Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Another bric in the wall

We've finished our reading of Meredith McGuire's Lived Religion. Going through it again, with a class, really heightens my appreciation of its achievement, as well as my awareness of roads she hasn't taken. I'm asking the students to follow up two sources she refers to as a way of learning from her and/but also learning how she works from others' research. My illustration is an article by Otto Maduro to which she refers in her closing discussion of syncretism and bricolage. She argues that syncretism is the norm - it is anti-syncretism that needs to be explained! - but the contrast with his argument makes her individual bricolage-focused study seem to present rather too rosy a picture of religion, by still implicitly separating religious from political and ideological structures and ideas.

I would like to see more studies ... of the syncretizations at work in Methodist history between the Wesleyan tradition, on the one hand, and, on the other, U.S. white supremacy, middle class ethos, and Manifest Destiny. Similarly, I would encourage researchers on Pentecostalism to zero in on the ongoing hybridizations in the Assemblies of God between its Holiness heritage and the extraneous trends of dispensationalism, Armageddon theology, and the gospel of prosperity-alongside with the abandonment of an earlier openness toward women leaders and pacifism. I would suggest to those researching the history of missions to study the processes of integration of (and resistance to) capitalism, militarism and U.S. hegemony into the evangelizing practices, among others, of both U.S. Protestant and Catholic missionaries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. To those interested in the sociology of Puerto Rican Christian churches I would propose to reconstruct the dynamics leading to the pervasive recasting of Puerto Rican nationalism as a religious heresy.
Otto Maduro, “‘Religion’ under Imperial Duress: Postcolonial Reflections and Proposals,”
Review of Religious Research 45/3 (Mar 2004): 221-34, 229-30

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