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.
Abstract: The emergent church movement has fashioned itself as an alternative for Christians who do not want to walk away from their faith, but feel uncomfortable with the dogmatic conservatism found in mainstream evangelicalism. The emerging church movement has portrayed itself as diverse and inclusive, which is a direct result of evading ingroup-outgroup boundaries. However, despite the desire for a plurality of opinions, the movement’s leaders have been known to take political positions that are largely left-leaning. We use the first dataset known to gather this identity from a sample of Protestant clergy, and assess whether denominationally connected emergent church clergy do, in fact, present a distinctive political profile. Emergent clergy are what they say they are—diverse and inclusive—while they are, on average, more liberal than nonemergent clergy in the sample.
Elisha, Omri. 2013. All Catholics Now? Spectres of Catholicism in Evangelical Social Engagement. In The New Evangelical Social Engagement edited by Brian Steensland, Philip Goff, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Excerpt: “Addressing an audience of conservative leaders and lobbyists in February 2012, evangelical pundit and former governor Mike Huckabee boldly announced, “We are all Catholics now.” The surprising rallying cry, coming from an ordained Southern Baptist pastor, was in response to a controversy over an Obama administration proposal to require private employers, including religious organizations, to provide insurance coverage for contraception. Catholic bishops came out vigorously opposing the measure, and Huckabee’s show of solidarity, in the name of religious liberty and defeating President Obama, was adopted by a variety of high-profile conservatives, including evangelicals as well as other non-Catholics. In July, in what was heralded as an unprecedented move, evangelical flagship Wheaton College joined Catholic University of America in a lawsuit against the federal mandate.
Such politics of affinity may seem counterintuitive, but they make sense in the context of an election year when two GOP contenders (Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum) and the party’s vice presidential nominee (Paul Ryan) were Roman Catholics with strong support among conservative evangelicals. Indeed, evangelicals and Roman Catholics have found ways to get along for decades, demonstrating repeated, albeit cautious, willingness to forge mean- ingful partnerships despite stark doctrinal differences and mutual recrimi- nations. From the ecumenism of the Billy Graham crusades to the abortion activism of the religious right, to interfaith dialogue groups like Catholics and Evangelicals for the Common Good (spearheaded by veteran bridge-builders like Ron Sider), evangelicals and Catholics routinely find common cause around moral, political, and social issues. In recent years, leaders and intel- lectuals of both traditions have come together to form coalitions and working groups, issuing influential (and controversial) manifestos such as the landmark “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” document of 1994 and the Manhattan Declaration of 2009. The charismatic renewal movement opened up multiple lines of communication and joint worship that continue to influence adherents in both camps. And as is evident in this book, especially in chapters 2, 9, and 10, politically and socially engaged evangelicals have been borrowing conceptual tools and mobilization strategies from Catholic activists for many years.
Aside from formal partnerships and dialogues, there are subtle and implicit resonances between contemporary evangelical and Catholic sensi- bilities that are less conspicuous but worth investigating as well. This chapter is an attempt to think about notable features and cultural characteristics of evangelicalism’s new social engagement that recall or resonate with Roman Catholic theology and practice, with an emphasis on shared motivational themes especially as applied to ministries of social welfare. While the fact that evangelicals and Catholics are able to come together around certain social and political issues is significant, issue agreement is only one marker of elective affinity. By framing my discussion in terms of resonance (intentional or otherwise) rather than collaboration, I point to underlying affinities between these two traditions, and, more important, I highlight the ways that divergent traditions separated by centuries of theology and ritual practice may find themselves drawn into closer alignments in their modalities of religious and social action, resulting from gradual shifts in public consciousness. The possible ways in which uniquely evangelical influences make their way into Catholic ministries and services merit exploration as well, but this is not within the purview of my discussion here.”
Excerpt: “Marcia Pally’s incisive essay on “the new evangelicals” highlights a relatively small but growing population of white evangelicals who appear to be embracing broader, less conservative visions of the common good, and public policy views (at least partially) more in line with Democratic politics than their recent forebears. While her descriptions presumably are not limited to those who necessarily call themselves “new evangelicals,” she does invoke the work and ideas of public evangelicals who clearly self-identify as such. This points to an interesting observation worth considering here: to assume the mantle of newness is to make an ideological statement as well as a historical claim.
Newness is a fascinating, and very loaded concept. It expresses ideas of innovation and progress, as well as rupture and substitution. Whether presented in the form of prophetic revelations, revolutionary ideologies, or consumer branding, “the New” is always wrapped in a combination of promise and threat – it promises to improve upon the old, while threatening to eclipse and even replace it. Newness inspires hope as well as fear, with a provocative power that sometimes borders on the messianic.”
Abstract: The aim of this article is to discuss the participation of Evangelicals in Brazilian institutional politics since Neo-Pentecostals have become engaged in party politics and in electoral campaigns. This discussion is based on studies in Rio de Janeiro, where the Neo-Pentecostals’ political activities have had the highest profile, as a result of the election of Evangelicals to legislative and executive positions in the last ten years. The article begins with a brief presentation of the current debate on the relationship between modernity and the secularisation process. It considers the specifics of Latin American societies, especially Brazil, where the line between religion and institutional politics is not fixed. It also examines the changes in the Brazilian religious sphere, and their implications for institutional politics, with the presence of Neo-Pentecostals as new political actors, and discusses the spheres of influence that interest these Evangelical political actors. Finally, it seeks to examine the correlation of the forces of religious institutions, Catholic and Evangelical, and their clashes with the social movements in Brazilian society.