Abstract: Secular humanists in the United Kingdom regularly think about, talk about, and act in relation to religion, especially Christianity. In this article, I address the relationships between secular humanism and Christianity by drawing on fieldwork with a local humanist group affiliated with the British Humanist Association. In line with many moderns, as indeed with many kinds of Christians, these secular humanists often want to sever ties with the past—in this case, with what they understand to be Christianity’s religious elements. At the same time, they want to preserve those aspects of Christianity they understand to be human, not religious. These engagements with and articulations of Christianity can be helpful not only for understanding contemporary secular-humanist formations but also some of the debates that have framed the anthropology of Christianity over the past decade.
Abstract: The Emerging Church Movement (ECM) is a primarily Western religious phenomenon, identifiable by its critical ‘deconstruction’ of ‘modern’ religion. While most prominent in North America, especially the United States, some of the most significant contributors to the ECM ‘conversation’ have been the Belfast-based Ikon Collective and one of its founders, philosopher Peter Rollins. Their rootedness in the unique religious, political and social landscape of Northern Ireland in part explains their position on the ‘margins’ of the ECM, and provides many of the resources for their contributions. Ikon’s development of ‘transformance art’ and its ‘leaderless’ structure raise questions about the institutional viability of the wider ECM. Rollins’ ‘Pyrotheology’ project, grounded in his reading of post-modern philosophy, introduces more radical ideas to the ECM conversation. Northern Ireland’s ‘Troubles’ and ‘marginal’ location provides the ground from which Rollins and Ikon have been able to expose the boundaries of the ECM and raise questions about just how far the ECM may go in its efforts to transform Western Christianity.
Abstract: Drawing on fieldwork in the punk scenes of the UK, USA and Australia, this article critically examines Christianity and holistic spirituality within punk’s Straight Edge subculture, a movement rejecting alcohol, drugs, and casual sex. Focusing on conceptualizations of salvation within Straight Edge Christianity and Straight Edge holistic spirituality, this article engages Heelas and Woodhead’s notion of the “subjectivization’”of contemporary religious identities to compare and contrast these forms of new religious practice. Straight Edge Christianity and Straight Edge holistic spirituality are shown to demonstrate the double movement of the ‘desacralization’ of religion in late modernity. Straight Edge Christianity illustrates the emergence of religion in traditionally secular cultural spaces, while Straight Edge holistic spirituality illustrates a movement away from the transcendent and supernatural, towards the location of salvation within wholly material concerns and therapeutic practices.
Abstract: This article presents a consideration of the ways in which current Quaker belief and practice exemplify the condition identified by Zygmunt Bauman as liquid modernity. After a brief overview of Bauman’s thesis, we describe recent patterns of believing within British Quakerism within its socio-cultural context. While belief has been cast as marginal by scholars of this group, with the creation of habitus centred on behavioural codes or values narratives among participants, the way of believing within British Quakerism has rather unusual significance. An ortho-credence of ‘perhapsness’ maintains an approach to believing that is forever ‘towards’, with any truth considered to be solely personal, partial or provisional. From a rationalist liberal faith position, British Quakers have become cautious about theological truth claims that appear final or complete. They accept the principle of continuing revelation, a progressivist theology in which transition becomes sociologically normative. While wider Christianity may be in transition, British Quakers see perpetual modulation (liquifaction) of belief and practice as both logical and faithful.
Publisher’s Description: Combining ethnographic and historical research conducted in Angola, Portugal, and the United Kingdom, A Prophetic Trajectory tells the story of Simão Toko, the founder and leader of one of the most important contemporary Angolan religious movements. The book explains the historical, ethnic, spiritual, and identity transformations observed within the movement, and debates the politics of remembrance and heritage left behind after Toko’s passing in 1984. Ultimately, it questions the categories of prophetism and charisma, as well as the intersections between mobility, memory, and belonging in the Atlantic Lusophone sphere.
Publisher’s Description: The Emerging Church Movement (ECM) is a creative, entrepreneurial religious movement that strives to achieve social legitimacy and spiritual vitality by actively disassociating from its roots in conservative, evangelical Christianity and ”deconstructing” contemporary expressions of Christianity. Emerging Christians see themselves as overturning outdated interpretations of the Bible, transforming hierarchical religious institutions, and re-orienting Christianity to step outside the walls of church buildings toward working among and serving others in the ”real world.”
Drawing on ethnographic observations from emerging congregations, pub churches, neo-monastic communities, conferences, online networks, in-depth interviews, and congregational surveys in the US, UK, and Ireland, Gerardo Marti and Gladys Ganiel provide a comprehensive social scientific analysis of the development and significance of the ECM. Emerging Christians are shaping a distinct religious orientation that encourages individualism, deep relationships with others, new ideas about the nature of truth, doubt, and God, and innovations in preaching, worship, Eucharist, and leadership.
Abstract: This article examines the growing scholarly interest in urban religion, situating the topic in relation to the contemporary analytical significance of cities as sites where processes of social change, such as globalization, transnationalism, and the influence of new media technologies, materialize in interrelated ways. I argue that Georg Simmel’s writing on cities offers resources to draw out further the significance of “the urban” in this emerging field. I bring together Simmel’s urban analysis with his approach to religion, focusing on Christianities and individuals’ relations with sacred figures, and suggest this perspective opens up how forms of religious practice respond to experiences of cultural fragmentation in complex urban environments. Drawing on his analysis of individuals’ engagement with the coherence of God, I explore conservative evangelicals’ systems of religious intersubjectivity to show how attention to the social effects of relations with sacred figures can deepen understanding of the formation of urban religious subjectivities.
Abstract: Although sexual minority rights have not necessarily generated polarised views within Christian churches and organisations, the subject has tended to forge an arena of contestation between liberal and conservative constituencies. Theological differences have frequently been manifested through the mobilisation of ‘cause’ groups lobbying the political realm and public opinion in order to advance their contrasting standpoints. Based on a survey of documentation and supplementary materials produced for public consumption, this article considers responses of the conflicting rights petitions of Christian cadres either endorsing or opposing minority sexual rights and the relevant legislative enactments in the UK. The article seeks to illuminate how these competing constituencies further their causes while at the same time devaluing the rights claims of their adversaries.
Abstract: In this article I analyze different spatial practices related to Pentecostal healing, drawing on fieldwork with Pentecostal believers who have migrated from Ghana to London, UK. I explore the relationship between space and the manifestation of the Holy Spirit by looking at how points of contact with the divine are created in the personal life of people and at the sites where the casting out of demons takes place. Unlike in other spirit-centered healing traditions, the Christian Holy Spirit is not conceived of as embodied in specific places, but rather is spatially unbound. To manifest, however, the Holy Spirit requires specific spatial qualities and esthetics.
Abstract: Drawing upon extensive oral history interviews and long scale participant observation in two London churches, an ethnically diverse Catholic parish in Canning Town and a predominantly West-African Pentecostal congregation in Peckham, this article compares and contrasts differing Christian expressions and understandings of ‘civic engagement’ and gendered articulations of lay social ‘ministry’ through prayer, religious praxis and local politics. Through community organizing and involvement in the third sector, but also through spiritual activities like the ‘Catholic Prayer Ministry’ and ‘deliverance’, Catholics and Pentecostals are shown to be re-mapping London – a city ripe for reverse mission – through contesting ‘secularist’ and implicitly gendered distinctions between the public and private/domestic, and the spiritual and political. Greater scholarly appreciation of these subjective understandings of civic engagement and social activism is important for fully recognizing the agency of lay people,and particularly women often marginalized in church-based and institutional hierarchies, in articulating and actuating their call to Christian citizenship and the (re)sacralization of the city