Posts Tagged ‘missions’

June 6th, 2017

Secular Christian power and the spiritual invention of nations

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Stand With Standing Rock Nov 11-15 2016 | Image via Flickr user Leslie PetersonIn the Americas, missionary colonialism prospered on the sharp edge of secular Christian power. Cutting up land with a blade that reflected Christian glory on one side and secular state governance on the other, the new nations of the Americas were made through a process of violent spiritual-political invention. New Christian-infused forms of spiritual jurisdiction—royal proclamations and constitutions—were written on top of already-existing Indigenous laws and alliances also rooted in spiritual claims. Indigenous scholars such as John Borrows and Audra Simpson have made clear that for scholars to understand ongoing Indigenous sovereignty requires attention to history, to protocol, and to how Indigenous stories are both told and withheld.

I would add that thinking about Indigeneity in North America—or Turtle Island—requires careful attention to how ceremony, protocol, and invocations of the spirit have shaped all claims to sovereignty on this land, including those of settler-colonial nations.

February 14th, 2017

From Christ to Confucius

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From Christ to ConfuciusIn his exciting and beautifully written book, From Christ to Confucius: German Missionaries, Chinese Christians, and the Globalization of Christianity, 1860-1950, Wu charts a fundamental shift in European missionaries’ conceptions of non-Europeans, from child-like barbarians in need of discipline to representatives of venerated civilizations worthy of respect. He meticulously reconstructs a century of missionary conferences, activities, and publications—both Catholic and Protestant—to demonstrate that German missionaries stood at the forefront of this transformation.

Like almost all Europeans, Germans of the late nineteenth century were steeped in the call for a “civilizing mission,” and took for granted that their duty was to instill both the gospel and European social norms (especially monogamy) in “heathens” across the globe. However, the shock of World War I and Germany’s humiliating defeat induced German missionaries to develop a new understanding of their place in the world.

January 6th, 2017

CFP | Converting Spaces: Re-Directing Missions Through Global Encounters

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Converting SpacesThe department of religious studies at the University of California-Santa Barbara, with support from the Cordano Endowment in Catholic Studies, will host an interdisciplinary conference from May 4-6, 2017, entitled “Converting Spaces: Re-Directing Missions Through Global Encounters.” The keynote speaker for the event is Dr. Liam Brockey of the history department at Michigan State University.

Proposals addressing the relation of space to conversion in the context of European global and colonial expansion from the sixteenth century onwards are welcome from established scholars, graduate students, and independent researchers. The deadline for submissions is February 17, 2017.

February 22nd, 2012

Missions and church-planting in Europe

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Last month, published a report on the state of missional church-planting activities in Europe authored by Darrell Jackson and Tim Herbert.

May 24th, 2010

Shrinking no more

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Two recent studies conducted by the Christian organization LifeWay Research and supervised by missiological thought leader Ed Stetzer provide an enhanced quantitative picture of the phenomenon of “church planting”—the founding of new churches—in the contemporary United States.

May 19th, 2010

Sexual abuse across faith lines

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At Ahead of the Trend, the blog of the Association of Religion Data Archives, religion writer David Briggs reports that sexual abuse of children in religious organizations extends beyond the Catholic Church.

February 8th, 2010

Idaho missionaries replay colonial legacy, imperial hubris

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Anthea Butler analyzes the case of Idaho missionaries arrested in Haiti, comparing it to the long history of colonialism and imperial Christianity of which the missionaries appear naively unaware.

January 25th, 2010

God was on everybody’s side: A conversation with Jean Comaroff

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It is my pleasure to inaugurate Rites and Responsibilities, a new dialogue series for The Immanent Frame and the Social Science Research Council, with a conversation with the renowned anthropologist and critical theorist Jean Comaroff of the University of Chicago. Rites and Responsibilities is published in conjunction with the SSRC’s Project on Religion and International Affairs, with the generous support of the Henry Luce Foundation. Throughout the series, we will be talking to scholars, religious leaders, and other public figures about the public life of religion in an age of globalization, especially in regard to questions of sovereignty, accountability, and authority.

January 19th, 2010

Giving up the Holy Ghost

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Christian ModernsKeane’s account is convincing, but it is important to contextualize the semiotic ideology he defines. I could be misreading Keane here, but it struck me that he reads Calvinists’ views of the Lord’s Supper to glean how they imagined Christian truth. But I would argue that in the hands of Calvinists, this semiotic ideology would only be employed to explain other people’s false religions. The Lord’s Supper was downgraded to the status of metaphor because, like all works, it could play no instrumental role in salvation. What Catholics and idolaters shared in their formal prayers and ritual performances was an overvaluation of human agency and institutions at the expense of the sovereignty of God and the surprising work of the Holy Spirit, which could not be contained in any external institutional, material, or linguistic forms. Against empty forms and rituals, Calvinists sought the real, active, vital presence of the Spirit that animated and invigorated the human body and the social order. To this end, the Holy Spirit worked through what can be described as a metonymic operation that stressed immediate contact and presence.

January 11th, 2010

Reconstructing belief

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keaneI would like to continue the discussion of modernity and the problem of belief, which, like Danilyn Rutherford, I do not regard as a no-fly zone.

The gist of this fine book recounts a story of modernity that is imagined as a process of human liberation from false belief and drab materiality through the encounter between Dutch Calvinists and the inhabitants of Sumba, some of whom are Catholic, and some not. The Sumbanese use scripture for divination, presume that prayer produces material results, and think that words have real and inherent power to act in the world. The Calvinist reformers do not—they insist that language is the pure and transparent expression of inner thought, and believe in sincerity, not in magic.

December 18th, 2009

No view from nowhere

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keaneI’ll start with a comment about my own angle of approach. There is of course no view from nowhere, and it is one task of the commentators to point out the blind spots that any perspective inevitably brings with it. As an anthropologist, my aim was not originally to construct a critique of modernity or of Christianity. The book emerged out of a long series of attempts to grapple with the challenges my research in Sumba presented to certain common sense assumptions about persons, materiality, and language. I came to see those assumptions as characteristic products of the liberal and secular world that produced the habits and disciplines within which many of us live, and thanks to which, in part, the book itself was written.

December 11th, 2009

Colonialism and conflict

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keaneIf the idea of purification is to retain broad currency across the colonial landscape, it may need to be defined differently, more in terms of separating out truth from falsehood, or the divine from the diabolical, than of fixing boundaries between the spiritual and the material. While questions of ontological difference could be salient in Sumba and certain other mission fields, the distinctions drawn between persons and things in acts of purification fail to account for other important distinctions drawn between persons themselves.

February 12th, 2009

Hybrid consciousness or purified religion

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<br />Charles Taylor’s framework for understanding the advent of a “secular age” in the North Atlantic world offers a useful first draft for understanding the place of religion in Asian modernity.  As I have shown in my previous two posts, modern Asian countries have secular states, but, despite efforts of some states to destroy all religion, they still have religious societies. In this post, I will discuss how new cultural conditions of belief give religion a different valence than it had in pre-modern times. Taylor’s framework, however, is only a first draft. […]