Olsson, “Jesus for Zanzibar”

Olsson, Hans. 2016. Jesus for Zanzibar: Narratives of Pentecostal Belonging, Islam, and Nation. Doctoral Dissertation, Centre for Theology and Religious Studies. Lund: Lund University.

Excerpt: The study focuses on the City Christian Center, Zanzibar’s largest Pentecostal church and a major outreach of the Tanzania Assemblies of God in the archipelago, which was founded, and is growing, in conjunction with increased flows of labor migration, primarily from Mainland Tanzania to Zanzibar, over the past decades. In relation to the Zanzibar setting in general, and vis-a-vis political projects of creating a Zanzibari national identity in particular, the CCC congregation has become a locus of tension for several reasons. First and foremost, with an outspoken mission to expand Christianity – captured in the slogan “Jesus for Zanzibar” – the CCC brings a narrative of religious change to Zanzibar society.

Pastures of Plenty: Book Review

Heuser, Andreas, ed. 2015. Pastures of Plenty: Tracing Religio-Scapes of Prosperity Gospel in Africa and Beyond. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.

By: Hans Olsson (Lund University)

This multidisciplinary volume adds to a growing body of scholarly work focusing on the highly debated topic of Pentecostal-Charismatic prosperity teachings (a.k.a., the faith gospel or health and wealth gospel). The book has a broad scope (21 contributions plus an Introduction) which enables the exemplification and comparison of the many different contemporary strands of prosperity teachings. Divided into six subsections, Pastures of Plenty deals with prosperity teachings in relation to (i) political and social contexts (Tetzlaff, Köhrsen, Maltese); (ii) its theological foundations and place in current ecumenical debates (Gifford, Kahl, von Sinner, Biehl); (iii) its significance and influence in current public debates across religious denominations and traditions (Heuser, Zakaria, Langenwiesche, Nrenzah, Opare Kwakye, Hasu); (iv) its relation to the Protestant work ethic and entrepreneurship (Sundnes Drønen, Daniels, Zapf); (v) exchange and gift economies (Droz & Gez, Lindhardt); and (vi) migratory contexts (Fröchtling, Rey, Frei). While the majority of the contributions are case studies drawn from African contexts such as Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Cameroon, and Burkina Faso, there are also some cases from other parts of the world such as the Philippines (Maltese), Brazil (von Sinner), Switzerland (Frei), and the US (Daniels). The anthology’s thorough collection of research offers deep insights into contextual differences but also provides a multifaceted and multidisciplinary analysis of the phenomenon of the prosperity gospel at large. Continue reading

Olsson, “With Jesus in Paradise? “

Olsson, Hans.  2015. With Jesus in Paradise?: Pentecostal Migrants in Contemporary Zanzibar.  Pneuma 37(1): 21-40.

Abstract: This article explores the quest among contemporary pentecostal migrants from mainland Tanzania in Zanzibar to become “saved” Christians. The analysis of a set of techniques and processes applied in developing and keeping faith reveals high levels of suspicion and doubt connected to the perceived presence of evil in the Zanzibari environment, which, in turn, is linked to a fear of losing salvation. With Christian minorities recently having their premises attacked in connection with sociopolitical hostilities in the predominantly Muslim setting of Zanzibar, the case in this article highlights how the context of violence is negotiated in pentecostal modes of suspicion toward the other while, at the same time, it bolsters spiritual growth. This illustrates how a pentecostal ethos intermingles with and provides migrants with ways of interpreting the contemporary setting in which religious belonging is at the fore in present-day calls for Zanzibari political sovereignty and inclusive Union politics.