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What makes a Christian? Perspectives from studies of pneumatic Christianity.

DEIDRE CRUMBLEY, Spirit, Structure, and Flesh: gendered experiences in African instituted churches among the Yoruba of Nigeria. Madison WI: University of Wisconsin Press (hb 44.50 [pounds sterling]--978 0 29922 913 9). 2008, 192 pp.

THOMAS G. KIRSCH, Spirits and Letters: reading, writing and charisma in African Christianity. New York NY: Berghahn Books (hb 22.50 [pounds sterling]--978 1 84545 483 8). 2008, 288 pp.

RUTH MARSHALL, Political Spiritualities: the Pentecostal revolution in Nigeria. Chicago IL: University of Chicago Press (hb 45 [pounds sterling]--978 0 22650 712 5; pb 16.50 [pounds sterling]--978 0 22659 713 2). 2009, 376 pp.

Through the study of religious embodiment and religious text all three scholars under review explore their subjects' profound concerns about what constitutes a Christian. In their different ways, Crumbley, Kirsch and Marshall examine a series of related themes: the boundaries between believer and non-believer; the construction of religious authority; and what constitutes authentic religious practice. Although only Kirsch would situate his work within the anthropology of Christianity, all of the scholars contribute to one of the more pressing themes of this new field of research, namely, how Christian adherents distinguish themselves from practitioners of other religions. (1)

The studies have other commonalities. All three of the monographs under review examine pneumatic churches. The adherents of these movements believe that the pneuma--Holy Spirit--plays a central role in their lives and their communities as a source of revelation and reformation manifested through tongues (glossolalia), divine healing, prophecy, and deliverance (exorcism). The three books demonstrate the diversity and dynamics of pneumatic Christianity in contemporary Africa. Deidre Crumbley examines the Aladura churches of Nigeria: communities of white-robe-wearing Christians renowned for their 'fervent spontaneous prayer, which evokes the power and presence of divine spirit' (Crumbley 2008: 19). The antecedents of Aladura churches lie in Euro-American Pentecostal missionary activity and revival within the historic mission churches during the 1920s. Ruth Marshall studies Pentecostal churches in Lagos, Nigeria as a local expression of a global born-again movement. These churches, which actively cast themselves as electronic, prosperity-seeking and international, have roots in the more recent past, emerging from university fellowships and Scripture Union groups in the 1970s, which emphasized interdenominational Bible study and evangelism. Whilst Nigerian Pentecostals stand in continuity with Aladura Christians and share many of their pneumatic practices, they dismiss the latter as demonic and syncretic because the Aladura Christians use soap and candles as objects of religious mediation and accept polygamy (Marshall 2009: 77). In the meantime some Nigerian 'praying churches' have Pentecostalized in response to the success of the Pentecostal revolution. The prime focus of Thomas Kirsch's work, the Spirit Apostolic Church, sits between the Aladuras and the Nigerian Pentecostals. It is an 'African-initiated Pentecostal Charismatic church', product of a local schism from the Full Gospel Apostolic Church in the 1960s, which has taken a particular local form in Gwembe Valley, southern Zambia.

Although coming from different disciplinary perspectives Religious Studies, Political Science and Anthropology respectively--Crumbley, Marshall and Kirsch share common approaches to their research. All three have studied Christianity as local expressions of a global religion. Bur while they have focused upon localizing strategies, they remain alert to the influence of transnational connections, exploring how intellectual and material resources from the outside can stabilize and modernize movements, unify potentially heterogeneous movements, and introduce new ideas that change the content and nature of belief. Each scholar has conducted long and intensive periods of fieldwork and emphasizes how pneumatic Christianity is a religion of the body: a stage for the drama of healing and exorcism and a script upon which Christian belief is recorded (Hollenweger 1972). The authors have also taken seriously the study of religious texts produced by their adherents. These range from tracts and journals, spiritual autobiographies and hagiographies to canonical histories and the odd academic dissertation written by church leaders. They also include more mundane but no less important pieces of writing such as baptismal registers, attendance lists, study guides and self-help manuals, and certificates for preachers and members. This linguistic turn to texts and representation, which began with literary scholars such as Isabel Hofmeyer (2004) and Elizabeth Gunner (2002), and which has more recently been adopted by intellectual historians such as Derek Peterson (2004:2012 forthcoming) and Joel Cabrita (forthcoming) is significant in a number of ways. (2) First, it serves as an antidote to an earlier overemphasis on the supposed orality of African Independent Churches and the more recent fascination with the electronic media in contemporary Pentecostalism. Second, it extends the range of data available for the study of religion. As Stephen Ellis and Gerrie Ter Haar observed more than a decade ago, so-called 'grey literature' (tracts and religious magazines) sold on street corners has been a neglected source for the reconstruction of contemporary popular belief (1998). Third, more formal literary productions such as canonical histories extend the range of themes for research to include the creation of reading publics and the role of religious propaganda in establishing denominational boundaries and legitimating emergent movements. Last, the study of texts produced by religious practitioners closes the gap between scholars of Africa and African subjects producing history, allowing scholars to write with a more profound grasp of idiom and context.

In the 1960s and 1970s it was extremely fashionable to research the white-robed Christians of what were then called African Independent Churches (AICs). Missiologists and African theologians heralded them as examples of indigenous and inculturated theology, as authentic expressions of African Christianity: its future in a post-colonial world. Anthropologists saw them as examples of African cultural resilience and adaption in the face of capitalist imperialista. Historians initially studied them as examples of proto-nationalism: an early type of African protest against colonialism which took religious form. (3) Many of these paradigms were overturned or came to be viewed as too simplistic. In his authoritative The Church in Africa 1450-1950 (1994), Adrian Hastings got the balance of interpretation about right. Christian independency was not as independent as it once appeared, arising out of Euro-American movements of holiness and healing which later became Pentecostal. Its real significance lay in the provision of health and personal security. Hastings rightly closed the interpretative gap between Independency and Mission Churches, locating both within a spectrum of popular Christianity. In their local form, mission and Independent churches were founded by Africans: evangelists, catechists, freed slaves, labour migrants and refugees. White-robe-wearing churches were no more 'African-initiated' or 'indigenously African' than mission churches.

There was a lacuna in work on African Independency following the publication of Jean Comaroff's Body of Power, Spirit of Resistance (1985), which addressed many of the key research questions. Instead, historians and anthropologists turned to the study of mission Christianity as movements of grassroots religion. But there has been a recent return to the study of Independency. The first impetus comes from a new anthropology of Christianity which approaches Christian religion as a culture suitable for comparative analysis. Matthew Engelke's A Problem of Presence (2007) led the way with a study of materiality and mediation in a Masowe church in Zimbabwe. Next came Fred Klaits's study of moral passion within a 'Spirit' church based in Gaborone, Botswana during the peak of the AIDS epidemic in the late 1990s (2010). Most recently, Richard Werbner has written a study of an Apostolic healing church, also in Gaborone, which examines how prophets, or 'Holy Hustlers', diagnose, hustle and shock patients during forceful episodes of exorcism and witchcraft cleansing. Werbner also considers how by casting aside his wilful individuality during an empathetic diagnosis of a client's condition the prophet creates an alternative dividual personhood (2011).

Crumbley's study is located within a second body of work on the gendered dimensions of AICs, exemplified by Isabel Mukonyora's study of Zimbabwean Apostolic women and their relation to prayer, healing and the wilderness (2007). Like Mukonyora, Crumbley places religious dynamics right at the heart of African Independent Churches. AICs are movements that value 'the experience of spiritual intimacy with the divine, often through healing, revelation, music and movement' (Crumbley 2008: 4). She is also at pains to revise previous work on the history of Aladura that sees women as mete clients of the movement. She provides useful data on female co-founders and vivid case studies of contemporary women leaders. There are also some interesting passages discussing feminist readings of some of the more challenging Pauline scriptures on women. Brought up in a storefront Charismatic church in Philadelphia, Crumbley brings a good deal of insight to her research. But at times her sympathies get the better of her. While she is excellent on the 'Spirit', she is sometimes a little uncritical when it comes to structure and the flesh. Her favourite movement is Church of the Lord which ordains women, although female pastors cannot minister the sacraments until they are post-menopausal. She expresses a deep ambivalence about the Celestial Church of Christ, which offers healing to infertile women bur does not ordain female members and has a strong menstrual taboo. In fairness she represents male explanations of this taboo: it is about separation and avoidance rather than impurity because menstrual blood is connected to life and is an object of awe. Yet female biological power does not translate into social standing. Crumbley cites examples of women who found the restraints upon their leadership 'cumbersome, unbiblical and unjustified' and broke away to found their own churches (ibid: 103-4). She records the case of the female founder of a church in Lagos who was insulted when a 'young boy' was sent to head it (ibid.: 122). 'Enculturation can render the greatest inequities "natural",' Crumbley observes, 'and divine sanction can cloak exclusion in the language of "God's will," (ibid.: 124). Yet she never follows up to determine what categories of women leave the movement and how their exit is received. In a similar manner, schisms, power struggles and generational tensions are mentioned but never fully interrogated. Such moments of conflict, difficult though they are to research, provide windows into dynamics of religious movements and make research more 'insiderly' (Maxwell 2006).

In addition to Crumbley's important exploration of the spirituality and gendered dimensions of Aladura churches, her book provides a deeply historicized account of a religious moment that has come of age. In its fourth generation Nigerian Independency has evolved a long way from cells of fervent praying people c. 1920s into bureaucratic transnational institutions which offer university degrees, engage with Nigerian politicians, tolerate bio-medicine, and manage public relations and ecumenism with sophistication. The movement's growing self-awareness, complexity and sense of its historic significance is well illustrated in Crumbley's synopsis of the history of the Church of the Lord, Aladura (CLA). Founded on the visions (recorded in six massive journals) of the former Anglican catechist, Josiah Oistelu, the church initially drew clients through its emphasis on healing. Soon the CLA's 'spiritual clinics' were complemented by the formal teaching of midwifery. The church constructed its own seminary in the 1970s and the fourth primate, appointed in 1998, was educated in Germany with doctorates in computer science and religion. In the 1960s, the movement established good relations with President Tubman of Liberia and subsequently with General Momeh, President of Sierra Leone (1985-92). The CLA's website, translated into English, French, German and Spanish, is a powerful indication of the international reach of the contemporary movement.

Particularly fascinating is how the CLA's trajectory has been shaped by interaction with Western academics and formal scholarship. Crucial was the role of Harold Turner, founder of the Centre for New Religious Movements in Selly Oak Colleges, Birmingham. Turner met Primate Adejobi of the CLA in 1961 when the latter was studying at Glasgow Bible College, introducing him into ecumenical circles and to the World Council of Churches, which the CLA eventually joined in 1975. He also encouraged foreign researchers to deploy their skills in the modernization of the movement and to teach in its seminaries. Thus Turner played a similar role to Marthinus Daneel (1989), his fellow authority and researcher on Independency in Southern Africa, in coaxing 'spirit churches' into greater communion with world Christianity. Even more interesting was Samuel Oshoffa's long consultation with Methodist minister and architect of African Religious Studies, Geoffrey Parrinder, prior to his founding of the Celestial Church of Christ. Since the 1970s the CLA's own scholars have legitimated their church by situating it within the history of world Christianity. They compare the origins of the CLA to the Protestant Reformation and to the early Methodist movement, and make much of the movement's creativity in the face of a supposedly stultifying mission Christianity. More recently, the current Primate, Rufus Ositelu, seems to have drawn from the literature on world Christianity to stress his church's role as a twenty-first-century missionary movement.

Crumbley argues that new leaders of Aladura churches appear to 'make bureaucratization their priority rather than gender reform'. She devotes a good deal of analysis to the movements' codification and reporting of history, beliefs and practices. Reading and writing practices are at the heart of Thomas Kirsch's study. He begins by reminding us of their centrality to Christian religion in general. Kirsch is impressively well read in the history and anthropology of Christianity and the study of literacy, and uses a range of insightful comparative examples to draw out the significance of his research. Citing a body of authorities, historical and scholarly Livingstone, Hastings, Barrett and Sundkler--he reminds us that literacy helped to define nineteenth- and twentieth-century African Christianity. Early Christians were often known as 'readers' and literacy was seen as the key to unlock the hidden power of whites. Kirsch reminds us of the role of literacy in shaping movements of Christian Independency, in spite of their supposed orality. He points to the American Leaves of Healing magazines read by South African Zionists and the proliferation of prophetic movements once scriptures appeared in the vernacular (2008: 10-15).

Kirsch's site of research, the Gwembe Valley in southern Zambia, resembles north-east Zimbabwe (Maxwell 1999) and the western part of the Shire Valley, Malawi (Schoffeleers 2001) in the pattern of its Christianization. Historic mission churches are few and many local expressions of Christianity are the product of returning labour migrants. Prominent among these are pneumatic churches with antecedents in classical Pentecostalism or Christian Independency. In response to pressures from below, church leaders devote much attention to exorcism and healing through 'praying with the laying on of hands ... and singing of spiritual hymns' (Kirsch 2008: 62). Gwembe Valley is a good distance from towns and church headquarters, and reading matter is relatively scarce. The area is vastly different from many African cities, where Christians have easy access to cheap, widely circulated American born-again literature that has in part recast the doctrine and practice of historic mission churches (Gifford 1991). Because paper is in short supply, Kirsch discusses the material circumstances in which print circulates, examining its non-literary uses such as cigarette or wrapping paper. The relative shortage of reading material enables Kirsch to observe precisely what religious literature comes into the area and how it is used.

One of the major intentions of Kirsch's study is to collapse the Weberian dichotomy between charismatic and bureaucratic authority by showing how charismatic leaders make use of writing to boost their charisma. Thus in the fourth part of his book he shows how socio-religious authority is stabilized in the Spirit Apostolic Church through use of registers, baptismal certificates and constitutions. This apparatus is not imposed externally by the state but voluntarily adopted by church hierarchies. More fascinating still is the office of the church secretary, who documents the religious practices and sayings of the spiritually able. By reporting the activities of prophets and preachers, the secretary authorizes their charisma, but also participates in his own formation as a would-be leader by associating himself with the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

The second major concern of Kirsch's study is to demonstrate the existence of a range of religious literacies and their function in creating religious boundaries. To set up his argument he first considers school literacy, the product of monotonous language drilling. Its mundane nature left much space for alternative religious literacies for the 'purpose of spiritual advancement' (2008: 76-7). In the third portion of the book Kirsch contrasts the reading practices of Pentecostal/Charismatic churches with two non-Pentecostal denominations, Jehovah's Witnesses and the New Apostolic Church. These two religious organizations maintain their character via distribution of denominational circulars and pamphlets. The globalized circulation of print produced by the Jehovah's Witnesses is striking. Its twice-monthly dissemination of its two major publications, Watch Tower and Awake, amounts to 50 million copies. These booklets raise awareness of global interconnectedness by regularly addressing issues from around the world, and represent an important modification of Benedict Anderson's notion of 'print nationalism'. Here the printed word constructs an imagined global community of socio-religious networks that cross national boundaries. Crucial to the cohesion of that community are the rules and regulations regarding how the publications are read. Whether in private or in religious services via the mediation of church elders, readers are led through a highly structured series of questions to an apprehension of divine truth.

The hitherto understudied Swiss-derived New Apostolic Church, like the Jehovah's Witnesses, is extremely prolific in Zambia. Writing in 1998, Paul Gifford described it as the country's third largest church, having experienced a growth of 409 per cent in 14 years (1998: 184-6). Its tight organization is obviously a key to its success. Circulars, which include its teaching and doctrine, are produced in Switzerland and subsequently distributed to church elders via its headquarters in Lusaka. These directives detail guidelines concerning when, how and which scriptural passage is to be taught. A hierarchy of authority determines who has access to the circulars and which part of them they get to preach. Thus for both the Jehovah's Witnesses and the New Apostolic Church empowerment is related to publications and who is allowed to preach them. And in these denominations the publications supersede the authority of the Bible.

In contrast, empowerment in the Spirit Apostolic Church comes via the Holy Spirit who guides the reading and interpretation of the Scriptures and other religious texts. Only a spiritually endowed person can address the faults of Bible translation and grasp the significance of the heterogeneous texts that enter the district. Neither the Bible nor other religious publications are fetishes in the sense of containing inherent religious powers. Rather it is the reader who endows the text with value and meaning. Spiritual authority is the product of a long formation within a religious community, in which preachers are tested with increasing levels of responsibility in reading, public speaking and teaching. Thus Kirsch contributes to a new body of work on the craft of pastorship within Pentecostalism (Lauterbach 2008). He also engages with Jack Goody, who contends that 'Literate religions have some kind of autonomous boundary. Practitioners are committed to one alone and may be defined by their attachment to a Holy Book, their recognition of a Credo, as well as by their practice of certain rituals, prayers, modes of propitiation' (Goody 1986: 4-5). Kirsch modifies this thesis by highlighting the porosity and contingency of those boundaries: 'Christianity as a literate religion is part of a wider religious field that makes the identification and definition of "Christianity" an object of continuous controversies and negotiations ... and in actual practice there are no insurmountable boundaries for either religious practitioners or books' (Kirsch 2008: 114).

The seeming non-existence of boundaries is also a concern of Nigerian adherents of a globalized Pentecostalism who are the subject of Ruth Marshall's Political Spiritualities. As her title suggests, she seeks to explore the political import of Pentecostalism in Nigeria, focusing on its 'promise' to tear down the corrupted hierarchies of state and business elites, and its inability to achieve this. Nigeria's 'Pentecostal revolution' begins in the 1970s with a revival characterized by the egalitarian distribution of the Holy Spirit and Gifts of the Spirit in non-hierarchical house churches, interdenominational fellowships and prayer meetings. The revival served as a 'political critique of the abuse of power, practices of corruption and elite predation that were seen as responsible for the current state of things' (Marshall 2009: 12). In its emphasis on transforming the individual, Pentecostalism created new subjects who were peaceful, civil and provided a powerful alternative order to the predatory activities of the state and its elites. However, as Pentecostalism aged and its members became more socially mobile, so the revival shifted from an anti-materialist retreat from the world embodied in the Holiness Gospel to an embrace of a life of abundance in the present. The new Prosperity Gospel of the 1980s and 1990s created new instabilities whereby pastors became millionaires through doing God's work and believers found it increasingly difficult to distinguish between the powers of the Holy Spirit and those of the Devil. Big-time Pentecostal religious executives who led vast transnational movements and lived at a great remove from their flocks seemed little different from corrupt politicians and businessmen, and were rumoured to have accumulated wealth via witchcraft and Satanism. Marshall sees Pentecostalism's fatal flaw as its emphasis on the 'primacy of individual experiences of faith based upon interiority' over submission to external prescriptions (doctrines) more suited to consolidating trust among adherents. She argues that Pentecostal religion is unable to 'institute forms of sovereignty that would redeem the individual and collective past from a history of subjection and auto-destruction, and rescue the individual and nation from the experience of radical uncertainty and loss of control over present and future' (ibid.: 236). Nigerian Pentecostal leaders exhibit a very different type of personhood from Botswana's empathetic prophets, who manage great acts of solidarity with their suffering clients (Klaits 2010; Werbner 2011).

In addition to making a specific argument about Nigerian Pentecostalism, Marshall also seeks to counter political science and anthropological literature, which she sees as ahistorical and overly reductive. In a long and wide-ranging introductory chapter entitled 'Rethinking the religious and the political in Africa' she critiques 'the domestication of modernity approach', which interprets religious movements as attempts to control the effects of globalization and the transformations it imposes on local societies. In this literature the crises of poverty and confusion brought about by neo-liberal modernity are used to explain the rise of new religions in terms of their functionality as 'modes of accumulation, socialization, political combat, or as languages that translate the real and help us understand it'. Thus religion is considered as the medium for a non-religious message; such arguments avoid interrogating the content of religions and why they come to be seen as a solution (Marshall 2009: 17-19). Advocating an historical approach to the formation of religious identity in Africa, Marshall has in her sights Birgit Meyer and Jean and John Comaroff--whose work, she argues, reads religious innovation as a response to the anxieties about commodities from global capitalist networks. She writes 'Where did all this fear, confusion, need for fixed identities suddenly appear from ...? In a continent whose history has been marked by fluid boundaries and the continual integration of strangers ... where economies have been structured over several centuries through at times extremely brutal forms of extraversion.... Are people really more confused by globalization or neoliberalism than they were about colonialism? ... Today in Africa, a great majority of the population is only too eager and willing to hasten the erosion of established lifeways, and such a politics of nostalgia is a peculiarly Western obsession' (ibid.: 28-9).

Marshall's prose style is at times a little dense and difficult to fathom, bur her opening chapter makes congenial reading for those Africanists who have taken the long view of Africa's relations with the rest of the world and its trajectory of resilience and creativity in the face of potentially destabilizing external forces (Vaughan 2006). Other scholars have made similar arguments to hers. More than a decade ago Harri Englund and James Leach (2000) provoked a lively debate through a trenchant critique of the domestication of modernity thesis found in the work of the Comaroffs and Meyer. And David Martin (1990) and Karen Fields (1985) have made similar arguments about the religious in the political. Marshall does make good use of Francophone political science often ignored by Anglo-Saxon scholars, and she offers a nuanced reading on John Peel and Karin Barber's work on the Yoruba to show how Pentecostalism takes local form. But by ignoring much of the comparative literature on Pentecostalism she leaves the reader wondering whether the forms she is analysing are developmental (intrinsic), or transformational (the result of external forces acting upon them). For instance, the evolution of Pentecostalism from a Holiness movement in retreat from the world to a world-embracing Prosperity religion is widely documented in other contexts, raising the question of whether the breakdown of trust that accompanies the Nigerian trajectory is a developmental feature rather than a phenomenon specific to Nigeria. (4)

But Marshall's consideration of Pentecostalism's creation of new individual subjectivities is innovative and important. She argues that the primary concern of Pentecostalism is not with groups or institutions but with 'transformation and control of individual conduct and the creation of a particular type of moral subject'. Borrowing from Foucault she calls this organization of personal conduct 'techniques of self what many orthodox Christians would term the spiritual disciplines (Marshall 2009: 131). This is a process of constant introspection for things that might block divine blessing that takes the form of "self-fashioning--self-scrutiny, constant study and biblical hermeneutics, fasting, prayer, suffering, labouring, "waiting on the Lord"' (ibid.: 154). Such a personal regime is necessary because although being born again is an event of rupture, it remains an ongoing existential project because there is the constant danger of backsliding (ibid.: 131).

Returning to Marshall's argument about the political import of Pentecostalism in Nigeria, this emphasis on the self is also Pentecostalism's undoing because in its contemporary form it is practised in a delocalized community where bonds of fellowship are weak. Pentecostal leaders' reliance on the electronic media means that their churches are less of a site 'for the formation of "local" communities, and more and more a stage for a performance whose audience is elsewhere' (ibid.: 140). Marshall argues that the born-again movement is becoming a moral community with no definite sense of place. Solidarities are undermined by the relative unimportance of institutional affiliation, the instability of pastoral authority and the inherent lack of content of born-again identity. Believers have few criteria to judge whether their leaders are authentic and whether their wealth has been accrued by fair means or foul.

Marshall is over-arguing her case on the fluidity of Pentecostal identities. As Kirsch found in the case of the Jehovah's Witnesses and the New Apostolic Church, Pentecostal boundaries can be maintained through the controlled dissemination of print--not only study notes, but also canonical histories. Another means of boundary maintenance is a cult of leadership that demands unwavering loyalty to a leader endued with an extraordinary amount of divine blessing (Maxwell 2001). Nevertheless, Marshall's findings resonate with Kirsch's major conclusion that what makes an authentic Christian is recognition by the believer's local church. Belief is more than the Western ethnocentric notion of a 'set of internalized convictions and commitments'. It is 'participatory, performative, experiential and interactional' (Marshall 2009: 118). Possession of religious texts is not enough to make a person a Christian, because traditional healers use the Bible in divination. The key is that while the diviner will often pursue his/her work alone and in secret, Christianity is a communal religion where practice is subject to public scrutiny. (5) In a similar vein, Crumbley describes the process of the selection of prophets within parishes of the Celestial Church of Christ, whereby an overseer kept careful records of the spiritual journeys and spiritual conditions of apprentices, evaluated in terms of the accuracy of their prophecy and the efficacy of their healing (Crumbley 2008: 90).

Both Crumbley's historicized account of the Aladura movement over four generations and Marshall's reconstruction of Nigeria's born-again revival over three decades raise new questions about African Pentecostalism, which although only numerically successful since the 1980s stretches back to the 1910s in some parts of Africa. With regard to social mobility, research is needed on Pentecostal attitudes toward higher education. A related concern is whether Pentecostal gender politics stabilizes the family in the face of poverty, rapid social change and consumer hedonism, as Bernice Martin's work on Latin America suggests (2001). Other economic questions are Pentecostal attitudes toward savings and consumption and whether Pentecostals formulate ethics and ideals in relation to both. In the political realm, we are prompted to examine Pentecostal attitudes towards civic participation, formal and informal politics, and the idea and morality of politics. Crumbley's work reminds us of the importance of taking religious ideas and practices seriously, and there is still much room for reflection on the defining Pentecostal practices of healing and deliverance. Some of these questions are examined in Robert Hefner's edited collection Pentecostal Modernity: piety, gender, and politics in the world's fastest-growing faith tradition (forthcoming 2012), which is a comparison of Pentecostal trajectories across four continents. To the outside observer Pentecostalism can seem a confusing mix of modernity and tradition, but as the essays in the volume demonstrate, the mix makes sense in context. Marshall makes the same point with force by stressing the coeval nature of modernity and tradition within Pentecostalism.

As well as providing an important and fascinating account of reading practices within and beyond African Christianity, Kirsch's study also alerts us to how religious print moves across the globe via religious organizations and networks to create and reinforce religious identities. Jehovah's Witnesses is a significant influence but it is nothing new. Since the industrialization of print, vast quantities of religious literature have circulated around the globe. Only fifty years after its foundation in 1804 the British and Foreign Bible Society had produced nearly 28 million copies of the Scriptures in 152 languages and dialects. By 1965, it was estimated that it had printed nearly 723 million Bibles in 829 languages. Significant, too, were the armies of individual agents, clergymen, soldiers, sailors, merchants and Bible-women who distributed the scriptures, sometimes forming themselves into auxiliary organizations along lines of ethnicity or nation. By 1903 there were 5,726 auxiliaries working in branches and associations in Britain, and 2,230 auxiliaries in branches overseas. (6) The British and Foreign Bible Society is but one of many national Bible societies deserving the attention of scholars. (7) Taken, together the books under review open out a remarkable range of new and interesting issues.

doi: 10.1017/S0001972012000344


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Ukah, A. (2008) A New Paradigm of Pentecostal Power: a study of the Redeemed Christian Church of God in Nigeria. Trenton N J: Africa World Press.

Vaughan, M. (2006) 'Africa and birth of the modern world', Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 16: 143-62.

Werbner, R. (2011) Holy Hustlers, Schism and Prophecy: apostolic reformation in Botswana. Berkeley CA: University of California Press.

(1) Here I am influenced by J. D. Y Peel's agenda for anthropologies of religion (2009).

(2) For other early work see Maxwell (2001) and Newell (2005).

(3) For the classic survey see Ranger (1986).

(4) I trace a similar trajectory in African Gifts of the Spirit (2006). An increasingly distant leadership was viewed as greedy and 'unloving" rather than practitioners of witchcraft or Satanism. For a more detailed account of the Nigerian trajectory see Ukah 2008.

(5) On secrecy and traditional religious practice see Ferme (2001).

(6) <, uk/about-bible-society/history/our-history/>; <http://www.> both accessed 28 April 2012.

(7) For new work on this subject see Green and Viaene (2012 forthcoming) especially the chapter by Christopher Clark and Michael Ledger-Lomas. Matthew Engelke is currently researching the British and Foreign Bible Society.

DAVID MAXWELL is Dixie Professor of Ecclesiastical History at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of Emmanuel College. He is the author of Christians and Chiefs in Zimhabwe: a social history of' the Hwesa People c. 1870s-1990s (International African Institute and Edinburgh University, 1999) and African Gifts of the Spirit: Pentecostalism and the rise of a Zimbabwean transnational religious movement (James Currey, 2006). He is currently researching the missionary and African Christian contribution to colonial science with particular reference to the Belgian Congo. Email:
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Author:Maxwell, David
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Date:Aug 1, 2012
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