Publisher’s description: Upward, Not Sunwise explores an influential and growing neo-Pentecostal movement among Native Americans characterized by evangelical Christian theology, charismatic “spirit-filled” worship, and decentralized Native control. As in other global contexts, neo-Pentecostalism is spread by charismatic evangelists practicing faith healing at tent revivals.In North America, this movement has become especially popular among the Diné (Navajo), where the Oodlání (“Believers”) movement now numbers nearly sixty thousand members. Participants in this movement value their Navajo cultural identity yet maintain a profound religious conviction that the beliefs of their ancestors are tools of the devil.
Kimberly Jenkins Marshall has been researching the Oodlání movement since 2006 and presents the first book-length study of Navajo neo-Pentecostalism. Key to the popularity of this movement is what the author calls “resonant rupture,” or the way the apparent continuity of expressive forms holds appeal for Navajos, while believers simultaneously deny the continuity of these forms at the level of meaning. Although the music, dance, and poetic language at Oodlání tent revivals is identifiably Navajo, Oodlání carefully re-inscribe their country gospel music, dancing in the spirit, use of the Navajo language, and materials of faith healing as transformationally new and different. Marshall explores these and other nuances of Navajo neo-Pentecostal practices by examining how Oodlání perform their faith under the big white tents scattered across the Navajo Nation.
Abstract: The neo-Pentecostal Oodlání movement is on the rise among Diné (Navajo) of the US South-West, characterized by independent Navajo-led churches and charismatic worship. In this article, I focus on the experiential nature of neo-Pentecostalism to argue that its growth, over and above other forms of Navajo Christianity, capitalizes on a type of resonant rupture with traditional Navajo spirituality. Specifically, I focus on the Oodlání relationship with non-human (supernatural) actors. While experientiality provides an avenue for deeply felt continuity, a close look at Oodlání non-human actors (and the options for interacting with them) demonstrates that neoPentecostalism fundamentally forges cultural rupture.
Abstract: Christianity has experienced dramatic growth among Navajos since 1950, and the exclusive practice of neo-Pentecostal Christianity can now, by some estimates, claim up to 20 percent of the Navajo population. The popularity of neo-Pentecostalism among Navajos has been attributed to cultural and economic stress put on Navajos after 1950. In this article, however, I situate the development of neo-Pentecostal faith among Navajos within the broader national movement of the Healing Revival that breathed new life into American Pentecostalism in the 1950s. I explore the two primary paths of contact between Navajos and the Healing Revival: visits to the “Miracle Revivals” of A. A. Allen in southern Arizona and attendance at charismatic healing revival meetings on the Navajo Nation. I argue that these two interrelated encounters facilitated Navajo ownership of Christianity through the encouragement of “anointed” Navajo leadership and the establishment of broad Pentecostal networks.