Abstract: The article describes sensational forms connected with the cult of healing waters, as found in Orthodox Christian religious communities of southwestern Bulgaria. Referring to the concept of the porous self, I analyze how and why Orthodox Christian devotees in Bulgaria attribute a life-giving force (zhivonosna/zhivotvorna) to the healing springs (ayazma) found in the monastery, and how they use those for ablutions and drinking, thereby hoping to increase their personal vitality. The data is discussed from synchronic and diachronic perspectives. This is done to draw distinct cultural parallels between current practices at the healing springs at the monastery, the iconography of Bogoroditsa the Life-Giving Spring, and the cult established at the monastery of the Mother of God of the Spring (Zoodohos Pege) in Constantinople, attested since the medieval period. Rooted in an emic Orthodox Christian understanding of the concept of life-giving forces, this analysis is anthropologically significant in its demonstration that life- giving force is viewed as an underlying concept that manifests itself as divine power, grace or energy, all of which are key terms in the Orthodox Christian religious lexicon.
Abstract: This article attends to the central role of video and projection screens in transnational multisite churches based in South Korea. Drawing on field research in Seoul and in Los Angeles, this article illustrates how the relationship between congregants and the screens themselves is a condition for the emergence of a particular configuration of Christian community, which I will peirastically call “screen Christianity.” The place of screens and their related practices undergird theological conceptions of contact and community, such that screens are said to transmit healing touches and pastors are understood to be present through the proliferation of their screened image. Considering these Christian churches as engaging in screen Christianity highlights how particular material configurations animate these church bodies and ultimately make such transnational communities imaginable
Abstract: This research article explores how expressions of Pentecostal/Charismatic Christianity in Tanzania have taken shape through a complex entanglement with African traditional religion and traditional healing. On the one hand, Tanzanian Pentecostals/Charismatics conceive of figures associated with the world of tradition (witches, traditional healers, different kinds of spirits) as the main adversaries in the spiritual warfare they understand themselves to be engaged in. At the same time I show how many of the beliefs that we might lump under the category of “tradition” constitute something of a common cultural ground that cuts across ethnic and religious divides. While Pentecostal/Charismatic Christianity does in some ways represent a particular religious culture, I argue that we are also well served by considering Pentecostals/Charismatics as participants in a common and highly vibrant religious/spiritual/medical field where different kinds of interchanges, overlaps and mutual inspirations occur. For instance, I show how a concern with healing inspires multifaceted practices of positioning as Pentecostals/Charismatics both demonize traditional healers, and simultaneously take pains to highlight similarities between the power of God and the powers of traditional healing. Finally, I argue that processes of adaptation and the highlighting of similarities also imply a risk of confusion, as it sometimes becomes difficult to distinguish the power of God from the powers of healers and witchcraft.
Abstract: This essay is intended to challenge popular and academic narratives of prayer camps in Ghana as being inherently inhumane. It is based on two years of Master’s thesis research and six trips to one prayer camp in particular, where I observed the daily routines of the camp and interviewed staff who care for people with mental illness. I aim to contextualize what is currently known about patients and staff at Ghanaian prayer camps within Ghana’s broader social, political, religious, and medical landscapes. To do so, I call upon my own experience interacting with one caretaker in particular: Samuel.
Excerpt: “In this chapter I examine the role of bodily experience in Pentecostal healing and more specifically the ways in which some Pentecostal groups have moved away from medical confirmation of the success of healings to criteria based upon bodily experience. I begin by arguing for the centrality of healing in the Pentecostal movement before examining attitudes towards biomedicine and conceptualizations of sickness and healing in more detail. I then examine anthropological work in this area.”
Abstract: This thesis is the study of a rehabilitation ministry for the addicted people called Good Samaritan, run by the Russian Baptist Church. The study scrutinizes a two-dimensional process of Christian Rehabilitation. This process consists of two aspects: bodily detoxication through prolonged isolation, and radical moral transformation through conversion to Christianity. This twofold process corresponds to the twofold nature of substance use dependence: biochemical and psychological. The narrative of conversion is constructed upon the literalist reading of the particular translation of Scripture Russian Synodal Bible impacted by the 16th (Martin Luther) and 17th century (Jacobus Arminius and the Remonstrants) Protestant dogmatics and Russian historical and sociocultural context. The narrative of rehabilitation is also impacted by the street, junkie, and prison experience of the rehabilitants and their elders, who hold the authority to interpret Scripture. My research contributes to the study of Russian Evangelical Christianity and substance use dependence, both of which are unique and substantially influenced by contemporary Russian historical, sociocultural, political, economic, and linguistic context. At the same time, both Russian Evangelicalism and substance abuse share global features of Evangelical Christianity and drug epidemics. My analysis is based on the ethnographic fieldwork conducted from January 2014 to January 2015 in St. Petersburg and Leningradskaia oblast’, Russia. The participant observation included prolonged stays in three rehab facilities, guest and missionary visits, church services, seminars, festivities, and extensive study of Protestant Christianity and substance abuse.
Come and listen in to the radio station, Where the mighty hosts of heaven sing, Turn your radio on, turn your radio on, Turn your radio on, turn your radio on…
So sings John Hartford on his 1971 cover of the 1938 southern Gospel standard. It was this song, “Turn Your Radio On,” that I recalled in a progressively louder hum to myself throughout Anderson Blanton’s Hittin‘ the Prayer Bones. The reason is that Blanton’s ethnography of charismatic Christianity in Appalachia has a distinctly musical quality. Each chapter unveils further nodes in a network of oral traditions and communicative genres: songs from deep in the coal mines and songs for laying rail track; Gospel tunes; the verbal artistry of prayer, testimony, and preaching; hand claps and technological emanations; and rhythmic faith-filled laughter. Pages and sections introduce singular moments of rich cultural revelation, akin to John Jackson’s “slices” (2013: 16-17) more than any conventional mode of ethnographic writing. I do not hesitate to write that this is really not a book one simply reads; it is a book to experience… Continue reading →
Abstract: Drawing on fieldwork in independent Samoa, in this article, I analyze the temporal dimensions of evangelical Christian healing of metabolic disorders. I explore how those suffering with metabolic disorders draw from multiple time-based notions of healing, drawing attention to the limits of biomedicine in contrast with the effectiveness of Divine healing. By simultaneously engaging evangelical and biomedical temporalities, I argue that evangelical Christians create wellness despite sickness and, in turn, re-signify chronic suffering as a long-term process of Christian healing. Positioning biomedical temporality and evangelical temporality as parallel yet distinctive ways of practicing healing, therefore, influences health care choices.
Publisher’s description: In this work, Anderson Blanton illuminates how prayer, faith, and healing are intertwined with technologies of sound reproduction and material culture in the charismatic Christian worship of southern Appalachia. From the radios used to broadcast prayer to the curative faith cloths circulated through the postal system, material objects known as spirit-matter have become essential since the 1940s, Blanton argues, to the Pentecostal community’s understanding and performances of faith.
Hittin’ the Prayer Bones draws on Blanton’s extensive site visits with church congregations, radio preachers and their listeners inside and outside the broadcasting studios, and more than thirty years of recorded charismatic worship made available to him by a small Christian radio station. In documenting the transformation and consecration of everyday objects through performances of communal worship, healing prayer, and chanted preaching, Blanton frames his ethnographic research in the historiography of faith healing and prayer, as well as theoretical models of materiality and transcendence. At the same time, his work affectingly conveys the feelings of horror, healing, and humor that are unleashed in practitioners as they experience, in their own words, the sacred, healing presence of the Holy Ghost.
Abstract: In this article, the author historically describes the process by which Faith Tabernacle Congregation was established by an Evangelist (and later Overseer) in John Alexander Dowie’s Christian Catholic Church in Zion. He then explains the similarity of both churches’ African missions – the Christian Catholic Church in South Africa and Faith Tabernacle in Nigeria. Both American churches, with a distinct genealogical relationship to one another, significantly affected very similar Christian movements, which were the Zionist movement in South Africa and the Aladura movement in Nigeria. Both of these movements are frequently credited with institutionalizing divine healing within African Christianity, and many scholars argue that African Pentecostalism begin within these movements. In the conclusion, the author reflects historiographically on this relationship: the Christian Catholic Church to Faith Tabernacle and particularly Zionism to Aladura. He argues that the historical relatedness between the two churches challenges the generally held notion that healing in African Christianity is only an expression or continuity of a ‘primal African religiosity.’ The Christian Catholic Church in South Africa and Faith Tabernacle in Nigeria did not represent the conjoining of opposing cultural forms, as in discussions of syncretism, but the hybridizing of very similar religious beliefs and practices with respect to disease, health, and healing.