Celebrating 125 Years of Publishing
Celebrating 125 Years of Publishing
We lowered our voices to a whisper as we dined in Island Grill, a local fast-food restaurant serving on-the-go jerk and curried chicken in the heart of Half Way Tree in Kingston, Jamaica. Bustling with strip malls offering clothing, electronics, and beauty supply stores along with bookstores, restaurants, and other retail establishments, Half Way Tree is marked by a constant flow of people and traffic. Small, white city “buses”—which look more like minivans—continuously passed along the road packed with people. I usually walked the roughly one-mile jaunt along the busy thoroughfare in the heat up to the plaza—past the one-armed, one-legged homeless man with mangled locks who was obviously undernourished. He seemed to make his living asking for food, money, or other items to sustain him under his cardboard shelter—his presence a nagging reminder of Jamaica’s dramatic needs. Today, however, my friend, Eva, joined me for lunch, so we called a cab to ensure her speedy return to work, where administrative responsibilities demanded her attention. There were only a few cab drivers in Eva’s address book whom she trusted. She always called one of these, never taking the risk of hailing an unknown driver.
As we talked in Island Grill, it became clear that Eva, whose assertive yet friendly Pentecostal affect seems to take over any room she enters, was always strangely cautious during certain public conversations.1 We could talk out loud about the debts she owes for school and for other “lickle” things, she would say with her mixed Jamaican-English accent. We could talk about the concerns she had with her local church, even her failed marriage and the reasons for it. But there were certain other conversations she preferred to hold behind closed doors—such as those about politics in Jamaica and community violence.
She was concerned about patrons overhearing our discussion of the week’s events. Just nights before, on October 5, 2005, around 3:00 a.m., approximately forty gunmen had surrounded and firebombed the home of Gerald and Dorcas Brown, killing them, their granddaughter Sasha, and Sasha’s aunt Michelle Brown. The local paper reported that Sasha, the youngest victim at age ten, stood in the windows in the wee hours of the morning screaming out the names of neighbors she could see, begging them to save her.2 The memory of her calling out for help left neighbors consumed with grief. Nobody came to her rescue. The gunmen had formed a circle around the perimeter of the house, shooting at anyone who dared to save her and anyone brazen enough to try to escape. For those inside theirs was a certain death.
Newspaper reports failed to capture the brutality of the murder. Eva and I pieced together what people in the community were saying. It was revenge for the indiscretion of Sasha’s mother reporting a crime to the police. Apparently the mother filed a complaint with local authorities, and before she could return home, someone inside the precinct had notified the gunmen. Community rumors painted a disturbing liaison between street thugs and local authorities. Even if false, the lurid narrative itself reflects the distrust bubbling beneath the surface of everyday life, preventing standard law and order. The local newspaper sketched a much less inflammatory narrative. Regardless of the details, a young girl, her grandparents, and aunt were all dead, victims of what locals consider a completely out-of-control system of crime and violence dominating Kingston’s inner city.
Dealing with the cloud of fear over Kingston has become the work and responsibility of faith communities. Addressing the problem of Jamaica’s social, political, and economic troubles falls to those who meet weekly for prayer meetings, Bible study, and worship services.3 In these houses of faith pastors, ministry leaders, and laypeople are expected to pray and fast, invoking God continuously about the troubles confronting contemporary Jamaica and its people.
I came to Jamaica after studying with a group of African American women in the US South. There the community seemed smaller, less harried, and more connected socially than in Jamaica’s urban center. Although there was less violence in Halifax’s small rural community, the need for social change was as palpable, and people called upon their faith to help find answers to social issues. Eva was no different. Repeatedly, while talking about violence in Jamaica, she insisted that “God has a word” for the country in the midst of its social crisis. Others, like Bishop Harold Blair, island pastor and government ombudsman, responded bluntly when asked about Jamaica’s greatest needs: “Jamaica needs God!” I was not taken aback by their insistence but instead related it more generally to a growing Pentecostal sentiment worldwide and more intimately to the convictions of the women with whom I had just spoken in the United States.4 While political intervention and economic strategy are viewed as important, the greatest and most crucial asset to effective change for many is God.
Yet, as Ruth Marshall in her study of Nigerian Pentecostalism so eloquently explains,
If we invoke situations of material crisis—poverty, social exclusion, failure of modernization and development, demise of forms of sociability and itineraries of social mobility, “confusion” engendered by processes of globalization, neoliberal capitalist relations—in order to explain the rise of religion, then we tacitly see these movements in terms of their functionality: as modes of accumulation, socialization, or political combat, or as languages that translate the real and help to understand it. While religious movements can indeed fulfill these functions, nevertheless, as an explanation for both the current religious effervescence and its political signification, they are both circular and inadequate.5
In Jamaica the palpable faith expressed certainly meets certain social, political, and economic objectives, yet just as for the women in Halifax, faith cannot be reduced to its function. It speaks to ethereal concerns and passions that social scientists have yet to measure. Nevertheless, in the study of religion and media, or religion as mediated, religion is often performed, packaged, and distributed in its capacity to meet the materialist needs of viewers. While function alone cannot be used to explain the rise of religion, mediated faith often is reduced to its function—whether in the promotion of books, CDs, conferences, or a host of other commodities. Often in mediated faith, God (for numerous reasons) functions as benefactor of gifts, a celestial philanthropist. It is with this latter emphasis that I am most concerned here.
My earlier research in Between Sundays shows how faith informs the everyday lives of women that I came to know, their commitments to social engagement as well as their individual transformations. I learned quickly that twenty-first-century faith is not the same as twentieth-century faith. Women were not influenced only by the preacher to whom they listen every Sunday at church or by their weekly Bible study classes, but they were participants in a larger and seemingly limitless twenty-four-hour world of religious media. They were not registered members of these media churches, but many of them were faithful viewers. Some were also faithful financial contributors to this network of televangelists as they partnered with them in faith for answers to prayers. For these believers, God’s direct intervention into their daily lives is anticipated. This type of evangelical faith sees God not as a distant observer of the lives of individuals or a scornful spectator of the challenges facing nation-states, but as a dependably engaged actor in life’s circumstances. Little seemed to change as I traveled from the US South across the Caribbean Sea to Jamaica. People were invested in the work of faith as one means of transforming their circumstances, and some also trusted that particular televangelists could speak specifically to their situations.
Research over the past two decades into the transnational flows of religious broadcasting, and Pentecostalism specifically, has expanded, and this particular case in the Caribbean made me curious.6 Given the social relevance of African American religion—its penchant toward liberation, soulful theodicy, and complementary and contradictory sets of racial commitments—I began to wonder about the influence of African American religious broadcasting on the faith and religious sensibilities of people of color outside the United States. Because the study of white televangelists and accompanying missionary efforts has fueled a wealth of research on American evangelicalism, how might we come to understand the complicated meting out of messages by those who have experienced a different racialized American reality? Were black televangelists preaching a gospel capable of transforming the people and situations facing Jamaica, as viewers hoped? What type of liberating gospel were they preaching? Given the much-maligned preaching of the gospel of prosperity, what effect might such a message have on the people of Jamaica? And beyond the consumers and producers of religious broadcasting, how are the loyalties and expectations of media network owners informing the types of messages that penetrate the airwaves? In other words, what is at stake for everyone involved—those who consume, those who produce, and those who distribute religious media? Is the “black church” itself undergoing a particular type of metamorphosis given the demands inherent in the business of broadcasting? This book offers a sort of contemporary history that allows us to explore not only the relevance of religious broadcasting but also the hopes and intentions of its global theater. What made a host of televangelists, including T. D. Jakes, Juanita Bynum, Creflo Dollar, Joyce Meyer, and Paula White, so wildly popular at the beginning of the twenty-first century?
In contemplating these questions, I must articulate clearly what I mean by an “American religion” that has “gone global.” American religion has been global since the earliest days of US missionary work to foreign lands. Missionaries carried with them various forms of media—printed Bibles, leaflets, and eventually utilized electronic means for spreading the gospel through phonograph and radio. However, drawing attention to American religion invites us to engage in the ongoing work of reconfiguring the category. As historian Charles Long has noted, “A great many of the writings and discussions on the topic of American religion have been consciously or unconsciously ideological, serving to enhance, justify and render sacred the history of European immigrants in this land.”7 Too often white religious practice by default has been categorized as “American religion,” while the study of African American religious practitioners sits solely under the category “black religious studies.” Furthermore, scholars writing about white religious subjects often express little concern about needing to specify that they are referencing white American religion when speaking of the Quakers, Puritans, Protestants, or Catholics in US history. Whiteness in the study of American religion has operated as a normative category. However, edited works by scholars such as Harry S. Stout, D. G. Hart, Catherine Brekus, W. Clark Gilpin, and Stephen J. Stein, as well as several single-authored texts, have worked to disrupt this long-standing history by indexing black religion.8 “American religion gone global” is thus ironic because American religion is already global. “Going global” is new in regard to religion’s hypermediated capacities and novel in its focus on the global distribution and appeal of black and female televangelists.
A deeper irony is that while the American religious subjects in this context are Black, the religion that travels with them is as much “American” as it is “black,” if not more so. The most popular mediated versions of black American religion often draw more theologically on the presuppositions of traditional American Christian ideals than on the long history of critique and protest often central to the work of canonical black religion and black theology. Black religion, after all, from the days of Gayraud Wilmore’s Black Religion and Black Radicalism and James Cone’s A Black Theology of Liberation has been most prominently categorized as “protest religion.” Yet “black televangelism” as defined in Jonathan Walton’s Watch This! is far from the practice of protest. Affirming the Americanness of this study is thus an epistemological pronouncement. Black religion in its multiple forms—from protest to accommodation and every point in between—is central to any and all understandings of American religion.
Furthermore, in discussing this form of black American religion as central to the making of American religion rather than as a subcategory, I recognize the criticism of scholars who point out that the phrase “black religion” has been assumed to be the province of black Christian faith. In light of this critique there is increasing attention paid to how black religionists have entreated the Divine across multiple religious landscapes, including Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, and African traditional religions like Vodou, Santeria, Candomblé, and Yoruba.9 In this text I affirm that I am reflecting on merely one aspect of black religion, Christianity. Furthermore, when referring to black religious practices in black churches, it is important to fully appreciate and then push past the operational definition of the black church rendered by Lincoln and Mamiya: “those independent, historic, and totally black controlled denominations, which were founded after the free African Society of 1787 and which constituted the core of black Christians.” They acknowledge that such a framework for the sake of their study largely excludes “predominantly black local churches in white denominations such as the United Methodist Church, the Episcopal Church, and the Roman Catholic Church, among others.”10
As this study notes, such a framework largely leaves unanswered the question of whether black religion is being practiced when the primary adherents are Black and the leader/evangelist is White or of another race. Anthony Pinn begs precisely this question in his work on Peoples Temple, the story of Jim Jones and his followers: “What and where is the black in black religion?”11 Criticism by scholars such as Charles Long and Victor Anderson push further by challenging even the very essentialist notions of race in affirming a black religious practice or way of being in the world.12 When white female televangelist Paula White addresses a gathering of black South Africans upon the invitation of Bishop T. D. Jakes for his MegaFest International conference, is that “black religion”? If so, what are the parameters of such a designation: the preacher, the theology, the history, the aesthetics of the service, or the constitution of the congregation?
As several scholars have noted, within the larger corpus of black church studies, we researchers often operate with a bias toward black “progressive” religion, the tradition of sit-ins, boycotts, and struggles for justice. Recognizing this, historian Barbara Savage explains that the presumptions of a monolithic black church are misleading at best: “[The black church] is an illusion and a metaphor that has taken on a life of its own . . . a political, intellectual, and theological construction that symbolizes unity and homogeneity while masking the enormous diversity and independence among African American religious institutions and believers.”13 Ethicist Jonathan Walton explains that while scholars in the twentieth century have had a tendency “to portray black liberal Protestantism and progressive political action as embodying ‘true’ black religion,” other religious forms “such as Pentecostal and Holiness traditions, which have disproportionately embraced the mass media, have not been given the same breadth of coverage.”14 Walton thus offers one of the first monographs focused on black religious broadcasting, providing insight into the history and ethical considerations latent in the genre.
It is this version of black American religion with which I am most concerned. Sociologists such as Omar McRoberts, Shayne Lee, and Milmon Harrison; political scientist Tamelyn Tucker-Worgs; historians Wallace Best, Anthea Butler, and Scott Billingsley; and ethicists Monique Moultrie and Debra Mumford have offered further compelling insights into the growth and development of contemporary African American Pentecostal and Word of Faith movements.15 Their work complements earlier texts by articulating a more nuanced picture of the various aspects that make up black religious experience. As an ethnography, Colored Television is distinct from these works in that it explores these aspects on the ground, as they are meted out in the lives of everyday people.
Thus, Colored Television explores African American televangelism with its Pentecostal and Word of Faith inflections and its influence on Jamaican society. In this way the work is concerned with the movement of black American religion beyond US borders. The focus is on Jamaica as an engaged people or landscape for understanding the fluid movement of African American religion. The theologies that travel as well as the mechanisms that aid their travel are as important in this discussion as the people who receive, remix, and appropriate the messages. Why not simply focus on Jamaican televangelists? I considered this question but also noticed that the vast majority of televangelists capturing the attention of Jamaican viewers are from the United States. The larger questions thus seem to be, Why are American televangelists dominating the airwaves in Jamaica? If people are in crisis and they believe they need a word from God, why is this “word” coming from the United States? What does this importation mean? Religious broadcasting in this context holds particular sway among those trying to make sense of their spiritual ideals in light of their social realities. How these messages are received and promulgated in local communities is as much about religious sensibilities as about the strivings of people in a market-driven globalized society rankled by social unrest and inequality.
Thus, this book makes three specific theoretical contributions. First, it insists that the web of religious broadcasting cannot be understood without a full appreciation of the aims, motivations, and desires of all those involved—producers, consumers, and distributors. Second, in taking seriously the concerns that emerge around the issues of race, class, and gender, this book explores how these issues coalesce in the existential practice of religious life. In focusing on the prosperity gospel and increasingly important discourses around sexuality, one central contention is that it is impossible to understand or appreciate the rise in prosperity gospels without fully appreciating the rise in sexuality discourses. The relationship between the two is in many ways symbiotic, and the reluctance of scholars to address women televangelists hinders their ability to appreciate this dynamic. Finally, while not reducing religion solely to market forces, this work does argue that the business of broadcasting fundamentally alters religion and the experiences of the faithful.
A Note on Methods
For the past several years of studying media, I have been haunted by George Marcus’s proclamation that we as anthropologists should “follow the thing”—see where it is, what it is doing, the different forms it takes, the various ways people interact with it, the kinds of circumstances it creates, and (for religious broadcasting) the new theologies and musical styles it inspires or represses.16 Taking up Marcus’s call to follow commodities, Lila Abu-Lughod challenges ethnographers to produce thick descriptions of television through multisited ethnographies.17 As John Jackson rightly critiques the notion of “thick description” in our hypermediated age where there are thin lines between ethnographer and the ethnographized, the challenge to at least attempt a multisited understanding of a phenomenon adds important dimensions to our knowledge.18 So I have developed such an ethnography that reflects in large part my obsession with “following the thing.” This preoccupation has required a lot of traveling to conferences and communities both within and outside the United States to appreciate the global influence of this medium. It has required listening to countless stories about both the benefits and banes of religious broadcasting. And it has required sitting in front of religious television programming for hours. It has also entailed numerous conversations with people who also sit in front of religious television for hours, as well as those in studios and churches who sit behind and in front of the camera.
According to Faye Ginsburg, Lila Abu-Lughod, and Brian Larkin, “Such strategies help us see not only how media are embedded in people’s quotidian lives but also how consumers and producers are themselves imbricated in discursive universes, political situations, economic circumstances, national settings, historical moments, and transnational flows, to name only a few relevant contexts.”19 I have decided that it is nearly impossible to attain a definitive word on the genre because each time I think I have mastered “the thing,” it morphs into something new. A television show goes on the Internet, a station buys out another station, or a congregation takes a cue from television and changes its format to something more contemporary. This, too, is a story, an insight into the medium. The supposedly static thing doesn’t remain static at all. So, Colored Television is a narrative as much about change in religious media as about the thing of religious media.
In 2005 I visited both Baptist and Pentecostal churches in Jamaica. From these multiple sites the dynamic influence of religious broadcasting was clear: this was not a genre limited to the sensibilities of Pentecostal or Charismatic churches. With the decline in denominational loyalties, there is no hard-and-fast rule governing who watches religious broadcasting. Like the practice of speaking in tongues and other ecstatic worship practices now found in mainline churches, religious broadcasting has been embraced by contemporary Christians from a variety of religious backgrounds. I focus on members of Pentecostal churches in Jamaica not because of their greater penchant for watching religious broadcasting but because of the access that I had to several such communities. One was within walking distance from my residence, and the other two were sites where I instantly met comrades. The members were excited about my project and willing to speak with me. Pastors at the churches also graciously accommodated my presence and inquiries. Though I located informants through the church and attended the churches weekly for Sunday services, Bible studies, women’s meetings, and young people’s programs, this ethnography is not about the churches per se. As in Between Sundays, I want to decentralize the church service as the only site of spiritual activity to look at another site of spiritual investment: the time believers spend watching religious broadcasting.
Beyond spending time in communities of people who watch religious broadcasting, I interviewed those who produce and distribute it. In the United States I spoke with media leaders at Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) and the Inspiration Network (INSP). I visited their studios and watched the live recording from TBN’s set during one of Tammy Faye Bakker’s last appearances before her death. In Jamaica I visited the studios of LOVE Television and Mercy and Truth Network (MTM), the primary religious broadcasters in the Kingston area, and interviewed the head of LOVE Television and the owner and producer of MTM. I also talked with local pastors and their media ministry directors.
In the United States I attended the National Religious Broadcasters Convention, the overarching meeting under which most US religious media operatives work. Each year thousands of religious media makers, ranging from television producers to radio and television station owners, camera equipment salespersons, marketing specialists, and book distributors, converge at a Gaylord Resort location to discuss varying dynamics of media ministries. Founded in 1944, the National Religious Broadcasters Association is the largest organization of Christian broadcasters in the world. My attendance there gave me insight into both the religious sensibilities of religious media makers and the dominating political loyalties of such producers, given the overwhelming appeal for Israel at the conference through plenary speeches and a “Celebrate Israel Breakfast” hosted by conference organizers and the Israel Ministry of Tourism as well as the appearance of President George W. Bush at the 2008 meetings in Nashville. In 2008 this project took me briefly to Johannesburg, South Africa, to witness Bishop Jakes’s very first MegaFest International. As nothing else, the South African venue of MegaFest seemed to solidify the international impact of black American religious broadcasting.
My account of these converging interests presents a more nuanced picture of religious broadcasting than what might be gained in an exclusive focus on producers, consumers, or distributors. By offering a triangulated approach to the study of religious broadcasting, I mark the ways in which complementary and competing interests between producers, consumers, and distributors inform what actually appears on air and the ways in which meaning is constructed in local contexts. Christian religious media making is as much about sharing the testimony of the death, burial, and resurrection of a Galilean carpenter as it is about the social, political, and economic considerations of the people who make, distribute, and consume religious broadcasting. Black religious media makers have appropriated this testimony in a way that speaks to the concerns of people often struggling under the weight of poverty or newly minted into middle-class lifestyles and trying to make peace with their abundance as an indication of God’s blessings.
Organization of the Book
Chapter 1 frames the discussion in terms of globalization and the history of American religious media. The remaining chapters form a conversation of sorts between producers, consumers, and distributors around two themes that emerge consistently in their preaching—financial prosperity and marriage/sexuality. Chapters 2 and 3 alternate between the producers’ discussions of prosperity and the consumers’ understanding of prosperity messages. Chapter 2 is thus framed by interviews with two pioneering figures in African American religious broadcasting, Rev. Frederick Eikerenkoetter (Reverend Ike) and Bishop Carlton Pearson. Given the emergence of popular images of televangelists as wealthy, status-driven media personalities who embody the prototypical, rags-to-riches American success story, I explore the history of the emergence of African Americans among these flamboyant personalities. I argue that race and the history of American racism played as much a part in the development of these character types as Pentecostal or Word of Faith theologies. In many ways the presentation of Americanness through the acquisition of the American dream—fine cars, tailored suits, lavish lifestyles—provided an image of racial uplift that was missing from black protest religion. The stories of Reverend Ike and other leading black televangelists contextualize the ways in which the flamboyant dress style, or “religious dandyism” as I term it, was as much about creating a narrative of possibility for colored people as it was about the fashion and egoism of the preacher.
Chapter 3 explores how American theologies of prosperity are appropriated by viewers in Jamaica. As neoliberalism exports the ideal of “free markets,” developing countries with populations of African descent are still confined by the realities of their local markets. To make sense of imported gospels of prosperity, those in the viewing audience who receive messages of health and wealth in the face of poverty and affliction often develop more complicated, relative understandings of the nature of prosperity.
Chapters 4 and 5 center around what I consider “gospels of sexual redemption.” Shifting from a focus on male producers of religious broadcasting, predominant in many texts on televangelism, Chapter 4 looks at the influence of women televangelists. It explores the ways in which particular constructions of gender become central to the success of American female televangelists. I argue that women’s ascendance in religious broadcasting is often predicated upon sharing personal testimonies of sexual trauma and/or abuse and God’s power to redeem and restore their lives. Their stories of rape, incest, early pregnancy, divorce, and sexual promiscuity open up a limited discursive space for the discussion of sexuality among religious conservatives. Such narratives are also contextualized by America’s reliance on the self-help industry and its penchant for reality television. I discuss evangelists Paula White and Joyce Meyer, offering particular emphasis on the influence of Juanita Bynum, an African American woman whose testimony of abuse and sexual promiscuity garnered her tremendous popularity in the United States and abroad.
Given the popularity of these messages, in Chapter 5 I point out that in some instances the social and economic conditions in which Jamaican women find themselves inform their experiences of sexuality. These experiences in turn influence how they relate to the messages of sexual redemption preached by televangelists. I argue that while religious broadcasting offers a conservative approach to the practice of sexuality, confining sexual activity to marriage and offering a masculinist narrative of female submission to male authority, it also offers women an opportunity to redefine their sexual histories and make sense of personal tragedy. For women from traditional religious backgrounds, the personal theodicies of women evangelists who share their stories of abuse, out-of-wedlock childbirth, and sexual promiscuity offer viewers opportunities to recast their sexual histories in light of redemptive narratives. In communities where discussions of sexual violence are often taboo, the sexual narratives of religious broadcasting open up spaces for discourses that may contribute to the social and emotional well-being of abused women in those communities.
Chapters 6 and the Conclusion shift the discussion to the power of distributors and meanings of race in the global market. Visiting with major distributors of religious broadcasting in the United States and the Caribbean, I interrogate in Chapter 6 how distributors of religious broadcasting create and disseminate their messages. Scholars of religious broadcasting have long focused on the politically and theologically conservative TBN, the largest religious cable network in the world. The emergence of black-owned networks and networks that cater to urban African American markets, such as TV One and the Word Network in the United States and MTM and LOVE Television in Jamaica, make room for a different kind of religious broadcasting format, presumably informed by different social commitments. This alternative broadcasting affords spaces in which prosperity theology, along with certain types of conservative theologies, is both proclaimed and critiqued. This chapter explores how these new outlets for religious broadcasting negotiate the demands of the neoliberal marketplace and attempt to create an alternative vision of the intersection of religion and the market in a post–civil rights, post-apartheid, post-colonialist historical moment. To what extent, then, does attention to black audiences specifically (if not black-owned stations in general) shape the future of black religious broadcasting? How, then, are race and politics in religious broadcasting renegotiated based on the power centers for distribution?
The Conclusion focuses on the increasing influence of the Internet in relation to religious television broadcasting. Here questions are raised about how the emergence of the Internet, like the shift to paid-time broadcasting in the 1960s, might ultimately reshape religious broadcasting. Focused on the success of a ministry in Atlanta, Georgia, that has grown largely through Internet broadcasting, the Conclusion addresses whether the contours of what we have come to understand as popular religion will eventually shift to something that moves beyond prosperity messages and self-help proclamations. As the democratization of religious media through the Internet and social media takes full shape, it is likely that popular religious media narratives will be disrupted by new ideas from people across the globe and the theological spectrum, not just those savvy and wealthy enough to survive on religious television.
1. Names of persons and local communities are pseudonyms, except national and international religious leaders and business owners.
2. “Who Killed Sasha Kaye Brown?,” Jamaica Star Online, May 25, 2006, http://www.jamaica-star.com/thestar/20060622/features/features1.html. For a statement regarding this crime and the growing tide of violence toward young people in Jamaica, see Patrick Foster, “Flash Points of Crime,” Jamaica Observer, October 16, 2005, http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/90482_Flash-Points-of-Crime.
3. Jamaican churches responding to the country’s social, political, and economic challenges may exemplify a more general global phenomenon—the increasing responsibility of churches and other religious institutions to take up state services attenuated by regimes of privatization and fiscal austerity. As Jean and John Comaroff note, “It might be argued that, as neoliberal forces have eroded the provenance of liberal democratic states in respect of education, health and welfare, religious movements—above all, those flexible ‘prosperity’ movements that mimic the workings of business—have expanded their institutional reach into formerly ‘secular,’ public domains.” See Jean Comaroff and John Comaroff, “Privatizing the Millennium: New Protestant Ethics and the Spirits of Capitalism in Africa, and Elsewhere,” Africa Spectrum 35, no. 3 (2000): 293–312.
4. For further discussion of Pentecostalism and its global political influence, see Ruth Marshall, Political Spiritualities: The Pentecostal Revolution in Nigeria (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009); Kevin Lewis O’Neill, City of God: Christian Citizenship in Postwar Guatemala (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010).
5. Marshall, Political Spiritualities, 18.
6. Anderson and Hollenweger, Pentecostals After a Century; Dempster, Klaus, and Petersen, Globalization of Pentecostalism; Allan Anderson, An Introduction to Pentecostalism: Global Charismatic Christianity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004); William K. Kay and Anne E. Dyer, eds., Pentecostal and Charismatic Studies: A Reader (London: SCM Press, 2004); Ogbu Kalu, African Pentecostalism: An Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008); Asamoah-Gyadu, Contemporary Pentecostal Christianity.
7. Charles Long, Significations: Signs, Symbols, and Images in the Interpretation of Religion, 2nd ed. (Aurora, CO: Davies Group, 1999), 162.
8. Harry Stout and D. G. Hart, eds., New Directions in American Religious History (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997); Catherine A. Brekus and W. Clark Gilpin, eds., American Christianities: A History of Dominance and Diversity (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011); and Stephen J. Stein, ed., The Cambridge History of Religions in America, vols. 1–3 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012).
9. A formidable literature has emerged over the past few decades that attends to the multiple faith traditions that constitute African American religious practice in the United States. Especially since the early days of Arthur Huff Fauset’s Black Gods of the Metropolis: Negro Religious Cults of the Urban North (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002), and C. Eric Lincoln’s The Black Muslims in America (Boston: Beacon Press, 1973), a vast study of African American Islam has emerged, including works by scholars such as Aminah Beverly McCloud, African American Islam (New York: Routledge, 1995); Sylviane A. Diouf, Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas (New York: New York University Press, 1998); Edward Curtis IV, Islam in Black America: Identity, Liberation and Difference in African American Islamic Thought (New York: State University of New York Press, 2002); Carolyn Rouse, Engaged Surrender: African American Women and Islam (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004); Sherman Jackson, Islam and the Blackamerican: Looking Toward the Third Resurrection (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005); Michael Gomez, Black Crescent: The Experience and Legacy of Muslims in the Americas (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005); Zain Abdullah, Black Mecca: The African Muslims of Harlem (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010); and Jamillah Karim and Dawn-Marie Gibson, Women of the Nation: Between Black Protest and Sunni Islam (New York: New York University Press, 2014). Also, the study of African traditional religious practice in the United States has grown with works by scholars such as Yvonne Chireau, Black Magic: Religion and the African American Conjuring Tradition (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003); and Tracey Hucks, Yoruba Traditions and African American Religious Nationalism (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2012). As the canon grows even larger, more complex and detailed understandings of African American religious life in the United States emerge. For example, comparative work looking at the experiences of African American Muslims, Christians, and Jews in the use of media also helps shed light on the divergent ways in which these communities articulate and aim for social uplift in black communities. See Carolyn Rouse, John Jackson, and Marla Frederick, Televised Redemption: The Media Production of Black Muslims, Jews and Christians (New York: New York University Press, forthcoming).
10. Charles Eric Lincoln and Lawrence H. Mamiya, The Black Church in the African American Experience (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1990), 1.
11. See Anthony Pinn, “Peoples Temple as Black Religion: Re-imagining the Contours of Black Religious Studies,” in Peoples Temple and Black Religion in America, edited by Rebecca Moore, Anthony Pinn, and Mary R. Sawyer, 1–27 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004), 12.
12. Victor Anderson, Beyond Ontological Blackness: An Essay on African American Religious and Cultural Criticism (New York: Continuum Publishing, 1995); Long, Significations.
13. Barbara Savage, Your Spirits Walk Beside Us: The Politics of Black Religion (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008), 9.
14. Jonathan Walton, Watch This! The Ethics and Aesthetics of Black Televangelism (New York: New York University Press, 2009), 27.
15. Omar McRoberts, Streets of Glory: Church and Community in a Black Urban Neighborhood (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003); Shayne Lee, T. D. Jakes: America’s New Preacher (New York: New York University Press, 2005); Milmon F. Harrison, Righteous Riches: The Word of Faith Movement in Contemporary African American Religion (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005); Tamelyn Tucker-Worgs, The Black Megachurch: Theology, Gender, and the Politics of Public Engagement (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2011); Wallace Denino Best, Passionately Human, No Less Divine: Religion and Culture in Black Chicago, 1915–1952 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005); Anthea Butler, Women in the Church of God in Christ: Making a Sanctified World (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007); Scott Billingsley, It’s a New Day: Race and Gender in the Modern Charismatic Movement (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2008); Monique Moultrie, “Between the Horny and Holy: Womanist Sexual Ethics and the Cultural Productions of No More Sheets,” PhD diss., Vanderbilt University, 2010; and Debra Mumford, Exploring Prosperity Preaching: Biblical Health, Wealth, and Wisdom (Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press, 2012).
16. Faye D. Ginsburg, Lila Abu-Lughod, and Brian Larkin, eds., Media Worlds: Anthropology on New Terrain (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002), 2.
17. See also Lila Abu-Lughod, “The Interpretation of Culture(s) After Television,” Representations 59 (Summer 1997): 109–134.
18. John Jackson, Thin Description: Ethnography and the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013).
19. Ginsburg, Abu-Lughod, and Larkin, Media Worlds, 2.