Abstract: Many scholars have debated the potential results of pilgrimage, but few have tracked how pre-trip goals actually relate to post-trip outcomes. Based on research with US evangelicals, this article argues that, despite being confronted with the possibility of disrupted meaning, nearly every pilgrim comes to see the trip as a success. To understand why, I draw on studies that frame Christian rituals as processes that are partial and in flux. Firstly, I explore how gendered notions of relationality affect perceptions of efficacy and lead to multiple goal-setting. Secondly, I show how the journey is couched within broader epistemologies that define a Christian life as incremental improvements, where one ‘grows’ with God. Thus the meaning making associated with pilgrimage is never fully complete, but is compelled into a future where further interpretations and presumed successes are inchoate. Ultimately, the belief in future meaning is as important—perhaps more so—than immediate ritual success.
Abstract: Ritual is a domain of analysis shared across Christian confessions and continents. Yet in anthropological work on Christianity, studies of ritual have thus far remained piecemeal and disjointed, unwittingly perpetuating distinctions between north and south, ‘secular’ and ‘religious’ publics, Pentecostals and ‘the rest’. This introductory essay charts the analytic potential of developing a robust cross-cultural analysis of ritual from the perspective of anthropologists of Christianity. We employ ritual risk and efficacy to expand the ongoing study of the practice of Christian sociality, which we explore through three themes. Firstly, this collection is united by a shared interest in ritual inefficacy—the ‘infelicitous’ moments when ritual go awry— and the societal and metaphysical risks that may result. Secondly, the collection examines the social ‘work’ of ritual in defining and authorizing particular forms of Christianity. Finally, the essays explore the ways Christian futures are imagined and created through ritual.
Abstract: The public role of religious objects is highly contested in Quebec, epitomized by the Charter of Values in 2013. In this heated political atmosphere, rural Catholics continue to create and care for more than 3,000 wayside crosses. They note that these colourful, fifteen-foot devotional objects often remain invisible to passersby, unless a cross “calls” someone to it. Proceeding from this observation, this article unites studies of mate- rial culture with recent work on secularism to argue that the crosses exemplify a form of engagement with secularism that corresponds to what anthropologist Matthew Engelke calls “ambient faith”: religiosity that filters in and out of sensory and conscious space. Extending this idea, I argue that ambient objects exert an authority often missed in stud- ies of public religion, which still focus largely on political discourse and legal codes about marked objects (e.g. the hijab). As ambient objects, wayside crosses are powerful because they ‘act’ on human beings, thereby mediating a dichotomy between “modernity” and traditional Catholicism by laying claim to both at once.
Abstract: Messianic Judaism, a network of congregations that incorporate Jewish ritual into evangelical worship, is one branch of a fast-growing trend among Christians globally towards ‘Jewish affinity’. Drawing on a multi-site comparison in North America, this article examines one of Messianic Judaism’s most significant internal debates: should non-ethnically Jewish ‘gentile believers’ (GBs) obey biblical laws? It argues that GBs do not simply imitate Jews badly, as outsiders and their own leaders often believe. Rather, their actions are best characterized as mimesis in two complementary forms: mimesis of Jews and ‘mimetic discipleship’ of Jesus-the-Jew. Taken together, these forms offer a heuristic tool sufficiently capacious to explain both individuals’ propensity for Jewish practice and the socially specific ways it is constructed. I conclude that Jewish affinity reflects a key problem in contemporary Christianity, namely what happens when people in one religion (Christianity) come to believe that their God incarnated in the body of a man they now associate with another religion (Judaism)?
Abstract: This article discusses some recent theoretical and methodological trends in studies of pilgrimage, a field that has grown significantly as of late. It begins by exploring how scholars might study failure during pilgrimage, and the difficulties therein. It moves on to discuss the fruitful, but also fitful, coexistence of scholars and practitioners who contribute to studies of pilgrimage. It ends by tracing some avenues for further research that would move beyond the confines of a subfield, creating the potential for work on pilgrimage to shape important conversations in multiple disciplines and areas of expertise.
Religion and Society: Advances in Research, volume 5, 2014, features an edited collection on “Pilgrimage to the Holy Lands” edited by Jackie Feldman and Donna Young.
Introduction: Contested Narratives of Storied Places – the Holy Lands
Guiding Settler Jerusalem: Voice and the Transpositions of History in Religious Zionist Pilgrimage
Alejandro I. Paz
Changing Colors of Money: Tips, Commissions and Ritual in Christian Pilgrimage to the Holy Land
Age of Innocence: The Symbolic Child and Political Conflict on American Holy Land Pilgrimage
‘The Empty Tomb’ as Metaphor: Finding Comfort in Nothingness
The Accidental Pilgrim: Olive Pickers in Palestine
By: Jackie Feldman (Ben Gurion University)
“On each trip, certain interpenetrations are articulated and shaped by group leaders, Many, however, are not. At the back of the bus, pilgrims make the experience meaningful in ways that guides and tour operators may not expect and cannot predict. Pilgrims keep these deeply felt connections to themselves, and they color each trip in very personal ways.” (Kaell 2014: 80)
Although I have been working with American Holy Land pilgrims for over three decades, both as anthropologist and as tour guide, Hillary Kaell’s book surprised me. The perspective she has chosen – accompanying and talking with women before, during and after the voyage – places the voyage within a longue durée that was invisible to me as tour guide, and only partially visible as researcher. Rather than privilege the narratives spoken into bus microphones by guides and pastors/priests, Kaell places her microphone with the woman in the back, who rarely expresses her desires or thoughts in public on the tour. This perspective is a useful corrective to scholars who focus on ecclesiastical guidelines, sermons, recited public prayers, guides’ explanations, and the goals made explicit by the pilgrim/tour industry or the pastors who organize and lead groups. Kaell’s concentration on the lived experience of 50-75 year-old Catholic and evangelical American women traveling to the Holy Land demonstrates how the geographical, political or even biblical context of the sites and routes of the Holy Land may serve as the background for an intensely personal trajectory. This personal path is a continuation of the home lives of ‘middle-old’ aged women, who make up a major portion of Holy Land pilgrims. Without ignoring denominational distinctions, Kaell reminds us that the pilgrimage experience is rooted in profoundly American, (mainly) middle-class values that cut across traditional religious lines. Continue reading
Abstract: Messianic Judaism is an American-born movement of congregations that hold evangelical beliefs and follow Jewish practices. Scholars have viewed it chiefly as a new religious movement (NRM) or a controversial branch of Judaism. As a result, they have downplayed or ignored its largely evangelical Christian base. The first study of ‘gentile believers,’ this article argues that Messianic Judaism is best understood through the lens of religious seeking, a trend usually associated with alternative spiritualities and still under-theorized vis-à-vis conservative Christians, like evangelicals. First, it traces why Messianic Judaism appeals to growing numbers of North American Christians. Second, and more broadly, it argues that seeking is a spiritually satisfying religious practice that, for evangelicals, reiterates central themes of born-again life. Their experiences also clarify the limits that may constrain religious seeking; they seek to deepen and actualize a biblical worldview in religious sites viewed as proximate to their own.
Publisher’s Description: Since the 1950s, millions of American Christians have traveled to the Holy Land to visit places in Israel and the Palestinian territories associated with Jesus’s life and death. Why do these pilgrims choose to journey halfway around the world? How do they react to what they encounter, and how do they understand the trip upon return? This book places the answers to these questions into the context of broad historical trends, analyzing how the growth of mass-market evangelical and Catholic pilgrimage relates to changes in American Christian theology and culture over the last sixty years, including shifts in Jewish-Christian relations, the growth of small group spirituality, and the development of a Christian leisure industry.
Drawing on five years of research with pilgrims before, during and after their trips, Walking Where Jesus Walked offers a lived religion approach that explores the trip’s hybrid nature for pilgrims themselves: both ordinary—tied to their everyday role as the family’s ritual specialists, and extraordinary—since they leave home in a dramatic way, often for the first time. Their experiences illuminate key tensions in contemporary US Christianity between material evidence and transcendent divinity, commoditization and religious authority, domestic relationships and global experience.
Hillary Kaell crafts the first in-depth study of the cultural and religious significance of American Holy Land pilgrimage after 1948. The result sheds light on how Christian pilgrims, especially women, make sense of their experience in Israel-Palestine, offering an important complement to top-down approaches in studies of Christian Zionism and foreign policy.
Opening Paragraph: “Each year nearly 300,000 US Christians walk where Jesus walked,’ traveling halfway around the world to visit biblical sites in Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA). As they tread hallowed ground, gaze from bus windows, and snap photos at panoramic lookouts, these pilgrims notice trash: litter, abandoned cars, unkempt houses. Garbage is always present at idealized sites, of course, but most tourists overlook it (Urry, 2002). In the Holy Land, however, it is too symbolically resonant to ignore. In fact, ‘trash talk’ serves a crucial role in the trip’s discourse. It offers US pilgrims a way to speak in a moral register about Israelis and Palestinians without engaging regional politics directly, which most try hard to avoid.”