Abstract: Throughout the world, conversion to evangelical and Pentecostal Christianity produces what Joel Robbins calls ‘duplex cultural formations’, whereby surviving aspects of local cosmology and worldview are brought into tension with paramount Christian values through a process of critical evaluation. I explore the dynamics of this process within Oksapmin understandings of human and cosmic origins. Traditional anthropogonic models explaining the emergence of lineages from primordial figures have been brought into tension with more-valued understandings of God as creator of the universe through the process of diabolisation, in this case, local figures being associated with fallen angels expelled from Heaven. I argue that these beings are permitted to continue because the anthropogenic and historic nature of their power does not significantly contradict the cosmogonic and eternally present conception of God’s creative capacity, but are diabolised owing to their continued existence as symbols of creative power and the source of sinful ritual practices.
Abstract: Nowadays, although throughout Europe the Catholic, Orthodox, Muslim and Protestant denominational identities remain among Roma, the conversion rate would suggest the number of Roma Pentecostal will have numerically overtaken all the others in just a few years’ time. The uniqueness of Spanish Gypsy Pentecostalism contradicts some of the stereotypes of global Pentecostalism and resides in its organisational complexity and hierarchical structure, its rapid institutionalisation as a sole church, the thorough theological training of its leaders, and its autonomy both from the State and from the European and Latin American Pentecostal Roma Movement. This article is structured around a life history and two concerns: (a) the role of the constant circulation of the gypsy evangelical ministers as regards charisma and leadership; (b) the growing transfer of prestige from the respected gypsy elders to the young evangelical pastors and their role in wide pacification processes involving ethnic cohesion and kinship.
Abstract: Contrary to the assumption that religious conversion is strongly influenced by the hegemony of global forces (colonialism and modern state formation) over local communities, this paper argues that internal class antagonisms and material conditions also play an important role in the dynamics of adoption of or resistance to Christianity. By taking narratives of inter-class contestation between aristocrats (paren) and commoners (panyin) and ritual changes among the Kayan-Kenyah in upland Central Borneo during periods of religious conversion, this paper shows the significance of social hierarchy on people’s decisions to change or retain their religious practices.
Abstract: The classical sociological literature on Amhara hierarchy describes a society based on open relations of domination and an obsession with top-down power. This article asks how these accounts can be reconciled with the strong ethics of love and care that ground daily life in Amhara. We argue that love and care, like power, are understood in broadly asymmetrical terms rather than as egalitarian forms of relationship. As such, they play into wider discourses of hierarchy, but also serve to blur the distinction between legitimate authority and illegitimate power.
Abstract: Based on ethnography from Lio, Indonesia, I explore effects on values, categories, and practices that followed the introduction of Catholicism to the area. Hierarchy is treated both as a model of value, conveyed through asymmetrical relations, and as a system of social organization. Hierarchy is employed as a way to order elements of value, to include the social-political sphere of stratification, and as a conceptual tool to analyze the relationship between adat (cosmology) and the Catholic Church. In adat, hierarchical relations constitute a means of social and ritual organization and practice in which the whole is considered superior to the individual, while Catholicism is based on an ideology of egalitarianism. Unlike adat, which pervades every aspect of life, the Catholic religion in Lioland occupies only a delineated niche of religion.
Abstract: Although Christianity and kastom can be opposed in many important respects, ni-Vanuatu are far from limited by the different opportunities that they each offer. Here, I draw on gender as an ethnographically derived form of description to stress that the relations composing encounters of Christianity and kastom, church leader and chief, allow ni-Vanuatu to imagine and create possibilities for engaging these alternatives in order to share, exchange or take on their specific capacities. I consider the example of an event in which a Church leader offered to extend an emplaced island identity, through the Anglican Church, in exchange for a kastom chief’s assistance to scale-up the appearance of his clan support during his ordination ceremony. In this case gendered difference, and not opposition or conflict, characterises kastom and Christianity’s relationship.
Abstract: This article offers an analysis of Pentecostal ritual life focused on a core tension in this religion, namely that between the egalitarianism associated with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on all believers and the hierarchy that follows from the charismatic authority of church leaders. Drawing on ethnographic material from the Zambian Copperbelt, the author traces out the egalitarian and hierarchical aspects of Pentecostal ritual in order to demonstrate the importance of both of these elements to the social relationships that Pentecostal adherence produces. While the tension between egalitarianism and hierarchy is evident in all Pentecostal groups, on the Copperbelt their interaction produces social results which build on extant cultural models, and which have particular significance in the light of Zambia’s recent economic history. These local resonances in turn allow us to address discontinuity, a central topic in analyses of Pentecostalism, as well as the role of creativity in ritual practice.
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: The evangelical-charismatic Family of God Church (GBI-KA: Gereja Bethel Indonesia – Keluarga Allah) was founded in the Javanese town of Solo and is currently booming, especially in predominantly Muslim surroundings. The reason why so many Christians prefer specifically this church over several other churches in town is still unknown. After doing ethnographic field research in 2011, I suggest that the reasons for its boom are not so much the economy or successful business relations, as was perhaps the case up tol five years ago. To prove my findings, I will take a closer look at the Family of God Church’s economic and social system as well as its internal structure. It is quite obvious that this church, like many other churches, fills a gap in Indonesian social politics. But what is different about the Family of God Church is its inner cell-structure, which sees everyone as a potential leader. This structure picks up the idea of the International Charismatic Mission Church (ICMC) of G12 cell churches. The idea is to build an endlessly growing organism of cells and then add a spiritual component by organising these cells in groups of twelve to evoke the idea of Jesus and his twelve apostles. Next to the attractive spiritual component, this organisational structure stands out in contrast to the Javanese traditional social system as it offers individuals the chance to move up the hierarchical ladder. Furthermore, the masses of the fast growing population are broken down into small groups who share the same aim, i.e. to experience Jesus or to be “born again” (melahirkan kembali), as they call it.
Pons, Christophe (2011) “The Anthropology of Christianity in the Faroe Islands: What the fringes of the Faroese religious configuration have to say about Christianity,” in Firouz Gaini (ed), Among the Islanders of the North: An Anthropology of the Faroe Islands. Tórshavn: Faroe University Press
Excerpt: “At the beginnings of the 1980s, in the remote villages of the small North Atlantic archipelago of the Faroe Islands, some people started talking about Jesus in a different way. They said that Jesus was with them all the time, that he was their fellow, their best friend, that he opened their eyes and their hearts. They claimed that Jesus saved them by offering them freedom and that they were dong some new kind of evangelization in a proselytical and aggressive way. At first the Faroese people found this a little strange. But with time, the Friends of Jesus – as we shall call them – became part of the Faroese religious landscape . . . “