Publisher’s Description: What is the work that miracles do in American Charismatic Evangelicalism? How can miracles be unanticipated and yet worked for? And finally, what do miracles tell us about other kinds of Christianity and even the category of religion? A Diagram for Fire engages with these questions in a detailed sociocultural ethnographic study of the Vineyard, an American Evangelical movement that originated in Southern California. The Vineyard is known worldwide for its intense musical forms of worship and for advocating the belief that all Christians can perform biblical-style miracles. Examining the miracle as both a strength and a challenge to institutional cohesion and human planning, this book situates the miracle as a fundamentally social means of producing change—surprise and the unexpected used to reimagine and reconfigure the will. Jon Bialecki shows how this configuration of the miraculous shapes typical Pentecostal and Charismatic religious practices as well as music, reading, economic choices, and conservative and progressive political imaginaries.
Abstract: This paper is an analysis of the final sermon of Billy Graham’s 1973 Crusade in Seoul, South Korea, when he preached to a crowd estimated to exceed one million people. Next to Graham at the pulpit was Billy Jang Hwan Kim, a preacher who, in his capacity as interpreter, translated Graham’s sermon verbally and peri-verbally—utterance by utterance, tone by tone, gesture by gesture—for the Korean-speaking audience. I examine the dynamic pragmatics (for example, chronotopic formulations, deictic calibrations, voicing and register effects, and indexical dimensions of entextualization) by which a sermonic copy across linguistic codes became an evangelical conduit between Cold War polities. In so doing, I demonstrate how the scope of intertextual analysis can be expanded productively from the narrow translation of denotation across codes to the broader indexical processes of semiotic “transduction” across domains of cultural semiosis.
Abstract: The author discusses what she learned from her participation in evangelical fighting ministries, paying special attention to how these communities sought to connect with God through interacting with each other. In training with and interviewing the members of these ministries in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the author found that as evangelical Christians, many struggled to establish and maintain the primacy of their personal relationships with God over their interpersonal interests. Yet they also believed their relationships with God were meant to be witnessed and experienced by others. During moments of worship they shared emotional intimacy, granting each other opportunities to make outwardly perceivable their internally felt relationships with God. During their Brazilian jiu-jitsu training, they were encouraged to feel God’s presence as they grappled with each other at very close contact. Using the concept of compartmentalisation, the author analyses how these evangelical fighting ministries demarcated their practices into emotional and physical forms of intimacy, thereby finding different ways to achieve what they perceived as personal contact with God in their intense interactions with each other.
Abstract: Religion has been conceptualised as personal belief in the transcendent. Anthropologists of religion have critiqued such a construct for decades for being based on a Christian Protestant model and one that reflected subsequently modern rationalist Western culture. This construct has increasingly been shown to fail to account for the religiosity of contemporary Christians. Drawing on the sociology of Georg Simmel and based on ethnographic research in a Christian evangelical church, the article proposes a reconceptualisation of religious belief that is experiential and relational. Evangelicals in this case study show that propositional belief plays increasingly a secondary role to belief intended as trust in God and forming a relationship with God and others. Relationships mediate personal religious experience and are shown to be essential to the conversion process, the life of faith, and Christian identity. The study thus bridges the separation between theoretical and empirical works by operationalising Simmel’s sociology.
Engberg, Aron. 2016. Walking on the Pages of the Word of God: Self, Land, and Text among Evangelical Volunteers in Jerusalem. Doctoral Dissertation, Centre for Theology and Religious Studies. Lund, Sweden: Lund University.
Excerpt: During the last 30 years, the Evangelical relationship with the State of Israel has drawn much academic and popular attention, particularly from historical, theological, and political perspectives. This dissertation engages with this literature but also complements it with an ethnographic account of the discursive practices of Evangelical Zionists through which, it is suggested, much of the religious significance of the contemporary state is being produced. The study is based on ethnographic fieldwork among Evangelical volunteer workers in Jerusalem, focusing on their stories about themselves, the land, and the biblical text.
Bielo, James S. 2016. Creationist History-Making: Producing a Heterodox Past. In Lost City, Found Pyramid: Understanding Alternative Archaeologies and Pseudoscientific Practices, 81-101. Edited by Jeb J. Card and David S. Anderson. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press.
Excerpt: The past, though quite real, is forever and densely mediated by this production of histories. As a cultural process, history-making is a social and ideological accomplishment that is achieved through material means and infrastructure. In turn, the anthropology and ethnography of history-making confronts important questions: how are different relationships to the past cultivated? What strategies and resources are marshaled to perform history-making? And, what is up for grabs in competing acts of history-making? A key contribution of this volume is to develop better ways of thinking about how non-professional historians and scientists perform the work of history-making (cf. Beisaw this volume). The Answers in Genesis creative team reminds us with little subtlety that the past is ideologically contested and that even the most scientifically established historical claims can be actively challenged. As the historian Raphael Samuel writes: “History is not the prerogative of the historian, nor even, as postmodernism contends, a historian’s ‘invention.’ It is, rather, a social form of knowledge; the work, in any given instance, of a thousand different hands” (1994: 8). Moreover, those thousand hands are not working in concert, which means the present hosts multiple historical narratives vying for cultural authority. Anthropologically, our remit is to understand whose hands are doing what and to seek a full ethnographic account of all history-making projects, including those of creationists. To aim for any less is to shrug off our most profound scholarly responsibility.
Abstract: Many scholars have debated the potential results of pilgrimage, but few have tracked how pre-trip goals actually relate to post-trip outcomes. Based on research with US evangelicals, this article argues that, despite being confronted with the possibility of disrupted meaning, nearly every pilgrim comes to see the trip as a success. To understand why, I draw on studies that frame Christian rituals as processes that are partial and in flux. Firstly, I explore how gendered notions of relationality affect perceptions of efficacy and lead to multiple goal-setting. Secondly, I show how the journey is couched within broader epistemologies that define a Christian life as incremental improvements, where one ‘grows’ with God. Thus the meaning making associated with pilgrimage is never fully complete, but is compelled into a future where further interpretations and presumed successes are inchoate. Ultimately, the belief in future meaning is as important—perhaps more so—than immediate ritual success.
Marti, Gerardo. 2016. “I Was a Muslim, But Now I Am a Christian”: Preaching, Legitimation, and Identity Management in a Southern Evangelical Church. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. Early online publication.
Abstract: Established in 2005, “Life” is a suburban, nondenominational, evangelical church in Charlotte, North Carolina, with an almost entirely white membership, yet the lead pastor is an immigrant from the Middle East. As an ex-Muslim ethnic Pakistani who was born and raised in Kuwait, Pastor Sameer Khalid does not “fit” into southern culture, and he did not convert to Christianity until he was enrolled in college in the United States. Ethnographic data from 14 months of fieldwork reveal how Pastor Sameer uses weekly sermons to negotiate racialized stigmas, emphasize his common religious identity with the congregation, and make his immigrant background a distinctive religious resource for the church. More specifically, while all pastors require legitimation of their charismatic authority, this research focuses on the dynamics of performance through preaching within the Sunday morning services of this congregation, a performance that negotiates this lead pastor’s ethnic and religious identities and accentuates his strategic use of institutionalized evangelical narratives to subvert Islamophobic threats and buttress legitimation of his pastoral identity.
Abstract: Prominent versions of social capital theory presume a positive link between voluntary memberships—including religious memberships—and generalized trust in society. Yet this relationship has not been tested in sub-Saharan Africa, a region with low average levels of generalized trust and high levels of religious membership and participation, where the rise of Charismatic Evangelical churches has recently transformed the religious landscape. Contrary hypotheses based in a theory of oppositional subcultures would suggest that memberships in such churches could dampen generalized trust due to their oppositional discourse vis a vis the wider society. In this paper, I use 2008 Afrobarometer survey data from seven countries in the region to test these contrasting hypotheses, analyzing both the pooled data and the separate country datasets. I find mixed evidence for the link between religious membership and generalized trust, and more consistent evidence that affiliating with a Charismatic Evangelical group is negatively associated with generalized trust. The study supports the conclusion that the link between religious membership and generalized trust is dependent on both the context and the content of the discourse circulating in religious settings.