van Wyk, “Prosperity and the work of luck in the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, South Africa”

Abstract: In 1905, Weber contended that uncertainty about their eternal fate forced Protestants to find secular signs of their destiny in their vocations, their frugality and in their ability to work hard and accumulate capital. More than a century later, the ‘Protestant ethic’ has changed irrevocably. Today, the phenomenal rise of Pentecostal–Charismatic Churches has largely displaced the doctrine of predestination and firmly entrenched the prosperity gospel at the very heart of popular Protestantism. In many African PCCs, the pursuit of ‘blessings’ now trumps older concerns over secular vocations and hard work. Indeed, in churches such as the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG), Christians are urged to demand ‘miracle jobs’ from God and to reject humble vocations and small salaries, regardless of their qualifications, skills or experience. Based on long-term fieldwork with members of the UCKG in South Africa, this paper examines the work of luck (good and bad) in the lives of ordinary believers, how this new ‘work’ attempts to regulate the flow of money and how it participates in older notions of prosperity, fate and good fortune.

van Wyk, “The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God in South Africa”

van Wyk, Ilana.  2014. The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God in South Africa: A Church of Strangers.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Publisher’s Description: The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG), a church of Brazilian origin, has been enormously successful in establishing branches and attracting followers in post-apartheid South Africa. Unlike other Pentecostal Charismatic Churches (PCC), the UCKG insists that relationships with God be devoid of ’emotions’, that socialisation between members be kept to a minimum and that charity and fellowship are ‘useless’ in materialising God’s blessings. Instead, the UCKG urges members to sacrifice large sums of money to God for delivering wealth, health, social harmony and happiness. While outsiders condemn these rituals as empty or manipulative, this book shows that they are locally meaningful, demand sincerity to work, have limits and are informed by local ideas about human bodies, agency and ontological balance. As an ethnography of people rather than of institutions, this book offers fresh insights into the mass PCC movement that has swept across Africa since the early 1990s.