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Gifford, Paul (2015) Christianity, Development and Modernity in Africa. London: Hurst.

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Abstract

There is an important if largely unremarked diversity within African Christianity; on the one hand, an enchanted Christianity that views the world as pervaded by spiritual forces, and on the other a disenchanted Christianity that discounts such forces. An enchanted Christian sees his glorious destiny threatened by witches, marine spirits, spirit spouses, and ancestral curses. Churches catering for this worldview lay bare the workings of this spirit world, deliver those suffering from spirit attacks, and equip members to combat these forces. This enchanted imagination, along with the prosperity gospel, and emphasis on the pastor’s “anointing”, are the principal characteristics of much African Pentecostalism. Gifford argues that the enchanted religious imagination militates against development by encouraging fear and distrust, diminishing human responsibility and agency, and downplaying the functional rationality underpinning modernity. The prosperity gospel of ‘covenant wealth from tithes and offerings’ is the antithesis of Weber’s Protestant ethic; and to magnify the person of the pastor is to perpetuate the curse of the “Big Man”. Official Catholicism, totally disenchanted, long associated with schools and hospitals, is now involved in development of all kinds, from microfinance to election monitoring, from conflict resolution to human rights. This “NGO-ization of Catholicism”, made almost inevitable by funding from secular donors like the EU, UN and USAID, even if defended theologically, comes at the price of failing to address the ‘religious’ needs of so many African Christians.

Item Type: Authored Books
Keywords: Christianity, development, modernity, Pentecostalism, witchcraft, secularization, prosperity gospel, enchanted imagination
SOAS Departments & Centres: Legacy Departments > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Department of the Study of Religions
ISBN: 9781849044776
DOI (Digital Object Identifier): https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190495732.001.0001
Date Deposited: 03 Sep 2016 10:59
URI: https://eprints.soas.ac.uk/id/eprint/22887

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