Abstract: ‘Spiritual mapping’ is a transnational Pentecostal ‘spiritual warfare’ practice that aims to identify and fight ‘territorial spirits’, or demons that possess specific places. It was unique in Cape Town, South Africa, at the beginning of democracy, because it was both racialized and sexualized. This article examines how Pentecostals in Cape Town employed spiritual mapping techniques to identify and police groups they understood as morally and spiritually ‘dangerous’: black and ‘coloured’ communities and gays and lesbians. I argue that South African spiritual mapping was a response to the material and physical insecurities of democracy, particularly the declining economy, failed promises of the African National Congress, and some of the highest rates of crime in the world.
By: Sophie Bjork-James (Vanderbilt University)
In 2012, Pastor Ed Young and his wife moved a bed onto the roof of their Texas megachurch to lead a “bed-in” lauding the importance of marital sexual intimacy. Young was celebrating the recent publication of his book, Sexperiment: 7 Days to Lasting Intimacy with Your Spouse, and the couple spent twenty-four hours in bed on the church roof conducting interviews with media outlets on the importance of marital sex. How, then, did we get from the radical 1969 “bed-in” for peace, with John Lennon and Yoko Ono cuddling in hotel room beds singing “give peace a change,” to a conservative evangelical “bed-in” celebrating marital sex? When did evangelicals start talking so much about sex? Continue reading
Sumerau, J. Edward and Ryan T. Cragun. 2015. “Avoid that pornographic playground”: Teaching pornographic abstinence in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Critical Research on Religion 3(2): 168-188.
Abstract: In recent years, many studies have examined conservative Christian responses to shifting societal attitudes about sexuality. In this article we examine official discourse from the LDS Church found in General Conference talks and the official adult magazine of the Church, Ensign, to better understand how leaders of the religion have taught the members to abstain from the use of pornography. Using a grounded-theory approach, we noted a pattern to the lessons that included four elements: (1) avoiding dangerous associations, (2) taking personal responsibility, (3) maintaining inner purity, and (4) seeking spiritual treatment. This study extends previous research by examining how Mormon leaders taught their followers to interpret and protect themselves from pornography. As such, our analysis demonstrates the elaboration of religious teachings that may facilitate the negative reactions to pornography researchers have observed in survey and outcome-based research on members of conservative religions.
Sumerau, J. Edward, Irene Padavic, and Douglas P. Schrock. 2015. “Little Girls Unwilling to do What’s Best for Them”: Resurrecting Patriarchy in an LGBT Christian Church. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 44(3): 306-334.
Abstract: This paper examines how a group of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Christians resurrected patriarchal patterns of gender inequality in their local church. On the basis of more than 450 hours of fieldwork, we analyze how a group of lesbian and gay members collaborated with a new pastor to transform an egalitarian, inclusive, and democratic organization into one characterized by the elevation of men and the subordination of women via restricting leadership to men, instituting a gendered division of labor, and discrediting women dissidents. In so doing, the pastor and his supporters, regardless of their intentions, collaboratively reproduced patriarchal practices that facilitated the subordination of women. We conclude by suggesting that there is not a one-to-one correspondence between gains for LGBT organizations and gains for women, and we outline implications for understanding how retrenchment from egalitarian practice can undo gender-equality gains.
Sumerau, J. Edward and Ryan T. Cragun. 2015. “Avoid that pornographic playground”: Teaching pornographic abstinence in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Critical Research on Religion. Early online publication.
In recent years, many studies have examined conservative Christian responses to shifting societal attitudes about sexuality. In this article we examine official discourse from the LDS Church found in General Conference talks and the official adult magazine of the Church, Ensign, to better understand how leaders of the religion have taught the members to abstain from the use of pornography. Using a grounded-theory approach, we noted a pattern to the lessons that included four elements: (1) avoiding dangerous associations, (2) taking personal responsibility, (3) maintaining inner purity, and (4) seeking spiritual treatment. This study extends previous research by examining how Mormon leaders taught their followers to interpret and protect themselves from pornography. As such, our analysis demonstrates the elaboration of religious teachings that may facilitate the negative reactions to pornography researchers have observed in survey and outcome-based research on members of conservative religions.
Stewart, Anna and Simon Coleman. 2014. “Contributions from Anthropology,” in The Oxford handbook of theology, sexuality, and gender, edited by Adrian. Thatcher, 107-119. Oxford : Oxford University Press.
Excerpt: “Religion, according to one popular anthropological definition, is a realm of experience in which humans confront ultimate categories of meaning. Through religious language, ritual, and ideology human beings come to reside within a ‘system of symbols’ that colours their experience and orientation towards the world ….In the years since Geetz’s influential definition of religious was proposed, anthropologist have pointed out the importance of looking not only at systems of meaning but also at the entanglement of actors in more material and more mundane networks of family, economy, and politics … Gender (In solving cultural expectations about the roles of men and women) ash sexuality (involving morality, desire, and physical activity related to sex) have added significant dimensions to the study of religion, for they appear to bring together these themes of symbolic meaning and embodied life ….”
Publisher’s Description: A long history of vehement public opposition to pre-marital sex, pornography, masturbation, gay-marriage, and birth control has cast the evangelical Christian community as regressive and “anti-sex” in the minds of many Americans. In a groundbreaking investigation of evangelical sex education, Amy DeRogatis reveals that this representation could not be farther from the truth: in fact, evangelicals view sex not only as natural and sanctioned by the Bible, but as an essential part of any Christian marriage.
For decades, evangelical sexual education has been a thriving industry. Evangelical couples have sought advice from Christian psychologists and marriage counselors, purchased millions of copies of faith-based “sexual guidebooks,” and consulted magazines, pamphlets, websites, blogs, and podcasts on a vast array of sexual topics, including human anatomy, STDs-sometimes known in evangelical circles as “Sexually Transmitted Demons”-mutual masturbation, sexual role-play, and sex toys, all from a decidedly biblical angle. DeRogatis explores every corner of the industry, from purity literature for young evangelicals to sex manuals for married couples to “deliverance manuals,” which instruct believers in how to expel demons that enter the body through sexual sin.
DeRogatis also shows how feminism has seeped into the evangelical sexual ethic: despite a subscription to traditional gender roles based on the literal interpretation of scripture, many evangelical sexual guides emphasize the importance of mutual consent and female climax. The evangelical approach to sex transcends mere mechanics, emphasizing the fundamental importance of sexual fulfillment in a Christian marriage and perceiving sex as a spiritual act that furthers a couple’s relationship with God.
Saving Sex is a long-overdue exploration of the role of sex in America’s evangelical Christian community, and of the many ways in which American evangelicals participate in cultural conversations about sexuality.
Abstract: In September 2010, four young African American men filed lawsuits against Bishop Eddie Long and New Birth Missionary Baptist Church alleging that Long had sexually abused them as teens. Though the case generated a number of discussions about the institutional politics underwriting clerical privilege, missing was detailed attention to the interior social dynamics that connected the religious participants. Informed by an examination of the case’s legal texts and related local and electronic media, this article examines how the relationships between Long and his accusers were differentially constructed as pastoral relationships, mentorship ties, and spiritual kinship bonds. Applying anthropological frameworks that demonstrate how different forms of sociality can intersect to reinforce social structures, I use this timely investigation to argue that despite the variegated and con- tested character of the relationships, all are mutually organized by the social logic of patriarchy and the complex intimacies mediating contemporary Afro-Protestant religious belonging.
Abstract: This article contributes to the understanding of the role of religion in the public and political controversies about homosexuality in Africa. As a case study it investigates the heated public debate in Zambia following a February 2012 visit by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who emphasised the need for the country to recognise the human rights of homosexuals. The focus is on a particular Christian discourse in this debate, in which the international pressure to recognise gay rights is considered a sign of the end times, and Ban Ki-moon, the UN and other international organisations are associated with the Antichrist and the Devil. Here, the debate about homosexuality becomes eschatologically enchanted through millennialist thought. Building on discussions about public religion and religion and politics in Africa, this article avoids popular explanations in terms of fundamentalist religion and African homophobia, but rather highlights the political significance of this discourse in a postcolonial African context.
Abstract: A “native“ Christian ethnographer finds religious education at this church-sponsored school to pursue two distinct, and occasionally conflicting, curricula: “love“ and “purity.“ The curriculum of love draws on what Turner called liminality and communitas in an effort to promote spiritual “encounters with God,“ whereas the curriculum of purity stresses adult–student hierarchies as students are urged to reject “worldly“ popular culture. Adults were caught between the two goals when one student asserted a gay identity.