both Christian and church parameters as well as forming links between experienced leaders and their young apprentices. Focusing on a dramatic visit by a notorious international preacher as an instance of charismatic masculinity in action, the author shows how an understanding of a corporate culture of masculinity can lend new insight into our understanding of charisma as both a relational construct and a system of individual authority which is tested at times of crisis and succession.
Abstract: The successful leadership of ethnic pastors in ethnic churches is usually under-theorised, as if their position and authority are self-explanatory, because they are ‘one of them’. The author presents a case from a Charismatic church of Roma/Gypsies in the Czech Republic where one religious leader has changed the shape of a local community of converts from a kinship-driven community to an ethno-religion. Whereas the leader based his political capital on his ‘Gypsiness’, he paradoxically succeeded thanks to the fact that he was not ‘one of them’. The author traces back this process of political empowerment by religious means, and delineates the strategies of hierarchical ordering of the local Roma through a Bible school. By focusing attention on a particular individual who operates within the fields of power and recreates these structures through their own strategies, I point to an aspect of the political–religious dichotomy that has been neglected in the sociology of religion.
Publisher’s Description: This book presents a multidisciplinary study of how Nigerian Pentecostals conceive of and engage with a spirit-filled world. It seeks to discern the spirituality of the charismatic religious movement in Nigeria in relation to issues of politics, national sovereignty, economic development, culture, racial identity, gender, social ethics, and epistemology. Nimi Wariboko describes the faith’s core beliefs and practices, revealing a “spell of the invisible” that defines not only the character of the movement but also believers’ ways of seeing, being, and doing. Written by an insider to the tradition, Nigerian Pentecostalism will also engage outsiders with an interest in critical social theory, political theory, and philosophy.
Abstract: The author discusses the emergence of charismatic leaders in Brazilian Pentecostalism and reflects on the exercise of authority through the circulation and transmission of Pentecostal charisma. The authority of Pentecostal charisma depends on its collective expansion, and the author highlights three types of charismatic flow: (1) through its commodification, (2) through family names and (3) through an emotional and bodily channel of energy between pastors and believers, who mimic the leader’s charisma, accessing the capital and acquiring the charismatic habitus not only through participation in the act of worship but also through consumption. To trace the path of charisma is also to trace the manner in which the Pentecostal message flows and is globalized.
Publisher’s Description: Combining ethnographic and historical research conducted in Angola, Portugal, and the United Kingdom, A Prophetic Trajectory tells the story of Simão Toko, the founder and leader of one of the most important contemporary Angolan religious movements. The book explains the historical, ethnic, spiritual, and identity transformations observed within the movement, and debates the politics of remembrance and heritage left behind after Toko’s passing in 1984. Ultimately, it questions the categories of prophetism and charisma, as well as the intersections between mobility, memory, and belonging in the Atlantic Lusophone sphere.
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
PART I: PERFORMING CHARISMA
1. Performing the Charismatic Ritual; Keping Wu
2. Knowledge and Miracles: Modes of Charisma in Syrian Sufism; Paulo G. Pinto
PART II: GENDERING CHARISMA
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
PART III: CHARISMA AND POLITICS
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
PART IV: POSTHUMOUS CHARISMA
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
Publisher’s Description: This book carries an ethnographic signature in approach and style, and is an examination of a small Brooklyn, New York, African-American, Pentecostal church congregation and is based on ethnographic notes taken over the course of four years. The Pentecostal Church is known to outsiders almost exclusively for its members’ “bizarre” habit of speaking in tongues. This ethnography, however, puts those outsiders inside the church pews, as it paints a portrait of piety, compassion, caring, love—all embraced through an embodiment perspective, as the church’s members experience these forces in the most personal ways through religious conversion. Central themes include concerns with the notion of “spectacle” because of the grand bodily display that is highlighted by spiritual struggle, social aspiration, punishment and spontaneous explosions of a variety of emotions in the public sphere. The approach to sociology throughout this work incorporates the striking dialectic of history and biography to penetrate and interact with religiously inspired residents of the inner-city in a quest to make sense both empirically and theoretically of this rapidly changing, surprising and highly contradictory late-modern church scene.
The focus on the individual process of becoming Pentecostal provides a road map into the church and canvasses an intimate view into the lives of its members, capturing their stories as they proceed in their Pentecostal careers. This book challenges important sociological concepts like crisis to explain religious seekership and conversion, while developing new concepts such as “God Hunting” and “Holy Ghost Capital” to explain the process through which individuals become tongue-speaking Pentecostals. Church members acquire “Holy Ghost Capital” and construct a Pentecostal identity through a relationship narrative to establish personal status and power through conflicting tongue-speaking ideas. Finally, this book examines the futures of the small and large, institutionally affiliated Pentecostal Church and argues that the small Pentecostal Church is better able to resist modern rationalizing forces, retaining the charisma that sparked the initial religious movement. The power of charisma in the small church has far-reaching consequences and implications for the future of Pentecostalism and its followers.
The focus of this article is the proliferation of new charismatic Pentecostal churches in the South Pacific nation Vanuatu. The established Presbyterian Church on the island of Ambrym is compared to a new Pentecostal church in the capital Port Vila in terms of gender. The idea of a vanishing form of masculinity and the development of a form of ‘gender nostalgia’ is emphasized in the comparison. By looking at gender relations, new perspectives on the difference between the new churches and more established churches emerge, and these perspectives, I argue, might also give us an understanding of why fission seem to be inevitable for the new Pentecostal churches in Vanuatu.
Le présent article s’intéresse à la prolifération des nouvelles Églises pentecôtistes charismatiques au Vanuatu, une nation du Pacifique Sud. Il propose un comparaison du point de vue des rapports de genre entre l’Église presbytérienne établie dans l’île d’Ambrym et une nouvelle assemblée pentecôtiste de la capitale, Port Vila. Cette comparaison met l’accent sur l’idée d’une forme de masculinité en voie de disparition et sur le développement d’une certaine « nostalgie de genre ». L’examen des rapports sociaux de sexes fait apparaître de nouveaux angles d’approche de la différence entre les nouvelles Églises et les plus établies. L’auteure affirme que ces approches peuvent permettre de comprendre pourquoi le schisme semble inévitable pour les nouvelles Églises pentecôtistes du Vanuatu.