Chipumuro, “Breaking Bread with the Brethren: Fraternalism and Text in a Black Atlantic Church Community”

Chipumuro Todne Thomas. 2012. Breaking Bread with the Brethren: Fraternalism and Text in a Black Atlantic Church Community. Journal of African American Studies 16(4):604–621 

Abstract:  This ethnographic article examines the constitution of brotherhood at Dixon Bible Chapel (DBC)—a West Indian and African American Brethren church community located in Lithonia, Georgia, a suburb of the Atlanta metropolitan area. Based on my analysis of interview, oral history, and church historical texts collected during fieldwork from 2006 to 2008, I propose that DBC members conceptualize brotherhood as an egalitarian, closely knit form of religious belonging inspired by New Testament representations of the church. Furthermore, I argue that is through DBC brothers’ textual rituals that brotherhood is substantiated as a framework for male democratic religious participation and leadership. Though hierarchies of class, ethnicity, gender, and generation segment the ranks of DBC brotherhood and the church community writ large, church members invest in brotherhood as a social formation that they believe sidesteps the exclusions of mainstream religious institutions. Extending the implications of DBC brotherhood to the present issue’s emphasis of black fraternal organizations, I pose questions about the meanings and salience of fraternalism as a social model for Afro-diasporic institution building.

King, “The New Heretics”

King, Rebekka. 2012. The New Heretics: Popular Theology, Progressive Christianity, and Protestant Language Ideologies. Doctoral Dissertation, Dept. for the Study of Religion. Toronto, Ontario: University of Toronto.

Abstract: This dissertation investigates the development of progressive Christianity. It explores the ways in which progressive Christian churches in Canada adopt biblical criticism and popular theology. Contributing to the anthropology of Christianity, this study is primarily an ethnographic and linguistic analysis that juxtaposes contemporary conflicts over notions of the Christian self into the intersecting contexts of public discourse, contending notions of the secular and congregational dynamics. Methodologically, it is based upon two-and-a-half years of in-depth participant observation research at five churches and distinguishes itself as the first scholarly study of progressive Christianity in North America. I begin this study by outlining the historical context of skepticism in Canadian Protestantism and arguing that skepticism and doubt serve as profoundly religious experiences, which provide a fuller framework than secularization in understanding the experiences of Canadian Protestants in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In doing so, I draw parallels between the ways that historical and contemporary North American Christians negotiate the tensions between their faith and biblical criticism, scientific empiricism and liberal morality. Chapter Two seeks to describe the religious, cultural and socio-economic worlds inhabited by the progressive Christians featured in this study. It focuses on the worldviews that emerge out of participation in what are primarily white, middle-class, liberal communities and considers how these identity-markers affect the development and lived experiences of progressive Christians. My next three chapters explore the ways that certain engagements with text and the performance or ritualization of language enable the development of a distinctly progressive Christian modality. Chapter Three investigates progressive Christian textual ideologies and argues that the form of biblical criticism that they employ, along with entrenched concerns about the origins of the Christian faith ultimately, leads to a rejection of the biblical narrative. Chapter Four examines the ways in which progressive Christians understand individual ‘deconversion’ narratives as contributing to a shared experience or way of being Christian that purposefully departs from evangelical Christianity. The final chapter analyses rhetoric of the future and argues that progressive Christians employ eschatological language that directs progressive Christians towards an ultimate dissolution.

Durbin, “For Such a Time as This”

Durbin, Sean. 2012. “For Such a Time as This”: Reading (and Becoming) Esther with Christians United for Israel.

Abstract: A great deal of work on contemporary Christian Zionism focuses on the apocalyptic eschatology of premillennial dispensationalism, critiquing it from an idealistic perspective that posits a direct line of causality from “belief” to action. Such critiques frequently assert that since Christian Zionists are biblical literalists, they read apocalyptic texts such as Revelation and Ezekiel with the goal of making the events they find predicted in these books come about in the world. This article takes a different approach. Although many Christian Zionists can be considered “literalists,” they read themselves into the text typologically. Special attention is paid to the book of Esther which is shown not to function primarily in a prophetic or apocalyptic role, but as a tool to help Christian Zionists understand political action, construct identity, and strengthen faith.