Bakker, “Sister Churches”

Bakker, Janel Kragt. 2013. Sister Churches: American Congregations and Their Partners Abroad. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Publisher’s Description: The growth of Christianity in the global South and the fall of colonialism in the middle of the twentieth century caused a crisis in Christian missions, as many southern Christians spoke out about indignities they had suffered and many northern Christians retreated from the global South. American Christians soon began looking for a fresh start, a path forward that was neither isolationist nor domineering. Out of this dream the ”sister church” model of mission was born. In this model, rather than Western churches sending representatives into the ”mission field,” they set up congregation-to-congregation partnerships with churches in the global South. In Sister Churches Janel Bakker draws on extensive fieldwork and interviews with participants in these partnerships to explore the sister church movement and in particular its effects on American churches. Because Christianity is numerically and in many ways spiritually stronger in the global South than it is in the global North—while the imbalance in material resources runs in the opposite direction—both northern and southern Christians stand to gain. Challenging prevailing notions of friction between northern and southern Christians, Bakker argues that sister church relationships are marked by interconnectivity and collaboration.

Quiroa, “Missionary Exegesis of the Popol Vuh”

Quiroa, Nestor. 2013. Missionary Exegesis of the Popol Vuh: Maya-K’iche’ Cultural and Religious Continuity in Colonial and Contemporary Highland Guatemala. History of Religions 53(1): 66-97.

Article Excerpt:

The decade of the 1990s witnessed the development of two pivotal moments in the modern history of Guatemala. In 1996, ten years of violence and genocide came to an end with the consummation of the Peace Accord, in Oslo, Norway, between the Guatemalan army and the guerrilla insurgency. This internationally monitored cease-fire opened the necessary national space for an indigenous political movement known as the “Movimiento Maya” or pan-Maya Movement. Among the demands of this movement was a call for the redefinition of Guatemala as a multiethnic, pluralistic, and multilingual society, with full political and cultural rights for the Maya peoples.

On a different level, this new national agenda included the recovery, development, and diffusion of Maya spirituality, which, according to activist Maya-Kaqchikel and Presbyterian Victorino Similox, required a fundamental reassessment of Christian theology within the framework of Maya cultural paradigms. The creation of Maya hermeneutics represented one of the most challenging tasks in this process because it entailed rescuing and decoding the necessary symbols, rites, and myths from ancient Maya civilization.At the center of this theological reformulation was the Popol Wuj, or sacred book, of the ancient Maya, which became the heuristic source for knowledge of the ancient word. However, the prominence that this sacred text played in the spiritual life of Maya communities was a point of unresolved contention between Maya Catholics, Maya Protestants, and those Maya committed to ancient religious beliefs. Although this national theological dialogue over the spiritual relevance of the Popol Wuj occurred two decades ago, the theological implications it evoked find deep roots in five hundred years of Christianization of the Maya population of highland Guatemala.

This study takes an unorthodox approach to the Popol Wuj, given that most traditional scholarship focuses exclusively on its mytho-historical content in order to understand the precolonial Maya culture and worldview. This essay, however, aims to complement such approaches by analyzing the Popol Wuj within the two contexts of the spiritual conversion that the highland Guatemala Maya-K’iche’ population endured under the auspices of Catholic and Protestant missionaries. This comparative analysis between the Dominican Friar Francisco Ximénez’s missionary campaign in the seventeenth century and that of the Presbyterian missionaries Paul and Dora Burgess early in the twentieth century provides an opportunity to inquire into how this creation narrative has impacted the missionaries’ mind-set from colonial to modern times. It will be argued that in both cases the Popol Vuh narrative determined the way these missionaries constructed their image of the Maya-K’iche’ peoples, reshaped their theological positions on Maya religious beliefs, and dictated their agendas so as to best convert the native population to Christianity.

Mosse, “The Saint in the Banyan Tree”

Mosse, David.  2012.  The Saint in the Banyan Tree: Christianity and Caste Society in India.  Berkeley: University of California Press.

Publisher’s Description: The Saint in the Banyan Tree is a nuanced and historically persuasive exploration of Christianity’s remarkable trajectory as a social and cultural force in southern India. Starting in the seventeenth century, when the religion was integrated into Tamil institutions of caste and popular religiosity, this study moves into the twentieth century, when Christianity became an unexpected source of radical transformation for the country’s ‘untouchables’ (dalits). Mosse shows how caste was central to the way in which categories of ‘religion’ and ‘culture’ were formed and negotiated in missionary encounters, and how the social and semiotic possibilities of Christianity lead to a new politic of equal rights in South India. Skillfully combining archival research with anthropological fieldwork, this book examines the full cultural impact of Christianity on Indian religious, social and political life. Connecting historical ethnography to the preoccupations of priests and Jesuit social activists, Mosse throws new light on the contemporary nature of caste, conversion, religious synthesis, secularization, dalit politics, the inherent tensions of religious pluralism, and the struggle for recognition among subordinated people.

Tremlett, “Two shock doctrines”

Tremlett, Paul-Francois.  2012.  Two shock doctrines: From Christo-disciplinary to neoliberal urbanisms in the Philippines.  Culture and Religion 13(4): 405-423.

Abstract:  In this essay, I contrast two moments of shock to open Christianity in the Philippines to a spatial analysis. I begin by framing the Spanish colonial period and the Christianisation of the Philippines as a spatial shock. The Philippines was spatially transformed through colonial projects such as urbanism, intensive agriculture and resource extraction that, taken together, can be understood in the first instance as processes of unmapping, where environments once alive and animated by meaningful relations between peoples and places were reconfigured as empty, and in the second instance as the instantiation of a new sensorium with profound consequences for how Filipinos would, thereafter, experience the world. I dwell initially on Spanish urban practices and the optical power of the planned town as the emplacement of a Christo-disciplinary sensorium that rendered local populations legible and visible to colonial power, generating new types, compositions and combinations of subjects and establishing new points of coordination for Filipino bodies and minds. I then move ‘forward’ in time to consider a second and rather more contemporary spatial shock. Here, the organising logic of the Christo-disciplinary sensorium is under threat as a new urban morphology and a new mobile religiosity mark the emergence of a new, neoliberal sensorium.

Adogame and Shankar (eds) “Religion on the Move!”

Adogame, Afe and Shobana Shankar (eds).  2012.  Religion on the Move!: New Dynamics of Religious Expansion in a Globalizing World.  Leiden: Brill.

Publisher’s Description:  How do religions spread in today’s world, where Christian missions have lost influence and modern nations have replaced colonial empires? Religions on the Move is a collection of essays charting new religious expansions. Contemporary evangelists may be Nigerian, Korean, Brazilian or Congolese, working at the grassroots and outside the mainstream in Pentecostal, reformist Islamic, and Hindu spiritual currents. While transportation and media provide newfound mobility, the mission field may be next door, in Europe, North America, and within the “South,” where migrants from Africa, Asia, and Latin America settle. These essays, using perspectives from religious studies, ethnography, history and sociology, show that immigrants, women, and other disempowered peoples transmit their faiths from everywhere to everywhere, engaging in globalization from below.

Braunlein, “We are 100% Catholic”

Braunlein, Peter J. 2012. “We are 100% Catholic“: Philippine Passion Rituals and Some Obstacles in the Study of Non-European Christianity. Journal of Religion in Europe 5(3):384-413.

Abstract: Philippine Catholicism is usually seen as a variant of a non-European Christianity, which was formerly introduced by Spanish missionaries and colonizers into the Philippine Archipelago. Philippine passion rituals, especially self-flagellation and rites of crucifixion, are commonly interpreted as bizarre phenomena of a pre-modern folk-religiosity or archaic survivals of `our’ past, or as a post-colonial mimicry of European religious history. The perspective on Philippine Christianity is always governed by European discourses, whether religious, scientific, or common sense. This paper is an attempt to question dichotomies such as `European’ and `non-European,’ `modern’ and `pre-modern,’ `authentic’ and `inauthentic,’ etc. In the study of religion such dichotomies, I argue, create problems of conceptualizing diversity within one religious tradition and behind such distinctions lurks the implicit self-perception of the West of being exemplary `modern.’ I use Philippine passion rituals as a hermeneutic challenge. Crucifixions are analyzed as media events and from the actor’s perspective, by historicizing the missionary encounter, and by scrutinizing concepts such as `syncretism’ and `identity.’ `Translation’ and the `histoire croisée’ approach are proposed as helpful analytical tools for the study of Christianity.