Abstract: Lighthouse Chapel International (LCI) is a Ghanaian Pentecostal-charismatic organization with a transnational reach. In this article, I analyze the pedagogical system whereby this denomination has introduced converts into its ‘church planting’ mission. LCI leaders are keenly aware of both the necessity and the perils of discipline to the Christian life, exemplifying two stances of Pentecostal-charismatic ethics and politics: its quantitative concern with accessibility, and its qualitative concern with piety. Attempts to balance these relatively autonomous trends engender a gradational and distributive approach to discipline and leniency in LCI, which calibrates disciplinary demands according to converts’ level of ‘spiritual maturity’. This article takes the dialectics of discipline and lenience that characterizes LCI’s ecclesiology as an opportunity to reconsider religious subject formation beyond the dominant problem of ‘self-fashioning’.
Abstract: Based on fieldwork among the Makhuwa of northern Mozambique, this essay explores how non-Pentecostal models of transformation shape a people’s manner of relating to Pentecostalism. Radical change has long been constitutive of Makhuwa history and subjectivity. Yet Makhuwa patterns of change, commonly conceived in terms of movement, entail regress as much as egress – circular mobilities that disrupt linear teleologies. State administrators and Pentecostal missionaries attempt to reform local inhabitants by, respectively, ‘sedentarising’ and ‘converting’ them. Deploying their historical proclivity towards mobility, those among whom I worked appear simultaneously eager to partake in resettlement schemes and reluctant to remain settled by them. I argue that their ambivalence towards Pentecostal churches and teachings, in particular, challenges two prevailing assumptions within anthropological studies of Christianity: that discontinuity is definitive, and that it is exceptional to Pentecostalism.
Abstract: Once a matter of beliefs, symbols, values and worldviews, religion has progressively appeared in recent anthropological works as material religion, a highly concrete phenomenon based on affects, senses, substances, places, artifacts, and technologies. But what happened to transcendence, the dimension of religious worldmaking that remains beyond – hidden, untouched, unseen, unheard or unfulfilled? Is it necessarily the ‘other’ of material religion, a residual category that carries no ethnographic value? Retaining an emic concern with authority and a reflexive awareness about processes of boundary-making, in this article I approach material religion as a field of problematization inhabited by anthropologists and religious subjects alike. I examine some of the protocols whereby Pentecostal Christians in Ghana engage critically with the problem of materiality in their own religion, and argue that this operation lends ethnographic access to the role of transcendence in material religion’s everyday.
Everett, Margaret & Michelle Ramirez. 2015. Healing the Curse of the grosero Husband: Women’s Health Seeking and Pentecostal Conversion in Oaxaca, Mexico. Journal of Contemporary Religion, 30(3): 415-433.
Abstract: Drawing on anthropological research in Oaxaca, Mexico, this article describes the role of health seeking in women’s experiences with Pentecostal conversion. The present study confirms that Pentecostalism’s promise of reforming problematic male behavior is a significant draw for women. Women’s stories of conversion are strikingly consistent in their accounts of male drinking, womanizing, and domestic violence. However, the findings also demonstrate that when efforts to domesticate men fail—and they often do—women still find significant ways in which Pentecostalism addresses suffering. The study provides a unique contribution to the literature by exploring that paradox in detail.
Abstract: This article explores the increasingly common argument that Pentecostal Christianity, far from being apolitical, is very politically engaged. I make two contributions to this discussion. First, my analysis provides a detailed account of how Pentecostal religious life serves as political engagement in an especially significant ethnographic context: Zambia, the only African country to make a constitutional declaration that it is a “Christian nation.” For Zambian Pentecostals, “the declaration” is a covenant with God made according to the principles of the prosperity gospel. By regularly reaffirming that covenant through prayer, believers do political work. My treatment of the prosperity gospel represents the second contribution of this article. Whereas others have argued that the prosperity gospel undermines public engagement, I show how its practices inform the political efforts of Zambian believers. I conclude by reflecting on how changes in the prosperity gospel may shape the future political actions of African Pentecostals.