This chapter analyzes important approaches in anthropology that have dealt with religious change. The central question is how anthropologists identify and analyze the main factors in the conversion process. The chapter deals with the approaches in chronological order, describing their main authors and ideas, their conceptualization of religious conversion, and their methodologies. The main conclusion is that anthropologists have struggled to come to terms with religious conversion, but currently they are improving quickly. Most anthropologists have criticized modernity but have been unable to escape its gravitational pull. Another challenge for the future is developing comparative approaches to conversion to a host of religions in ways that include the indigenous understandings of the religions and explore their interactions with globalization processes. Anthropologists should capitalize on the main strengths of their discipline: their long-term perspective, their ethnographic approach, their theoretical flexibility, and their focus on the cultural context in understanding conversion cross-culturally.
For more than half a century, Rousas John Rushdoony and his followers have articulated and disseminated what they understand to be a biblical worldview, based in aspects of traditional reformed theology and both the Old and New Testaments. This worldview seeks to apply biblical law to every aspect of life and to transform every aspect of culture to establish the Kingdom of God. While some components of their vision are so extreme that Christian Reconstructionists are often dismissed as an irrelevant fringe group, other aspects of their vision have taken root in conservative American Protestantism, especially in the Christian homeschool movement, and therefor influenced American conservatism more broadly. This essay outlines that worldview and points to some of those areas of influence.
Simon Coleman and Anna Stewart
This chapter provides an overview of anthropological research on the ways in which religions both construct and constrain gender and sexuality. Using examples drawn from a wide range of cultures, we divide our overview into three main sections, dealing with issues of ‘discipline’, ‘reproduction’, and ‘protest and change’ respectively. We therefore show how these themes raise questions relating to reinforcement or challenges to social and political systems, as well as to biological necessity. We explore reasons why gender and sexuality may be both linked and distinguished from each other. Some reflections on the role of gender in the writing of ethnographic texts are also provided, alongside considerations of the complementary roles of anthropology and theology in analysing gender and sexuality.
Patrick S. Cheng
This chapter provides an overview of what Christian theologians need to know about queer theory, which is a critical approach to sexuality and gender that challenges the ‘naturalness’ of identities. Based upon developments in queer theory since the early 1990s, the chapter proposes the following four marks of queer theory: (1) identity without essence; (2) transgression; (3) resisting binaries; and (4) social construction. The chapter then discusses four strands of queer theology that correspond with each of the four marks of queer theory. The chapter concludes by suggesting six issues for future queer theological reflection: (1) queer of colour critique; (2) queer post-colonial theory; (3) queer psychoanalytical discourse; (4) queer temporality; (5) queer disability studies; and (6) queer interfaith dialogue.
Sociologists are concerned with the way human behaviour is patterned. They look for plausible explanations of phenomena that strike them as important due to their objective prevalence in social life. This chapter outlines the social scientific tools for studying religion, gender, and sexuality. Drawing on a range of examples from sociology of religion it explores the significance of individuals’ dispositions on the one hand and opportunities they encounter in their everyday lives on the other. The overall argument emphasizes the need for more collaboration between social scientists and theologians, or religious studies scholars. It suggests that secular sociologists would do well to consider the possibility of change in gender relations within religious contexts, and religious scholars could learn from the sociological method of inquiry to understand better the structurally determined mechanisms which make the symbolic gender order so resistant to change.
Todd M. Johnson
In the past twenty-five years, an enormous amount of data on religious affiliation has been collected and analyzed. New sources of information include government censuses (half the countries in the world include a religion question), records kept by religious communities (membership rolls), and published works by individual scholars (such as monographs on new religious movements). All sources of data on religion must be employed to understand the total context of religious affiliation. The dynamics of change in religious affiliation can be reduced to three sets of empirical population data that together enable us to enumerate the increase or decrease in adherents over time: (1) births minus deaths, (2) converts minus defectors, and (3) immigrants minus emigrants. Because Christian data is the most extensive, the six dynamics are examined for Christianity for the whole world, the United Nations regions, and China and Brazil.
Desire and love have always been important themes in Christianity, but there is no self-evident meaning for either of these concepts. This chapter examines some important contributions in the history of theology to the understanding of each, and offers some steps towards a constructive theology that regards desire as an integrative part of love. If the problem with the dominant tradition during antiquity and the Middle Ages was that it separated eros from a legitimate sexuality, the problem of modern Christianity is that it has reduced desire to sexuality. It is not helpful to separate agape from eros, as this implies a theology for which important aspects of human longing fall outside its frame. An account of love that avoids narcissism and an economy of the same includes desire; a love without desire lacks the motor that moves us forward towards the other.
Social class or ethnicity in a given religion, as much as gender, can be the factor which inhibits or permits the release of religious emotion. Accordingly, whether or not women and men's emotional expression is either esteemed or denigrated by their religious communities is multiply determined. This essay argues that male-dominated religions tend to regulate, transcend, and thereby “masculinize” emotion by its accommodation in the sublime: in the narrative, ritual, dogmatic, and ethical scheme articulated by, and primarily for, men. Where emotion cannot be thus accommodated, male religious discourse often reduces “natural,”, “private” emotion to a function of sexual desire. This essay also discusses subversion, power, and female religious emotion. It concludes with a brief account of the religious feminist reclamation of the spiritually and politically transformative power of religious emotion.
Raymond F. Paloutzian
This chapter presents a comprehensive overview of psychological research on religious conversion and spiritual transformation, in which a marked increase has occurred in the past generation. From around 1900 to the 1930s, milestones appeared by James, Hall, Freud, and their intellectual offspring; subsequent limitations brought such work to a standstill. The 1960s saw the field re-emerge; it has since greatly expanded. New research examines conversion to varieties of religion including Christianity, Islam, Judaism, New Religious Movements, and spirituality. Conversion is seen as a process that varies in speed, motivations, context, and direction including deconversion. Psychological processes include step models, attachment, psychodynamics, group pressures, and cognitive manipulations. This chapter offers the model of religion as a meaning system as a theoretical approach to integrate the research.
S. Ilan Troen
While Zionist ideology has long been part of the rubric of Jewish history, the study of its realization through the social, cultural, and political history of the Yishuv and Israel has been relatively neglected. The Jews of Eretz Israel (‘the Land of Israel’) numbered less than half of 1% of world Jewry at the beginning of the twentieth century. Israel now accounts for about 40% and is approaching parity with the United States. Israeli history and society has only recently become a discrete topic or field of study within the humanities and social sciences, and included in university curricula, even in Israel. Change began in Israel in the early 1990s, when various collections of courses under the title of ‘Israel Studies’ were organized as a modest subset within the BA degree.
Jeffrey J. Kripal
The biological, psychological, cultural, and ethical complexities of what we today call sexuality, gender, sexual orientation, and sexual trauma have been the focus of intense research for well over a century now. It would be difficult to overestimate the importance of this corporate knowledge for how we have come to see “religion,” and it is worth noting that both the modern categories of religion and sexuality as signs marking fields of rational discourse and critical study were born more or less together within the same time period (the nineteenth and twentieth centuries) and within the same cultural institution (the Western university). This article examines the abstract categories of sexuality, gender, sexual orientation, the erotic, desire, and sexual trauma. It concludes with two individual fields of sexual-religious emotion and, in this case, two historical female bodies, one (apparently) heterosexual, the other homosexual or bisexual: Mother Ann Lee, the charismatic founder of the American Shaker community, and the contemporary Hollywood actress, Anne Heche.
Fenggang Yang and Andrew Stuart Abel
Sociological analysis of conversion was once dominated by the Lofland-Stark model. However, recent research has moved beyond that model’s mostly micro-level approach. Studies of congregations, ritual, and embodied religion demonstrate the importance of social institutions. Other paradigms are now available too, such as the religious economies approach. In addition, it is now clear that social context, culture, globalism, and so on—macro-level factors, in other words—are of great consequence in conversion. Such contextual aspects need to be treated as the primary influence underlying conversion in some societies. China is a useful example of this, especially the rise of Christianity in China, which exhibits characteristics of a mass movement. In sum, this chapter presents the contemporary sociological study of conversion at three levels of analysis—micro, meso, and macro—and explores the advantages of each.
This chapter traces the academic development of postmodern theology and gender studies, from the feminist theologies of the 1960s–1980s through the ‘linguistic turn’ to the emergence of the concept of ‘intersectionality’. Beattie argues that gender theory restores to theology the forgotten wisdom of its own tradition with regard to language and the interpretation of scripture. However, she cautions against the Manichaean seductions of postmodernism, arguing that the theology of gender must be rooted in the goodness of creation, including the human created male and female in the image of God. Analysing differences between Protestant and Catholic theologies in terms of grace and sacramentality, and with reference to Christian mysticism, she argues for a contemplative, sacramental theology of gender that is open to the divine mystery, animated by desire while remaining attentive to the distorting effects of sin on desire, and actively expressed in love of neighbour and of creation.
This article explores the key methodological approaches evident in theologies of sexuality since theological reflection upon sexuality emerged as a distinctive discipline in the latter part of the twentieth century. It charts the movement from a radical valorization of sexuality by conservative, liberal, and gay and lesbian theologians to a fundamental questioning and rejection of the very notion of sexuality. It argues that there is a need for Christian theologians to stop focusing on sexuality as such and turn their attention to right ordering of desire as part of the project of Christian discipleship.
This chapter examines the continuities, development, and diversity found among evangelical Christians as they explore different patterns of evangelical response to new and challenging questions relating to sexuality and gender. Evangelicals have generally accepted contraception although there has been some recent opposition. Understandings and responses to divorce and remarriage vary from prohibition to generous accommodation with general acceptance of diverse genuinely evangelical views. Issues of gender and women in church leadership have, however, caused tensions and divisions between more restrictive ‘headship’ views and more egalitarian understandings, raising issues related to biblical inspiration and authority as well as hermeneutics. In contrast to diversity in these areas, most evangelicals remain committed to a sexual ethic focused on marriage and abstinence for the unmarried, and thus opposed to any approval of homosexual partnerships. Although some evangelicals are questioning this, most see change here as unbiblical and going beyond evangelicalism.
Sexuality is a domain of experience that has been variously described as embodied, deeply personal, intimate, ecstatic, and even sacred. Yet, precisely because of some of these qualities and the emotions associated with them, it is also a domain that entails not only pleasure but also the possibility of violation, even terror. It is a ground on which wars are fought (including intrapsychic, familial, social, political, and military). This chapter explores multiple aspects and causes of sexual violence, in particular interrogating the saying from the rape crisis movement: ‘Rape is about power, not sex’. Additional statements will be proposed, including ‘Rape is about power, and sex’; ‘Rape is about power, using sex’; and ‘Rape is about power, gender, and race’. The chapter concludes with an ethic of sexual justice that addresses the ethics of sexuality and of power, drawing on a Trinitarian theology that emphasizes relationality and abundant life.
Thomas Knieps-Port le Roi
The chapter provides an overview of recent developments in the theology and ethics of marriage. It places the debates first in a sociocultural context of deinstitutionalization and individualization which has rendered marriage more optional and more fragile, but not weakened its symbolic meaning. It is then shown how the Christian churches have responded to the challenges of late modern society, in particular the Roman Catholic Church with its new emphasis on conjugal love at the Second Vatican Council. Three main strands have marked the theological and ethical discourse subsequently: a revisionist position which defends the subjective and interpersonal aspects of marriage, a traditionalist position which insists on a divine plan for marriage and a corresponding theology of the body, and the approach of a new generation of scholars who accuse the traditionalists of an abstract and idealistic description of the spousal relationship and criticize the revisionists for their narrow focus on private interiority. In a third and final section three major trends are explored and perspectives developed: first, possible arguments for commending marriage over alternative forms of living together are assessed; second, it is argued how heterosexual marriage can still be proclaimed as the ethical norm without discriminating against deviant forms of sexual expression; third, the tension between interpersonal and institutional approaches to marriage is explored and the search for a balance between both poles suggested as a future challenge for the theology of marriage.