Reviewed by: Brendan Jamal Thornton (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill)
Depending on what you are looking for, the title of Jessica Johnson’s 2018 volume from Duke University Press may be a bit misleading: you need not be home alone or draw the curtains closed in order to crack the spine of this thoughtful text which is based on a decade of comprehensive ethnographic research on Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington, and its shock jock pastor Mark Driscoll. From 1996 to 2014, Driscoll built an evangelical empire whose quick ascent to national prominence was matched only by its precipitous fall from grace following a series of scandals that would topple the church and sully its reputation. Distinguishing himself as a provocateur through controversial teachings on marriage and relationships, Driscoll’s relatively novel brand of mondo evangelical theology won him both celebrity and notoriety among white middle-class Americans who found his signature sermonizing on sex to be as compelling as it was titillating. According to Johnson, Driscoll’s appeal lay in his rhetorical talents and “gift” for hyperbole, skills that for over a decade routinely seduced audiences who were at once stirred and troubled by his unorthodox preaching on “biblical oral sex,” and other salacious topics. Continue reading →
Publishers’s Description: A Moving Faith captures the dynamic shift of Christianity to the South and portrays a global movement that promises prosperity, healing, empowerment, and gender equality by invoking neo-Pentecostal and Charismatic resources. It postulates that neither North America nor Europe is the current center of the Christian faith.
The book provides a detailed overview of how migration of Christians from the South enriches the North, for instance, Pope Francis brings newness, freshness, and the vigor characteristic of the South. While describing Christianity’s growth in the South, it suggests that, in fact, there is no center for this global faith. It explores this great move of Christianity by focusing on representative mega churches in South Korea, Brazil, Peru, Ghana, Nigeria, Australia, India, and the Philippines.
In an era where church attendance has reached an all-time low, recent polling has shown that Americans are becoming less formally religious and more promiscuous in their religious commitments. Within both mainline and evangelical Christianity in America, it is common to hear of secularizing pressures and increasing competition from nonreligious sources. Yet there is a kind of religious institution that has enjoyed great popularity over the past thirty years: the evangelical megachurch. Evangelical megachurches not only continue to grow in number, but also in cultural, political, and economic influence. To appreciate their appeal is to understand not only how they are innovating, but more crucially, where their innovation is taking place.
In this groundbreaking and interdisciplinary study, Justin G. Wilford argues that the success of the megachurch is hinged upon its use of space: its location on the postsuburban fringe of large cities, its fragmented, dispersed structure, and its focus on individualized spaces of intimacy such as small group meetings in homes, which help to interpret suburban life as religiously meaningful and create a sense of belonging. Based on original fieldwork at Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church, one of the largest and most influential megachurches in America, Sacred Subdivisions explains how evangelical megachurches thrive by transforming mundane secular spaces into arenas of religious significance.
Abstract: The theological prescriptions of a believer’s burden preached at a large non-denominational Charismatic megachurch in Ukraine involve transforming the city in which one lives into a promised land. The means to do so involve making money and using that money to create ‘blessings’ for others. The actions of a group of entrepreneurs associated with this megachurch who have put this theology into practice have led to cross-cutting indictments of evil. The controversy that ensued over the proper response of a believer to suffering and urban plight reveals how the processes of moral reasoning to determine the sources of evil can be interpreted very differently when there is little agreement over the divine or demonic providence of money and what the public role of religion should be.
Abstract: The paper analyses transnational flows of Pentecostalism between Australia and Brazil. It analyses the establishment of CNA, a Brazilian church that caters for the increasing number of Brazilian students in Sydney. It also investigates the ways in which Hillsong, an Australian Pentecostal megachurch, has influenced CNA and has been alluring young Pentecostal Brazilians to Australia. Scholars have paid little attention to how religious institutions in the host country may influence rituals and facilitate the establishment of the new church. I argue that churches created by migrants are not established in a deterritorialized diasporic vacuum. Reterritorialization engenders hybridity. Following an admiration for Australian churches due to Australia being part of the English-speaking developed world, CNA is a hybrid of a conservative Brazilian Baptist church and the very informal Hillsong church. I contend that it is precisely this hybridity that makes young Brazilians adhere to it since the church works as an effective bridge between Brazilian and Australian cultures. Furthermore, this paper demonstrates the polycentric nature of Pentecostalism, as Australia is becoming a centre for the dissemination of Hillsong-style Pentecostalism in Brazil.
Abstract: Researchers usually address the political aspect of Evangelical groups by highlighting their involvement in party politics: their ability to create new organisations or form alliances with existing ones, introducing into the electoral field the assumption of a more or less homogeneous or easily influenced ‘Christian vote’. However, historical experience in Argentina shows that launching into politics is full of obstacles. Some of the most important innovations introduced by Neo-Pentecostalism – as the fastest-growing expression of the Evangelical world – are linked to the consolidation of megachurches in middle- and high-class neighbourhoods and the training of Evangelical leaders on a large scale. Both these innovations develop in correlation with a shift of the Gospel towards the ‘world’ and the need for social change; that is, a Christian call to transform the environment. This article aims to explore the political implications of Evangelical leadership in megachurches located in Buenos Aires, Argentina. This work is based on original materials, compiled for a research project using ethnographic techniques such as participant observation, in-depth interviews and documentation review.