Abstract: Among the related but distinct ideas that comprise contemporary American individualism is the ethic of self-realization, the belief that each person has the moral duty to develop their own characteristic talents and potentialities. Here I argue that although the intellectual sources of this belief are well-understood, we have little knowledge of how this idea became an ethic, how it acquired the emotional force of a moral directive. I suggest that this development can be explained in part by exploring the history of the Wesleyan doctrine of Sanctification, the conviction that the Christian believer can achieve a state of perfection. In the 19th century, debates erupted over whether Sanctification—originally an ecstatic experience occurring in revivals—could also take place as a gradual process, the development of Christian character. By the early 20th century, broader cultural forces conditioned a theological shift whereby Sanctification was increasingly understood in liberal thought as realization of the divinity that dwells within each individual soul. Along this path, Sanctification progressively permeated certain routines of daily life. This history provides an example of gradual transformation within Christianity, an example that can help to refine understandings of the processes of continuity and discontinuity that have been central to discussion in the Anthropology of Christianity.
Abstract: The Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard offers two concepts that can strengthen anthropological analyses of Christianity. The first is “repetition,“ or the act of “recollecting forward,“ which provides a model of transformation that depends neither on deep continuity nor on decisive break. The second is “absurdity,“ the faithful but painful acceptance of paradox as irreducible to logical resolution, which challenges eudemonic understandings of Christianity as a religion oriented toward comfort and satisfaction. I demonstrate the usefulness of Kierkegaard’s concepts through an analysis of indigenous Fijian Methodists‘ interest in repeatedly engaging with curses from ancestors as a way to overcome them.
Kreinath, Jens & William Silcott. 2013. Introduction: Politics of faith in Asia: Local and global perspectives of Christianity in Asia. Culture and Religion: An Interdisciplinary Journal 14(2):180-184.
Abstract: This collection of papers is the result of research presented at the 2010 meeting of the American Academy of Religion in Atlanta, Georgia, sponsored by the Comparative Studies of Religion section. The set of papers resulting from the panel, Politics of Faith in Asia: Local and Global Perspectives of Christianity in Asia, presents findings from a diverse array of cultural areas and historical contexts across the Asian continent. All of these are connected by a focus on the intersection of Christianity and the political organisation in Asian societies. Although each paper focuses primarily on the continued encounter of Protestant, Evangelical Christianity and local religions, the definition and scope of the political milieu differ considerably. Moving from local communities in a small Indian town, through the growing global connections of religious groups in the Philippines, to the global and national politics of South Korea, the set addresses a multitude of political levels, be they governmental or the processes of everyday interactions.