In this article I explore the role of Pentecostalism in the lives of middle-class Brazilian students-turned-migrants in Australia. Brazilian students lead precarious lives in Australia. They are transitioning into adulthood, living away from the homeland and without their families for the first time and they experience downward mobility. In addition, they are at the mercy of constant changes in Australian migration policy. Drawing on three years of multi-sited fieldwork in Australia and Brazil in three Pentecostal churches (the Australian megachurches Hillsong and C3 and a Brazilian church), I argue that Pentecostalism supports these students in their migration pathway. This is particularly the case because these are Seeker churches. By focusing on youth culture, entertainment, and informality and by addressing real-life situations, these churches cater to middle-class sensibilities. I also contend that their religious beliefs and practices are interwoven with the students’ narratives of migration to Australia. Thus the students pray for visas, jobs, and sponsorships for permanent residency and they see every obstacle and achievement as God’s work in their lives. For them, God determines whether they can stay or must return home. Importantly, citizenship in God’s kingdom gives them a more significant sense of belonging than that of the Australian state.
Abstract: This article explores the formation of British evangelical university students as believers. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork conducted with a conservative evangelical Anglican congregation in London, I describe how students in this church come to embody a highly cognitive, word-based mode of belief through particular material practices. As they learn to identify themselves as believers, practices of reflexivity and accountability enable them to develop a sense of narrative coherence in their lives that allows them to negotiate tensions that arise from their participation in church and from broader social structures. I demonstrate that propositional belief—in contexts where it becomes an identity marker—is bound up with relational practices of belief, so that distinctions between ‘belief in’ and ‘belief that’ are necessarily blurred in the lives of young evangelicals.
Guest, Matthew, Sonya Sharma, Kristin Aune, and Rob Warner. 2013. Challenging ‘Belief’ and the Evangelical Bias: Student Christianity in English Universities. Journal of Contemporary Religion 2(28): 207-223.
Abstract: Popular and academic accounts of university-based religion tend to privilege evangelical Christianity, presented as a morally conservative, conversionist movement at odds with university contexts, which are widely assumed to be vehicles for a progressive Western modernity. This is especially the case in the UK, given the association of higher education with secularisation, yet virtually no research has studied this interface by examining the lives of students. This article discusses findings from the three-year project “Christianity and the University Experience in Contemporary England”, including a nation-wide survey of undergraduate students, in examining how the experience of university shapes on-campus expressions of Christian identity. We argue that a sizeable constituency of undergraduates self-identify as ‘Christian’, but evangelicals emerge not as the dominant majority, but as a vocal minority. The emerging internal complexity is masked by a public discourse that conceives of religion in terms of propositional belief and presents evangelicalism as its pre-eminent form.