Publisher’s description: This book argues that the runaway popularity of Pentecostal Christianity on the Zambian Copperbelt is a result of this religion’s capacity to produce novel forms of value realization. A close analysis of the relationships that form in Pentecostal churches reveals that Pentecostal social life is structured around an animating idea – a value – called ‘moving by the Spirit.’ Moving by the Spirit entails personal advancement both with regard to material prosperity and religious skill or charisma. While moving by the Spirit makes Pentecostalism attractive, it is difficult for Pentecostal believers to balance prosperity against charisma without reproducing divisions in economic status. These divisions undermine the social world of the church by limiting the access of poorer believers to the relationships with their leaders – relationships through which the value of moving by the Spirit is most effectively realized.
Abstract:This article examines how religious beliefs and practices influence the reception of international relief and development aid in impoverished communities. Specifically, I explain how Nicaraguan recipients’ prayers both enhance and constrain their ability to assert themselves as “empowered” actors during aid interactions. Data come from observations and interviews over a two-year period with 81 Nicaraguans in communities that receive aid from Christian development organizations. Compared to secular constructions of aid interactions, prayers provide space for Nicaraguans to position themselves as influential actors effecting change for themselves or their families. Through prayers, recipients portray themselves as influencing the actions of more powerful parties, including God and potential donors. They also pray for donors’ well-being, thereby offering spiritual reciprocity for material gifts. However, the same prayers that empower individuals at the interpersonal level constrain their ability to envision transformation of social structures. These findings shape understandings of prayer as aligning actions, of the moral and social dimensions of receiving care from strangers, and of the complex and contradictory ways religious practices influence discourses of empowerment and development.
Abstract: In this article, I draw on ethnography from the Zambian Copperbelt to examine the social productivity of the Pentecostal prosperity gospel, a Christian movement centered on the idea that it is God’s will for believers to be wealthy. In the light of the challenges that recent economic history has posed to Copperbelt relational life, Pentecostalism has become an important source of hierarchy—and, therefore, of social organization. This social productivity is evident in the complex patterns of exchange that emerge as believers make gifts to God and religious leaders. An analysis of Pentecostal exchange reveals that the hierarchical relationships forged through religious adherence are often in danger of being undermined by economic concerns, and prosperity gospel practice is therefore continually mobilized to protect these ties. In this discussion, I foreground the position of Pentecostalism among the repertoire of ideas, practices, and beliefs involved in negotiating social life in times of economic uncertainty.
Abstract: Drawing from extensive fieldwork in east Madagascar, this article examines the role of Pentecostal churches in assuaging gendered suffering among middle-aged women who have become vulnerable to social exclusion. It focuses particularly on two techniques that women use to manage their relationships with husbands and children: cultivated passivity and the creation of a relationship with Jesus through prayer and small acts of exchange. It argues that conversion and the practice of Pentecostal Christianity helps women less by changing their husband’s behavior than by offering them an alternative source of authority and a new set of practices through which to build valued personhood.
Abstract: Despite significant scholarship in anthropology and tourism studies related respectively to gifts and souvenirs, little is known about why and to whom people give souvenir gifts. Using an American case study, this article shows how Holy Land pilgrimage and its attendant gift-giving are a crucial way that older women navigate tensions specific to the consumer culture and religious patterns of the 21st-century US. By giving souvenirs, pilgrims uphold the importance of individuality (as consumers and as believers), while also fulfilling what they believe is their special responsibility to bolster collective faith, particularly amongst networks of female friends and family. Crucial in this endeavor is how pilgrims negotiate the fluid line between commodity and religious object. Sometimes they imbue these commercial objects with divine presence, thereby creating powerful tools for asserting ‘soft’ authority at home. At other times, they present religious souvenirs as commodities, downplaying their spiritual value in order to circumvent rejection.
Publisher’s Description: Over the past few decades, short-term mission trips have exploded in popularity. With easy access to affordable air travel, millions of American Christians have journeyed internationally for ministry, service and evangelism. Short-term trips are praised for involving many in global mission but also critiqued for their limitations.
Despite the diversity of destinations, certain universal commonalities emerge in how mission trip participants describe their experiences: “My eyes were opened to the world’s needs.” “They ministered to us more than we ministered to them.” “It changed my life.”
Anthropologist Brian Howell explores the narrative shape of short-term mission (STM). Drawing on the anthropology of tourism and pilgrimage, he shows how STM combines these elements with Christian purposes of mission to create its own distinct narrative. He provides a careful historical survey of the development of STM and then offers an in-depth ethnographic study of a particular mission trip to the Dominican Republic. He explores how participants remember and interpret their experiences, and he unpacks the implications for how North American churches understand mission, grapple with poverty and relate to the larger global church.
A groundbreaking book for all who want to understand how and why American Christians undertake short-term mission.
Tomlinson, Matt (2012) “Passports to Eternity: Whales’ Teeth and Transcendence in Fijian Methodism,” in Lenore Manderson, Wendy Smith, & Matt Tomlinson (eds) Flows of Faith: Religious Reach and Community in Asia and the Pacific (Springer, New York).
Abstract: Christianity is often considered a religion of transcendence, in which divinity “goes beyond” human space and time. Recent anthropological scholarship has noted, however, that claims to transcendence must be expressed materially. This chapter examines the ways in which Fijian Methodists attempt to achieve a kind of Christian transcendence in which they escape negative influences of the vanua (land, chiefdoms, and the “traditional” order generally). They do so by offering sperm whales’ teeth to church authorities in order to apologise and atone for the sins of ancestors. Such rituals do not achieve the transcendence they aim for, however, as the whales’ teeth–the material tokens offered to gain divine favour–gain their ritual value precisely because of their attachment to the vanua.