9780231141833Along with The LDS Church, Pentecostalism qualifies as America’s most lasting contribution to world religion. Pentecostalism is also America’s most successful religious export. A growing number of Christians around the world are Pentecostals, especially in Latin America. Columbia University Press has released a new study of the movement, Pentecostals in America, by religious studies scholar Arlene M. Sánchez Walsh (Azusa Pacific University). Here is the description from the publisher’s website:

Pentecostalism is one of the most significant modern movements in global Christianity today. A mixture of ecstatic expression and earnest piety, metaphysical nuance and embodied spirituality, it is far more than the stereotype of a supernatural sideshow. In this presumably secular era, Pentecostalism continues to grow, adapting to a diverse religious marketplace and becoming more racially and ethnically diverse. Originally an American phenomenon, it is now a globe-spanning religion.

In this book, Arlene M. Sánchez Walsh provides a thematic overview of Pentecostalism in America, covering Pentecostal faith and practices, gender and sexuality, race and ethnicity, trends and offshoots, and the future of American Pentecostalism. She also considers Pentecostalism’s spiritual lineages, examining colorful leaders, ordinary adherents, and prominent outliers, as well as its deep roots in American popular culture. She examines Pentecostalism as a narrative performance, aiming to explain what Pentecostalism is through the experiences and stories of its adherents. Sánchez Walsh treats this Christian movement with the critical eye it has often lacked, and places it in context within the larger narrative of American religious history. An indispensable introduction to Pentecostalism, rich with insights for experienced readers, Pentecostals in America is an essential study of a vibrant religious movement.

Aasmundsen, “Pentecostals, Politics, and Religious Equality in Argentina”

In November, Brill Publishers will release Pentecostals, Politics, and Religious Equality in Argentina by Hans Geir Aasmundsen (University of Sødertørn). The publisher’s description follows:

pentecostals-politicsIn Argentina, Pentecostalism had a breakthrough in the early 1980s, and today more than 10 per cent of the population are Pentecostals. The revival coincided with a socio-political transformation of Argentinean society. After half a century of dictatorships and Perónism, democracy was restored, and structural changes paved the way for an autonomisation of the political, economic, scientific and religious spheres. The “new” form of society that developed resembles what in this study is called a Western model, which to a large degree has been, and still is, spread on a global scale. In this book, Aasmundsen examines the religious sphere and how Pentecostals relate to society at large, and the political and judicial spheres in particular.

Butticci, “African Pentecostals in Catholic Europe”

In April, the Harvard University Press will release “African Pentecostals in Catholic Europe: The Politics of Presence in the Twenty-First Century,” by Annalisa Butticci (Harvard Divinity School and Utrecht University).  The publisher’s description follows:

Over the past thirty years, Italy—the historic home of Catholicism—has become a significant destination for migrants from Nigeria and Ghana. Along with suitcases and dreams of a brighter future, these Africans bring 9780674737099-lgtheir own form of Christianity, Pentecostalism, shaped by their various cultures and religious worlds. At the heart of Annalisa Butticci’s beautifully sculpted ethnography of African Pentecostalism in Italy is a paradox. Pentecostalism, traditionally one of the most Protestant of Christian faiths, is driven by the same concern as Catholicism: real presence.

In Italy, Pentecostals face harsh anti-immigrant sentiment and limited access to economic and social resources. At times, they find safe spaces to worship in Catholic churches, where a fascinating encounter unfolds that is equal parts conflict and communion. When Pentecostals watch Catholics engage with sacramental objects—relics, statues, works of art—they recognize the signs of what they consider the idolatrous religions of their ancestors. Catholics, in turn, view Pentecostal practices as a mix of African religions and Christian traditions. Yet despite their apparently irreconcilable differences and conflicts, they both share a deeply sensuous and material way to make the divine visible and tangible. In this sense, Pentecostalism appears much closer to Catholicism than to mainstream Protestantism.

African Pentecostals in Catholic Europe offers an intimate glimpse at what happens when the world’s two fastest growing Christian faiths come into contact, share worship space, and use analogous sacramental objects and images. And it explains how their seemingly antithetical practices and beliefs undergird a profound commonality.

Koehrsen, “Middle Class Pentecostalism in Argentina”

In April, Brill Publishing will release “Middle Class Pentecostalism in Argentina: Inappropriate Spirits” by Jens Koehrsen (University of Basel). The publisher’s description follows:

In Middle-Class Pentecostalism in Argentina: Inappropriate Spirits Jens Koehrsen offers an intriguing account of how the middle class relates to Latin America´s most vibrant religious movement. Based on pervasive field research, this study suggests that Pentecostalism stands in tension with the social imaginary of the middle class and is perceived as an inappropriate lower class practice. As such, middle class Pentecostals negotiate the appropriateness of their religious belonging by demonstrating distinctive tastes and styles of Pentecostalism. Abstaining from the expressiveness, emotionality, and strong spiritual practice that have marked the movement, they create a milder and socially more acceptable form of Pentecostalism. Increasingly turning into a middle class movement, this style has the potential to embody the future shape of Pentecostalism.

 

Tarango, “Choosing the Jesus Way: American Indian Pentecostals and the Fight for the Indigenous Principle”

Next month, the University of North Carolina will publish Choosing the Jesustarango_choosing_PB Way: American Indian Pentecostals and the Fight for the Indigenous Principle, by Angela Tarango (Trinity University). The publisher’s description follows.

Choosing the Jesus Way uncovers the history and religious experiences of the first American Indian converts to Pentecostalism. Focusing on the Assemblies of God denomination, the story begins in 1918, when white missionaries fanned out from the South and Midwest to convert Native Americans in the West and other parts of the country. Drawing on new approaches to the global history of Pentecostalism, Angela Tarango shows how converted indigenous leaders eventually transformed a standard Pentecostal theology of missions in ways that reflected their own religious struggles and advanced their sovereignty within the denomination.

Key to the story is the Pentecostal “indigenous principle,” which encourages missionaries to train local leadership in hopes of creating an indigenous church rooted in the culture of the missionized. In Tarango’s analysis, the indigenous principle itself was appropriated by the first generation of Native American Pentecostals, who transformed it to critique aspects of the missionary project and to argue for greater religious autonomy. More broadly, Tarango scrutinizes simplistic views of religious imperialism and demonstrates how religious forms and practices are often mutually influenced in the American experience.

Sarat, “Fire in the Canyon: Religion, Migration, and the Mexican Dream”

This month, New York University Press will publish Fire in the Canyon: Religion, Migration, and the Mexican Dream by Leah Sarat (Arizona State Fire in the CanyonUniversity).  The publisher’s description follows.

The canyon in central Mexico was ablaze with torches as hundreds of people filed in. So palpable was their shared shock and grief, they later said, that neither pastor nor priest was needed. The event was a memorial service for one of their own who had died during an attempted border passage. Months later a survivor emerged from a coma to tell his story. The accident had provoked a near-death encounter with God that prompted his conversion to Pentecostalism.

Today, over half of the local residents of El Alberto, a town in central Mexico, are Pentecostal. Submitting themselves to the authority of a God for whom there are no borders, these Pentecostals today both embrace migration as their right while also praying that their “Mexican Dream”—the dream of a Mexican future with ample employment for all—will one day become a reality.

Fire in the Canyon provides one of the first in‑depth looks at the dynamic relationship between religion, migration, and ethnicity across the U.S.-Mexican border. Faced with the choice between life‑threatening danger at the border and life‑sapping poverty in Mexico, residents of El Alberto are drawing on both their religion and their indigenous heritage to demand not only the right to migrate, but also the right to stay home. If we wish to understand people’s migration decisions, Sarat argues, we must take religion seriously. It is through religion that people formulate their ideas about life, death, and the limits of government authority.

Two New Books on Pentecostalism

Pentecostalism–a variety of Evangelical Protestantism for which direct experience of God and baptism with the Holy Spirit are crucial features–is experiencing something of a boom in many parts of the world today.  According to this essay by the historian of religion, Randall J. Stephens, Pentecostalism is “the second-largest subgroup of global Christianity” and claims “a worldwide following of 430 million”–an estimate that is likely already dated since Stephens wrote the piece.

Here are two recent books from Oxford University Press that discuss this To the Ends of the Earthreligious phenomenon and its historical, political, and social importance.  The first is To the Ends of the Earth: Pentecostalism and the Transformation of World Christianity by Allan Heaton Anderson (OUP February 2013).  The publisher’s description follows.

No branch of Christianity has grown more rapidly than Pentecostalism, especially in the southern hemisphere. There are over 100 million Pentecostals in Africa. In Latin America, Pentecostalism now vies with Catholicism for the soul of the continent, and some of the largest pentecostal congregations in the world are in South Korea.

In To the Ends of the Earth, Allan Heaton Anderson explores the historical and theological factors behind the phenomenal growth of global Pentecostalism. Anderson argues that its spread is so dramatic because it is an “ends of the earth” movement–pentecostals believe that they are called to be witnesses for Jesus Christ to the furthest reaches of the globe. His wide-ranging account examines such topics as the Azusa Street revival in Los Angeles, the role of the first missionaries in China, India, and Africa, Pentecostalism’s incredible diversity due to its deep local roots, and the central role of women in the movement. He describes more recent developments such as the creation of new independent churches, megachurches, and the “health and wealth” gospel, and he explores the increasing involvement of pentecostals in public and political affairs across the globe. Why is this movement so popular? Anderson points to such features as the emphasis on the Spirit, the “born-again” experience, incessant evangelism, healing and deliverance, cultural flexibility, a place-to-feel-at-home, religious continuity, an egalitarian community, and meeting material needs–all of which contribute to Pentecostalism’s remarkable appeal.

Exploring more than a century of history and ranging across most of the globe, Anderson illuminates the spectacular rise of global Pentecostalism and shows how it changed the face of Christianity worldwide.

The second book is Spirit and Power: The Growth and Global Impact of Spirit and PowerPentecostalism edited by Donald E. Miller, Kimon H. Sargeant, and Richard Flory (OUP August 2013).  The publisher’s description follows.

Pentecostalism is the fastest growing religious movement in the world, currently estimated to have at least 500 million adherents. In the movement’s early years, most Pentecostal converts lived in relative poverty, yet the rapidly shifting social ecology of Pentecostal Christians includes many middle-class individuals, as well as an increasing number of young adults attracted by the music and vibrant worship of these churches. The stereotypical view of Pentecostals as “other-worldly” and disengaged from politics and social ministry is also being challenged, as Pentecostals-including many who are committed to working for social and political change-constitute growing minorities in many countries. Spirit and Power addresses three main questions: Where is Pentecostalism growing globally? Why it is growing? What is its social and political impact? The contributors to this volume include theologians, historians, and social scientists, who bring their diverse disciplinary perspectives to bear on these empirical questions. The essays draw on extensive survey research as well as in-depth ethnographic field methods, with analyses offering diverging and sometimes competing explanations for the growth and impact of Pentecostalism around the world.

The Americanization of British Religion

As I wrote last week, Americans think of Britain as a very secular place. I suppose most Britons do, too. Now and then, though, one gets the sense that religion, specifically Christianity, is not completely passé and may, in fact, be making a comeback. Peter Oborne has an interesting piece in The Telegraph this week, “The Return to Religion,” in which he argues that churchgoing is again becoming a “national pastime” in Britain, particularly in London. He gives several examples. Oborne attributes the renewed interest to economic austerity and the sense many Britons have that the materialism of the past generation has let them down.

I’m not sure what to make of this. Oborne may be looking at isolated examples. Or perhaps the rise in religion is only a temporary phenomenon that will be lost in the larger and more lasting move away from religion. We’ll just have to see.

One trend that is apparent in Oborne’s piece is how “American” British religion is becoming. Much of the new success results from American-style marketing. Anglican parishes no longer wait for neighborhood people to come: they reach out with niche programming like actors’ groups. “Church plants” like ChistChurch London, whose website makes it look a lot like an American urban evangelical megachurch, are increasingly prominent. Oborne also notes the rise of Pentecostalism, a form of Christianity that began in twentieth-century Los Angeles, which appeals to immigrants from Africa. Observers have been writing about the Americanization of world religion for some time; recent books by journalists John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge, and by French scholar Olivier Roy, come to mind.  Oborne’s essay suggests that these writers are really on to something.

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