Abstract: This article reviews the development of the anthropology of Christianity and considers the new questions and approaches introduced by the articles in this special issue of Current Anthropology. The article first addresses the contested history of the anthropology of Christianity, suggesting that there is intellectual value in seeing it as largely a development of the new century. It goes on to locate the rise of the anthropology of Christianity in relation to a number of important changes both in the place of religion in the world and in the academic study of religion that also occurred during this period. It then considers the foci of the articles collected here. These include such relatively novel topics as the nature of Christian social institutions, social processes, space-making practices, and constructions of gender, as well as questions concerning the boundaries of Christianity. Several articles also focus on considerations of recent developments in the study of long-standing topics in the anthropology of Christianity, such as discontinuity, reflexivity, experience, and materiality. Throughout the discussion of these issues, I take up critical debates around the anthropology of Christianity, for example, the charge that it is wholly idealist in orientation, and consider how these articles contribute to the further development of these discussions.
Kaoma, Kapya. 2014. The paradox and tension of moral claims: Evangelical Christianity, the politicization and globalization of sexual politics in sub-Saharan Africa. Critical Research on Religion 2(3): 227-245.
Abstract: This article explores the paradox between local and global moral values in sexual politics in Sub-Saharan Africa. It shares the thesis that various forces of globalization—the web, media, social, economic, political, and religious––influence and to some extent shape sexual politics in Sub-Saharan Africa. Globalization has made it easy for anti-gay and pro-gay rights groups to connect globally, and share ideas and strategies, but it has also complicated the study of sexual politics in Sub-Saharan Africa. While anti-gay and pro-gay groups accuse each other of being “influenced by foreign interests,” both sides have global groups that provide the ideological framework for the struggle. To some extent, the growing opposition to gay rights should be understood from the perspective of conservative global Christianity on one hand and the globalization on the other. The article concludes that global anti-gay activism invites global pro-gay activism, thereby leading to unintended consequences on sexual minorities.
Abstract: Gay men in Cape Town, South Africa joined a Pentecostal ministry in an attempt to produce what they understood as ‘natural’ heterosexual attraction. In this article, I explore how these gay men try to form new selves through what I call ‘desire work’, or physical and emotional micropractices and discipline. Desire is not ‘natural’, but it is produced through a multitude of engagements with cultural norms, public life, political economies, and social forces. New selves are built through concerted bodily changes and comportment [Mahmood, Saba. 2005. Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press], and although gay Pentecostal men shared this process, their success was limited. I understand desire work as a response to a larger context in which many Pentecostals are disaffected with the post-apartheid government and withdraw from politics as a result. Their fears of the uncertainties of democracy pushed them to engage in optimistic fantasies of heterosexual lives, which were not often realised [Berlant, Lauren Gail. 2011. Cruel Optimism. Durham, NC: Duke University Press].
Publisher’s Description: A long history of vehement public opposition to pre-marital sex, pornography, masturbation, gay-marriage, and birth control has cast the evangelical Christian community as regressive and “anti-sex” in the minds of many Americans. In a groundbreaking investigation of evangelical sex education, Amy DeRogatis reveals that this representation could not be farther from the truth: in fact, evangelicals view sex not only as natural and sanctioned by the Bible, but as an essential part of any Christian marriage.
For decades, evangelical sexual education has been a thriving industry. Evangelical couples have sought advice from Christian psychologists and marriage counselors, purchased millions of copies of faith-based “sexual guidebooks,” and consulted magazines, pamphlets, websites, blogs, and podcasts on a vast array of sexual topics, including human anatomy, STDs-sometimes known in evangelical circles as “Sexually Transmitted Demons”-mutual masturbation, sexual role-play, and sex toys, all from a decidedly biblical angle. DeRogatis explores every corner of the industry, from purity literature for young evangelicals to sex manuals for married couples to “deliverance manuals,” which instruct believers in how to expel demons that enter the body through sexual sin.
DeRogatis also shows how feminism has seeped into the evangelical sexual ethic: despite a subscription to traditional gender roles based on the literal interpretation of scripture, many evangelical sexual guides emphasize the importance of mutual consent and female climax. The evangelical approach to sex transcends mere mechanics, emphasizing the fundamental importance of sexual fulfillment in a Christian marriage and perceiving sex as a spiritual act that furthers a couple’s relationship with God.
Saving Sex is a long-overdue exploration of the role of sex in America’s evangelical Christian community, and of the many ways in which American evangelicals participate in cultural conversations about sexuality.
Abstract: Although sexual minority rights have not necessarily generated polarised views within Christian churches and organisations, the subject has tended to forge an arena of contestation between liberal and conservative constituencies. Theological differences have frequently been manifested through the mobilisation of ‘cause’ groups lobbying the political realm and public opinion in order to advance their contrasting standpoints. Based on a survey of documentation and supplementary materials produced for public consumption, this article considers responses of the conflicting rights petitions of Christian cadres either endorsing or opposing minority sexual rights and the relevant legislative enactments in the UK. The article seeks to illuminate how these competing constituencies further their causes while at the same time devaluing the rights claims of their adversaries.
Opening Paragraphs: Few recent legislative enactments in the United Kingdom have wrought so much controversy as the Equality Act 2010.1 The far-ranging legislation, aiming to enhance civil rights and social inclusion, provides a unique opportunity to analyze how equality is perceived by UK governments and the implications this has for Christian constituencies, given that the right to religious freedom may, in some instances, be at variance with the right to object on moral and theological grounds to the liberties and citizenship of individuals designated to have “protected characteristics.” The Act, therefore, provides the subject of a searching examination of the issues between church and state in balancing these competing freedoms.
Although this article offers such an examination, it also considers how Christian groupings, which are by no means homogeneous in their views and sometimes have differing interpretations of religious liberties, have responded to controversies generated by the legislation. It is evident that many of the core issues relate to matters of sexual rights and the potential conflict between these rights and religious rights to oppose them; this is evidenced by inclusion of religious conscience clauses in UK legislation. The article outlines viewpoints of Christian members of the UK Parliament, Christian churches, and lobbying groups. It considers their response during the passage of the Act through Parliament and since its enactment. Finally, the article raises issues of church-state relationships connecting with rights in a Western secular environment and considers the implications of contradictory rights and the possible emergence of a hierarchy of rights.
Adriaan van Klinken (2011). The Homosexual as the Antithesis of “Biblical Manhood”? Heteronormativity and Masculinity Politics in Zambian Pentecostal Sermons. Journal of Gender and Religion in Africa 17(2): 126-42.
This article offers a critical analysis of a series of sermons entitled Fatherhood in the 21st Century preached in a Zambian Pentecostal church, in which homosexuality is an explicit theme. The sermons are discussed in relation to the broader controversy on homosexuality in African Christianity. While it is often suggested that African Christian leaders actively oppose same-sex relationships in order to profile themselves in local and global contexts, the case study reveals an additional factor. Homosexuality is also used in the politics of gender, particularly masculinity, within the church. The references to homosexuality in the sermons create a counter-image of the
promoted ideal of “biblical manhood”. A stereotypical homosexual is constructed, who embodies two of the main features of Zambian men: their preoccupation with sexuality and their indifference towards the male role they are to play. This article reveals the heteronormative politics and theology underpinning “biblical manhood” and points to the problematic consequences thereof in relation to HIV&AIDS. It also suggests how to interrogate and rethink “biblical manhood” from the perspective of queer theology.
Publisher’s Description: Even though they are immersed in sex-saturated society, millions of teens are pledging to remain virgins until their wedding night. How are evangelical Christians persuading young people to wait until marriage? Christine J. Gardner looks closely at the language of the chastity movement and discovers a savvy campaign that uses sex to “sell” abstinence. Drawing from interviews with evangelical leaders and teenagers, she examines the strategy to shift from a negative “just say no” approach to a positive one: “just say yes” to great sex within marriage. Making Chastity Sexy sheds new light on an abstinence campaign that has successfully recast a traditionally feminist idea—“my body, my choice”—into a powerful message, but one that Gardner suggests may ultimately reduce evangelicalism’s transformative power. Focusing on the United States, her study also includes a comparative dimension by examining the export of this evangelical agenda to sub-Saharan Africa.