In Walking on the Pages of the Word of God Aron Engberg explores the religious language and identities of evangelical volunteer workers in contemporary Jerusalem. The volunteers are connected to Christian organizations which consider their work a natural consequence of the biblical promises to Israel and their responsibility to “bless the Jewish people”.
Relying on ethnographic data of the discursive practices of the volunteers, the book explores a central puzzle of Zionist Christianity: the narrative production of Israel’s religious significance and its relationship to broader Christian language traditions. By focusing on the volunteers’ stories about themselves, the land and the Bible, Aron Engberg offers a convincing account about how the State of Israel is finding its way into evangelical identities.
Abstract: Most scholarly discussions of autism and religion presuppose the absent self theory of autism. The theory holds that autistic persons lack a sense of self and anticipates that they will have trouble relating to a personal God and assigning religious meaning to their lives. I argue that the theory is untestable, which leaves scholars of religion with a choice: either we can say, with proponents of the absent self theory, that autistic persons lack a self, a choice that cuts religious studies off from the lived theologies of autistic persons of faith; or we can view autistic persons of faith as authority voices on their religious self-experience. As an example of what scholars of religion stand to gain by choosing the latter, I present an ethnography of autistic Christians in three web communities. These autistic Christians construct a distinctively Christian understanding of neurodiversity and a distinctively aspie understanding of God.
Excerpt: During the last 30 years, the Evangelical relationship with the State of Israel has drawn much academic and popular attention, particularly from historical, theological, and political perspectives. This dissertation engages with this literature but also complements it with an ethnographic account of the discursive practices of Evangelical Zionists through which, it is suggested, much of the religious significance of the contemporary state is being produced. The study is based on ethnographic fieldwork among Evangelical volunteer workers in Jerusalem, focusing on their stories about themselves, the land, and the biblical text.
Abstract: The trope in which conversion – especially of non-Western people to Christianity – is envisioned as a type of conquest is one many scholars have found compelling. This article examines the implicit moral psychology behind the idea that conversion is a ‘colonization of consciousness’, which it identifies as rooted in a secular liberal model of the self and of religion. The appeal of the conversion-as-conquest trope lies in its focus on power, but by building secular liberal assumptions into its theoretical optic it remains ironically blind to some of the most pervasive ways power operates today – namely, through the production of secular truths about religion, and by authorizing ‘autonomous’ secular subjectivities as normative. Drawing on examples from the author’s research on Pentecostal conversion in Indian slums, and on a national context where violent anti-conversion activism is prevalent, the article argues that while both conversion and opposition to it entail power, this power is not well understood on the model of mental colonization, or ‘resistance’ by uncolonized subjectivities.
Coleman, Simon. 2012. Christianities in Oceania: Historical Genealogies and Anthropological Insularities. Archives de sciences sociales des religions. 157(1): 13-28.
Abstract: I explore the themes contained in this special issue by asking how papers prompt us to ask: What difference does Christianity make—to “culture”, to relations with the state or nation, to the self? This question must be inflected by the realization that Christianity has a long-standing history in Oceania, and has become part of the religio-political landscape that contemporary believers inhabit and sometimes react against. Posing the question also involves an examination of how papers juxtapose versions of history (broader processes of reproduction and transformation over time) with religiously-motivated historiographies (how Christians themselves understand and construct the present in relation to the past). I use these reflections to argue for the usefulness of exploring distinctions and resonances among three orientations towards culture discernible in the papers as a whole: those of being “of”, “against” and “for” culture.