McAlister, “The militarization of prayer in America”

McAlister, Elizabeth.  2016. The militarization of prayer in America: white and Native American spiritual warfare.  Journal of Religious and Political Practice.  Early online publication.

Abstract: This article examines how militarism has come to be one of the generative forces of the prayer practices of millions of Christians across the globe. To understand this process, I focus on the articulation between militarization and aggressive forms of prayer, especially the evangelical warfare prayer developed by North Americans since the 1980s. Against the backdrop of the rise in military spending and neoliberal economic policies, spiritual warfare evangelicals have taken on the project of defending the United States on the “spiritual” plane. They have elaborated a complex theology and prayer practice with a highly militarized discourse and set of rituals for doing “spiritual battle” and conducting “prayer strikes” on the “prayer battlefield”. The work draws on ethnographic fieldwork at an intensive spiritual warfare boot camp organized by a group of Native Americans who have founded a training base in Oklahoma dedicated to training recruits in the theology and practical strategy of spiritual warfare. Despite their hyper-aggressive rhetorical and ideological stance, members of this network in fact practice self-sacrificial rituals of fasting, holiness, and submission to the Holy Spirit. Native prayer warriors are using spiritual warfare prayer to assert a privileged place for themselves in Christian life as heirs of God’s authority over the stewardship of North American land and as central to the project of repairing sinful pasts both on and off the reservations, reconciling present racial conflict, and defending the land in spiritual battle against new immigrant invasions by foreign, demonic forces.

McAlister, “Possessing the Land for Jesus”

McAlister, Elizabeth.  2014.  Possessing the Land for Jesus.  In Spirited Things: The Work of “Possession” in Afro-Atlantic Religions, Paul Christopher Johnson, ed.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Excerpt: “The American and Haitian religious actors I follow here are not part of the vast nongovernmental organization complex that has made Port-au-Prince a ‘Republic of NGOs.’  Rather, I am interested in independent missions and congregations that are also linked to global networks.  North American evangelicals, including Haitian Americans in the diaspora, form relationships with Haitian church congregations precisely in the sphere of privatized humanitarian assistance that neoliberal economic policies have created as the primary theater of operations for aid, relief, recovery, rebuilding, and development.  After the quake in Haiti, biblical quotations about land resonated with conflicts over land occupied by tent encampments, competition for international relief monies, and discussions about the best way to rebuild the nation.  It was in this context that dispossessed Pentecostals began to think, speak, and strategize about ‘God’s people possessing the land.'”

McAlister, “Humanitarian Adhocracy, Transnational New Apostolic Missions, and Evangelical Anti-Dependency in a Haitian Refugee Camp”

McAlister, Elizabeth. 2013. Humanitarian Adhocracy, Transnational New Apostolic Missions, and Evangelical Anti-Dependency in a Haitian Refugee Camp. Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions 16(4):11-34.

Abstract: This article addresses religious responses to disaster by examining how one network of conservative evangelical Christians reacted to the Haiti earthquake and the humanitarian relief that followed. The charismatic Christian New Apostolic Reformation (or Spiritual Mapping movement) is a transnational network that created the conditions for post-earthquake, internally displaced Haitians to arrive at two positions that might seem contradictory. On one hand, Pentecostal Haitian refugees used the movement’s conservative, right-wing theology to develop a punitive theodicy of the quake as God’s punishment of a sinful nation. On the other hand, rather than resign themselves to victimhood and passivity, their strict moralism allowed these evangelical refugees to formulate an uncompromising critique of the Haitian government, the United Nations peacekeeping mission, and foreign humanitarian relief. They rejected material humanitarian aid when possible and developed a stance of Christian self-sufficiency, anti-foreign-aid, and anti-dependency. They accepted visits only from American missionaries with “spiritual,” and not material, missions, and they launched their own missions to parts of Haiti unaffected by the quake.

McAlister, Elizabeth (2012) “From Slave Revolt to a Blood Pact with Satan: The Evangelical Rewriting of Haitian History”

McAlister, Elizabeth. 2012. “From Slave Revolt to a Blood Pact with Satan: The Evangelical Rewriting of Haitian History” Studies in Religion/Sciences Religieuses 42(2) [Pagination not available – Pre-publication electronic distribution]

Abstract: Enslaved Africans and Creoles in the French colony of Saint-Domingue are said to have gathered at a nighttime meeting at a place called Bois Caïman in what was both political rally and religious ceremony, weeks before the Haitian Revolution in 1791. The slave ceremony is known in Haitian history as a religio-political event and used frequently as a source of inspiration by nationalists, but in the 1990s, neo-evangelicals rewrote the story of the famous ceremony as a “blood pact with Satan.” This essay traces the social links and biblical logics that gave rise first to the historical record, and then to the neo-evangelical rewriting of this iconic moment. It argues that the confluence of the bicentennial of the Haitian Revolution with the political contest around President Aristide’s policies, the growth of the neo-evangelical Spiritual Mapping movement, and of the Internet, produced a new form of mythmaking, in which neo-evangelicals re-signified key symbols of the event—an oath to a divine force, blood sacrifice, a tree, and group unity—from the mythical grammar of Haitian nationalism to that of neo-evangelical Christianity. In the many ironies of this clash between the political afterlife of a slave uprising with the political afterlife of biblical scripture, Haiti becomes a nation held in captivity, and Satan becomes the colonial power who must be overthrown.