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Embodying the Holy Spirit A Phenomenology of Tongues BY JAKE ELROD A Thesis Submitted to Division of Humanities New College of Florida in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Bachelor of Arts Under the Sponsorship of Mar ia Vesperi Sarasota, Florida May, 2012
ii Acknowledgements I would like to thank all of the kind informants I met in Greene, Ohio. This project would have been impossible without the hospitality of loving family members and new friends in the Body of Christ. I would especially like to thank my Nana, who provided constant support and inspiration despite my far too infrequent phone calls. My academic debts are too numerous to list! Professor Maria Vesperi sparked my fascination with the broad sp ectrum of cultural anthropology. Our endeavours into Kenneth mutually informing discourses. I am proud to have become oriented with the help of such an amazing f riend and scholar. Professors Heather White and Erin Dean provided indispensable feedback at various stages of the writing process. I offer them both my utmost gratitude for wading through those ungainly drafts. I would also like to thank Professors Ayla Samli, John Newman, and Mike Michaelson for all their guidance and encouragement during my time at New College. Finally, this thesis is dedicated to any and all spirits, holy or mundane, who disclose the possibility of other worlds.
iii Table of Contents Acknowledgements ii Table of Contents iii Abstract iv Introduction : Orienting Ethnographic Theory 1 Chapter One : Encountering the Spirit 1 2 Performing the Sermon 1 6 Synchronic Repetitions 2 1 Irony at t he Border Between Worlds 2 5 Conclusion 3 8 Chapter Two: The Spirit and the Body: A Narrative Relationship 4 0 Na rratives of Embeddedness 4 3 N arratives of Deliverance 4 7 Conclusion 49 Chapter Three: Territorializing the Worl d with the Word 5 1 A Pentecostal Future 5 5 Gain ing Territory for Christ 5 8 Se 6 0 Conclusion 6 3 Conclusion 6 6 Afterward: Toward a Phenomenological Anthropology of Religion 6 8 Ethics and Episte mology of Representation 69 Sy nthesizing Phenomenology 7 1 Anthr opology and Phenomenology 7 5 Phenomenology and Religious Studies 8 3 Conclusion 8 6 Bibliography 8 7
iv Embodying the Holy Spirit A Phenomenolog y of Tongues Jake Elrod New College of Florida, 2012 ABSTRACT In this ethnography, I explore the relationship between forms of transcendental experience and the conceptual construction of reality within a Pentecostal congregation in Greene, Ohio. My research focuses on Baptism of the Holy Spirit, an embodied union with healing) as an intensely life changing experience played out in public rituals, pers onal testimonies, and Pentecostal theology. I will attempt to describe these forms of transcendental experience, their emergence in practice and discourse, and how these functioned to maintain a unified spiritual orientation. I will trace the role of trans cendental experiences in the creation and coherence of meaning within the congregation with special emphasis on how the perceived literal presence of the Holy Spirit situates individuals in relation to their social world. _________________________________ ________ Professor Maria Vesperi Division of Social Sciences
Elrod 1 Introduction Orienting Ethnographic Theory speaking in tongues. I was initially concerned with BHS as a cultural force that literally pressed upon the body, expressed through uncontrolled dancing, stammering, shouting, crying, and tongues all of which seem quite foreign to normative empiricist epistemologies and secularist conceptions of agency. During the summer of 2011, I sought deeper insight into the cultural, experiential, and semantic constructions of BHS by immersing myself in the worship services, testimonies, and doctrinal interpretations of the Gospel Assembly, an independent Pentecostal congregation in Greene, Ohio. 1 believers to such a profound degree that their speech and movement seemed beyond personal control, to be ideal subjects of anth ropological inquiry because they condensed the constantly reproduced in practices both ritual and personal. I came to see my search for the phenomenology of Baptism of the Holy Spirit as an essentially discursive enterprise because BHS found expression in those environments where it could be meaningfully defined and described with a vocabulary of familiar terms by the particular speech community with whom I studied. T he experiences that my informants referenced when they shared stories about receiving BHS were personally meaningful forms of religious experience (as opposed to some sort of neurological activity, for instance) precisely because they could be named and im mediately implicated in a shared history of discursive associations. My study is 1 Although the Gospel Assembly was the real name of my field site, individual inf have been changed throughout this text.
Elrod 2 interpretive symbolic 2 because I aim to uncover how words about BHS and other religious va rious rhetorical and communicative effects. This thesis is an ethnography of communication 3 because I am concerned with the appropriation and reproduction of a particular Pentecostal vocabulary and communicative style; moreover, I rely on the public domain of rhetoric to validate my observations. Finally, my project is phenomenological hermeneutic 4 because I focus on narratives about religious experience that are always Thrown headfirst into the daily practice of these deeply invested and evangelical individuals, I am not sure that I ever arrived at my own comfortable orientation in the field. Those especially revealing moments when I attempted to perform the ritual and religiou s modes that I encountered Holy Spirit were always deeply conflicting with regard to my personal commitments. At garnered deeper access to the social and experiential worlds I came to investigate. 2 Taken up most famously by Clifford Geertz in The Interpretation of Cultures an interpretive symbolic approach to the social sciences was originally pioneered by Max Weber (Geertz 1973: 5). 3 Dell Hym be grounded in dialogue has been elaborated by subsequent scholars into the sub field of ethnography of communication (Salzmann 2007: 243). 4 Being and Time (1923). In my view, transcendental phe nomenology because Heidegger denies the existence of a preconditioned subject, ) always attempts to understand the larger scheme of things from within its own situated perspective. The inquirer cannot grasp this larger scheme in its entirety because the process of inquiring is itself constitutive of the scheme. Paul Ricoeur first app lied hermeneutic phenomenology to the ethnographic study of religion (Twiss and Conser 1992: 44).
Elrod 3 In this text, I have made constructive use of my ambiguous and sometimes awkward involvement with Pentecostal religious life. The cultural discursive phenomenological para digm which informed my interpretation of BHS was certainly not that of my the existential force displayed by speaking in tongues. However, the difference between my rath er agnostic ethnographic account and the narratives supplied by my informants is not the difference between reason and faith: it is the ambiguous space of possibility where habituated concepts are stretched beyond their limits in light of other worlds. As Vincent The analogous myths of God and culture whereby either can syllogistically come to explain anything and everything became manifest during fieldwork and I constantly return to the light they both have shed on my ethnographic encounter. Several scholars have called attention to the parallel trajectories of etic and emic interpretations of ethnogra alleg sh aping experiences within the shared metaphorical vocabulary reproduced in Pentecostal religious narratives. Still, I have tried to de center my ethnographic voice, noting my own speculative interpretations while deferring to the authority of allegories sel ected and narrated by my informants. I recognize this ethnography as a uniquely personal syntheses, inalienably fixed in my own perspective. I also value an epistemological transparency which works by
Elrod 4 delineating my conclusions from those of my informants and self consciously attempting to avoid typification, reduction, generalization, and systematization. Ultimately, I came to realize that the cultural significance of Baptism of the Holy Spirit could only be understood through attention to the incalculable experiential and spiritual dimensions emphasized by my informants. Much of my initial interest in the subject matter stems from a larger ongoing epistemological critique with a long history across the social and human sciences. In Phenomenology and Mystic ism, arbitrary exclusion of areas of experience from philosophical discussion. Because there are certain areas of experience that are conceived in advance as not being able to be described mea ningfully since they are putatively not given, many of our reflective enterprises have hermeneutic phenomenological mode of investigation, like many scholars investigat ing religious experience (see Knibbe and Versteeg 2008, Steinbeck 2007, Stoller 1995, Csordas 1994, Alston 1991), because the presence of the Holy Spirit discloses itself to embodied my informants returned to in describing their experiences), yet manifests discursively in narrative tropes sermons, biblical references, and conversational tropes I encount ered during fieldwork, that these experiences, powerfully motivating to my informants, deserve closer attention from an academic culture which still fetishizes an empirical conception of truth. As the Pastor of Gospel Assembly, Brother Less, loved to remind his congregation from the
Elrod 5 The Gifts of the Holy Spirit are intrinsically lived phenomena, constituted as social realities through a rich metaphorical vocabulary both inherited and exchanged. In their basic tenets, Pentecostalism and pheno menology share a distrust of dogmatism, a deep concern for validating existential claims, and belief in the experiential grounds of knowledge. I will explore each of these claims in practice, hopefully shedding ethnographic light on the profoundly meaningf ul (literally moving ) experiences of the informants who shared their stories with me, while self reflexively surveying the insights and limitations of phenomenologically oriented anthropology. At this point, I will attempt to make my presumptions transpare nt by exposing the terminology I have employed to transform the social, spatial, and dialogical encounters of my fieldwork into its own intelligible narrative. Like Norma Mendoza Denton in her introduction to Homegirls menologically oriented place of the researcher, but also the properties related paradigms of analysis generated after the period of my fieldwork but which became indispensable in making sense of my interpretation of ethnographic events during the writing process. While these key terms each have their own theoretical history, I believe that embodiment orientation performance and narrative are categories effectively suited to laying bare the essentially representational nature of ethnography as an interpretive art aimed at the reconstruction of events which have already been reconstructed in conversations with informants. I take embodiment to signify awareness of the feelings, sensations, and perceptions uniquely available to individuals as they act and are acted upon in the world. The body
Elrod 6 Ponty experience and thus a vehicle through which strate gies and expressions respond to culturally reconstitution of the self, including the possi bilities not only for creative change in some societies, but for varying degrees of self objectification cross my fieldwork, Pentecostal rhetoric placed special emphasis on both corporeal experience and body. My informants often invested gifts of the Holy Spirit with epistemological significance in a tradition linking back to the biblical writings of Paul, who tells the church we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know emphasis added). Theological as the grounds for Pentecostal spiritual gifts may be, they poin t to an observation about a privileged form of spiritual knowledge that cannot easily be separated from the perceiving body and its unique positionality. Baptism in the Holy Spirit rism, insofar as the full existential impact of receiving a spiritual gift can never be adequately transferred Holy Spirit while speaking in tongues and engaging in ot her ecstatic practices. I argue that the full explanatory force of the embodiment paradigm emerges in relation to the effect of
Elrod 7 tions as a unifying principle for those experiences prior, during, and after an encounter with the Holy Spirit, helping to relate the unique event development of the i ndividual. Translating a concern with embodiment to my research methods meant keeping certain research questions central to my investigation: How did it feel when informants first received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit? Were they conscious of their physic al reactions when the Spirit touched them? How has that feeling become emotional, and physical effects of these experiences become affect by motivating decisions and beha viors in other spheres of life? Orientation is a supple term which can characterize spatial and social relations with applicability by foregrounding the ways in which spati al and social positionalities correlate in the locus of the individual and his or her life path. In her recent work on the limited by cultural familiarity. is intentional, then we are not only directed toward objects, but those objects also take us in a certain direction. The world tha t is around has already taken certain shapes, as the very body as starting imagined, which are delimited by their social, cultural, and material availability. Orientation is that conceptual arena where embodied subjectivity and the reproduction of cultural forms can be meaningfully synthesized. From a phenomenological perspective, orienting devi ces and the forms of social orientation to which they point can reveal social and cultural
Elrod 8 constraints which affect cultural reproduction with reference to the features of specific contexts that informants synthesize into their speech and actions. For exam ple, physical separation between men and women during prayer lines in church could not be reduced to a symbol for condensing Pentecostal conceptions of gender differentiation and sexual modesty; it was a bodily repetition ingrained in the memory of those w ho acted and will continue to act on the basis of familiar options that are culturally given. Such gender segregated activities became orienting devices for the embodied subjects who continually familiarized themselves with gender specific spaces; they cou ld opt to either reproduce culturally constructed gender roles by continuing to move within outside the church. Gender segregated prayer lines oriented my informants tow ards the Holy Spirit by pointing them away from sexual desire. In so doing, otherness, carnality, and sinful desire emerged as naturalized qualities associated with the opposite gender. If point of decision making, orientation refers to the options available in any given context which allow a subject to schematize his or her positionality within a cultural milieu and work towards behaviors seem uniquely necessary in the stream of embodied responses to the life world. A more fully formed explanation of this framework can be found in the appendix entitled I use performance to denote both the classic sense of creative expression with symbolic content in the public sphere as when a minister performs his role by giving sermons to the congregation as audience perform
Elrod 9 wish to emphasize not only the role that repetition plays in constructing normative social relations but also the way that this repetition is active, selective, and always partially self conscious. Following in a direct pastoral lineage with deep roots in the Pentecostal movement, Brother Less never planned the content of his sermons beforehand so that the Holy Spirit could direct his messages from the pulpit according to the unique spiritual needs of particular audiences. Improvisational as his sermons ma y have been, Brother Less still struck me as a virtuoso performer because he adequately fulfilled a role that his congregation had grown to expect at church services: he had a talent, unique among his peers, for working with the Spirit (and letting the Sp irit work through him) to help bestow spiritual gifts on others. Every sentence from the pulpit was performative in the sense that it worked within a social and discursive space to accomplish lasting spiritual effects for an audience of devoted parishioner reproduced cultural forms by being copied, reconstituted, and sometimes contested in social and discursive spaces. More importantly, sermons provided the cultural script which told believers who they were as members of the Body of Christ. I think it is important to keep in mind that certain theorists (Levi Strauss 1966, Turner 1969, Bourdieu 1977) have dissemination of habituated practices by abstracting from encounters with a series of culturally embedded performances. Performances at church services were comprised of a series of narratives comprised, in turn, by a series of tropes In the field, it did not take lon g to realize that there could be no phenomenology no description of experience which was not mediated through the idiom of its expression. Narrative analysis and figurative language studies became indispensible methodological tools for decoding BHS and oth er subtle theological
Elrod 10 categories. Narratives were commonly circulated in the form of religious testimonies (in church and other social settings) and sermons; I collected several dozen of these narratives spread out over 17 church services and five home int erviews. Major themes and plot elements including the Holy Spirit, the carnal world, Israel, the Body and Bride of Christ, were often given by the many synchronic rep etitions that marked any given speech performance. My major strategy in the analysis of religious discourse involved close attention to the multiple iterations of major phrases and themes in and across speech events in order to triangulate their possible r hetorical uses in context. When I sat down with religious experts such as Brother Less or my uncle, Brother Bennett, they were often able to provide me with complex formal analyses of symbols and biblical hermeneutics). The disparity between public and expert levels of meta linguistic comprehension was a telling sign of the unidirectional circulation of religious authority. As an ethnographer, I was like a infant internalizin g the linguistic repetitions which might someday make me a proficient language user. I propose that a similarly gradual, repetitive, and ultimately non representational mode of learning is essential to the constitution of the lay religious subjects with wh om I spoke. It was thus necessary to determine what narratives and tropes mean by virtue of what they seemed to accomplish in practice. Seen from this perspective, every iteration of religious language simultaneously indexed its ger network of discursive power relations. Ironically, experts such as Brother Less were experts precisely because they could articulate the ways ontological categories were also metaphorical categories. Embodiment, orientation, performance, and narrative all imply one another because access to each of them is mediated by all the others. I could not know how my informants
Elrod 11 perceived their own embodiment without reference to the narratives they told; those narratives emerged in the context within which they w ere performed; performances provided the familiar milieu which oriented my informants; those orientations were simultaneously embodied, narrative, and performative. The interrelations among these terms do not constitute a socio cultural structural theory: they are methodological shorthand for subjecting complex cultural phenomena to analytic frames which emphasize certain elements of the same practices. While each of my chapters will comment on the narrative, embodied, performative, and orienting aspects of experience in the field as a narrative about encountering the church service as a performative ritual space. Chapter Two analyses a variety of narratives that index my entations towards the Holy Spirit. Chapter Three focuses on the repetition function ed across ritual practices and discourses to embed my informants in a life world of Pentecostal theology.
Elrod 12 Chapter One Encountering the Holy Spirit grandmother reiterated as we sputtered past anonymous countryside in an antique I smiled evasively, conscientio us of my tight quarters with new ethnographic informants. It was my first day in the field, travelling with about 35 members of Gospel beside me on the bus, punctuati ng my nervous note taking with snippets of information about other parishioners and portions of scripture from her daily Bible reading. This had been her first straightforward request for me to speak with God, to participate in the domain of religious prac tice I came there to study. My grandmother had always been invested in my salvation; I was not surprised that she interpreted my senior thesis project sized second hand suit and clumsily knotted tie, imagining how far I might allow myself to go (indeed, how far I could then that I would need to strike a strategic balance between ethnographic participant o bservation and some misinformed conversion attempt by my Pentecostal family. Given the myriad epistemological and ethical ambiguities inherent to this sort of cross cultural religious experimentation, what form might my involvement take? This section takes because collecting ethnographic data required a certain level of practical synchronization with my informants. More ambitiously, I propose that synchronic processes of dialogue and
Elrod 13 socialization are formative for any cultural group that coheres by virtue of assembling. My own anxieties about becoming synchronized during my first day in the field were not easily and orientations. I frame the speech event of the first sermon I attended as an ethnographic meta narrative about finding my place in the community at Gospel Assembly through a gradual process of ritual involvement. I begin with my first day, and with my g quote in particular, because the immense cultural distance I perceived between the congregation and me was already being eroded against a multisensorial initiative to make and to be made familiar. I surveyed the cramped bus, wondering who amon g these people would emerge as poignant storytellers, friends, key informants. My grandmother presented me to a seemingly endless queue of fourth cousins, church elders, enthusiastic teenagers, shy I found it especially difficult to differentiate the adult men at first, each dressed in an almost standardized grey, black, or rigidly regulated by the standards of their h oliness tradition, I quickly realized that women seemed to achieve more stylistic variation than men, with colorful prints and patterns, proclivities toward makeup, painted nails, and dyed hair. My grandmother had dyed her hair fiery orange for years. Now unchecked strands of silver made her seem older to me, more subdued. She wore her hair up more these days. The vibrant floral wardrobe of my childhood memories had been slo wly phased out by monochrome blazers and extra long pencil skirts. More than ever before, Nana seemed to be Sister Helen Simmons: church line in the Body of Christ.
Elrod 14 Although I had never visited Mansfield, the chapel there seemed altogether familiar. A large rectangular brick building hedged with tidy flower beds, a neatly trimmed lawn, the classic white steeple pointing up to a pale midsummer sky: so standard a visi on of Protestant austerity as to render it almost anonymous. The architecture was simple, symmetrical, clean. Abstract stained glass windows running down either wall were identical to ones I had seen in Greene, lending the space an almost standardized qual ity. Our bus load was greeted by a rush of Mansfield brethren, all eager to embrace their friends and usher us inside in time for the sermon to begin. Sister Simmons identified a balding man in his late 40s at the tip of the welcoming committee as Brother Fox, pastor of the Mansfield Assembly. Initially, Brother Fox seemed unimpressive for a minister; he was younger than most and lacked all the otherworldly repose of pastor Less back in Greene. However, he was a highly lauded pupil of my great grandfather, who ministered in Ohio and Michigan assemblies for 30 years. Sister Simmons told me that I versed in philosophy and the Bible. Dozens of curious old ladies smiled up a t me from their seats as we entered the sanctuary. My conspicuousness in the relatively insular cultural space heightened my awareness of myself as a newcomer and an oddity. Shuffling through a small sea of hurried salutations my grandmother and I made our way to the relative anonymity of a pew. The period before the service began featured all the pleasant exchange of a family reunion between the two closely intertwined congregations. The Mansfield church was built by brothers from Greene and Lansing assemblies, and this homecoming marked an opportunity for old friends and distant relatives to reminisce, exchange news, reconnect
Elrod 15 with shared aspects of a deeply rooted her itage. It was July 3rd, the morning before Independence Day, and festivity was in the air. The din of conversation floated up towards a vaulted white ceiling and I traced its stark contour to a raised platform at the end of the long room. There, Brother Fo x, Brother Less, Brother Bennett (my uncle, whom I delighted haired men began to take up seats arranged in two rows behind a wooden pulpit facing the congregation. On either side behind the church elder s, members of the band and choir readied themselves to perform. For a moment, I thought I saw my uncle and Brother Fox looking my way as they spoke to one another and I logged the observation in my field notebook. When all the patriarchs had found their se ats on the platform, a hush fell over the room. In the brief period of silence that followed, something intangible happened. Sitting there with the congregation, each of us transfixed in the same direction towards the pulpit, the patriarchs, the wooden cro ss behind the platform I began to feel, for the first time, that we were sharing something. Pointing us all in the same direction, the pews themselves became spatial orienting devices that implicated the audience in a common social experience. Perhaps no o ne was looking at precisely the same object on the platform; maybe everyone was thinking about completely different things in that silent moment. What seemed to matter was the implied consent of every individual in that room to adhere to the basic norms an by being there, patiently waiting for whatever came next with all those other audience members, we implicitly entered into the routine of Pentecostal ritual life. It was not the rich inn sup erficially, I could become involved.
Elrod 16 Performing the Sermon Within a few seconds the band began to play a slow, brassy hymn. By the second song, the choir had joined in and most of the congregation was singing along to lyrics projected above the platform. I sang along softly, almost certain that I was still being inspected. Some of the patriarchs closed their eyes in a kind of meditative repose; others swayed back and forth and clapped their hands in rhythm. With each pass around the basic verse chorus str ucture of the hymns, the band played louder. Each song cycled through all of its lyrics several times, never stopping until the crowd was visibly moved by its elevating intensity. In a moment of musical crescendo, Brother Fox stood from his chair and, with a quickness that baffled me, everyone was standing. the screen. In the brief spaces between songs, the concert of individual prayers made its own rhythmic white noise above which soared the mysterious language of the Holy Spirit. I could not tell who first spoke out in tongues, but they were soon joined by others men, women, and children in the audience and on the platform each shouting their own dialect of a fluid, vaguely Arabic sounding repetition of syllables referred to by linguists as amarin 1972: 121). Everyone carried on singing, crying, praying, and shouting for about 25 minutes until Brother Fox finally stepped up to the pulpit. The clamour of voices slowly trailed away as the pastor began to speak. enthusiastically. The sermon, like most Pentecostal ritual genres, was an interactive
Elrod 17 process. The intense energy displayed by the congregation during the introductory songs what is later referred to throughout the service as the presence of the Holy Spirit was modulated in accordance with the various stages of the service, but never subdued. In Talking Voices: Repetition, Dialogue, and Imagery in Conversational Discourse Deborah Tannen s uggests that involvement strategies are the basic force in both conversational and literary discourse by means of their sound and sense pattern. The former involve the audience with the speaker or writer and the discourse by sweeping them up in what Scollo n (1982) calls rhymthic ensemble, much as one is swept up by music and finds oneself moving in its rhythm. In other words, they become rhythmically involved. Sense patterns create involvement through audience participation in sense making: By doing some of the work of making meaning, hearers or readers become participants in the discourse. (2007: 31) In the first part of his sermon, reproduced below, notice how Brother Fox reiterated certain serted in the transcript with brackets). This interactive technique relied on both sound and sense patterns, in attested to by their exclamations and then reflexively rein tegrated well received themes into his sermon. Using repetition of words and phrases as heuristic markers, I noticed a verbal participation. She reminded me of an event that happene d 28 years ago, July the third. Paul, you were right there (not 12 inches from me when it happened, by the way). July the ort of thing. 29 years ago today he set me free. [Praise God!] Born in sin and shaped in iniquity, but 29 years ago on an evening service in Akron, Ohio, the Spirit of the living God filled me and I was reborn and remade, praise God free man! Ea a free free in Jesus,
Elrod 18 are celebrating the birth of our nat ion, and the birth of our freedom synonymously, both together.... John Adams wrote a letter to his wife saying how it would be commendable for us to celebrate this him it would be commendable for us to celebrate this not in the sense of some carnal celebration, but to remind ourselves of the fact that the great God almighty power helped us out, that might mean s divine grace was behind all this. Adams said to Abigail that God almighty was politicians and pundits have to say about our stat Christian nation or not. We as individuals are this nation nation We decide that. If we solemnly decide to follow Christ we will be a Christian nation If we decide to reject him, we will cease to be a Christian nation Brother Fox constructed his sermon like a dialogue. Directly addressing his mother and Paul in the audience, the skilled o rator immediately established a conversational tone that persisted throughout the verbal interplay between congregation and pastor. After lines interjections from the audie sermon, and by other witnesses in the congregation later in the service. and response form, I will leave an open question. Wa s Brother Fox a master of improvisation? Indeed, pastors in this movement often boasted about the unwritten nature of their sermons; it was understood that the Holy Spirit guided each sermon in accordance with the particular needs of particular audiences. an d oratorical techniques produced the effect of exchange between speaker and audience which simultaneously and syllogistically attested to the unifying power of the Holy Spirit. If charismata and the language of sermons were both understood to be influenced (if not
Elrod 19 entirely directed) by the Holy Spirit, then their integration in the discursive performance of tive quality from its placement in a performative sequence in which every interaction bore witness to the corroborating presence of the Holy Spirit. The rhythm of the music and charismatic exclamations, the reiteration of highly pre patterned phrases such common and consistent discursive themes all instances of repetition that point to the ways the speech event was structured by a shared history of prior sermons always emerged in relatio were not hypothetical interlocutors; they were there that day as they had been 29 years ago, participating in a deep narrative history that was both local and unique. Even as a poi mother remembered that her son first received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit on July 3rd. on a re birth in the Spirit made rhetorically salient in association with the mythos surrounding Independence Day. In these ways, devices familiar to the sermon as a ritual and discursive placement in time and space. Brother Fox compared the freedom of spiritual rebirth with the freedom granted by God. On the other hand, birth into a historically Chr istian culture was not enough to ensure implicitly differentiated those who had recei ved the Holy Spirit from everyone else. As a
Elrod 20 theme that re appeared constantly throughout my fieldwork, I will refer to this rhetorical construct as territorialization, the notion that co secular (or as my informa outside the practices and experiences shared within the movement. Necessarily operating in both secular and religious social settings, members of the congregation found themselves in the compl ex position of negotiating between convergent and conflicting allegiances. Brother Fox continued: Almost everything man has done has taken him further away from God until and unless he surrenders to the great God of Heaven through the blood of Jesus Christ his son and accepts the independence day he gave you and I almost two thousand just citizenship is older. It precludes our citizenship to the United States. enship under God preceded citizenship in the United States. Semantically speaking, their total religious investment made total civic investment impossible by virtue of coming first. Despite the temporal and logical ambiguities built into on of dual citizenship, his sermon emphatically subordinated patriotism to spirituality. I will take up the complicated relationship between secular and spiritual territories (and their mutual ideologies of exclusion) in Chapter Three. For now, I will draw attention to how two ideal poles the worldly and the spiritual create a dichotomous model of social life whereby freedom can operate in two possible ways: it can bring som The Red Sea had to be parted so that there was a division between them and Egypt, and I could make here t oday. Not just to go on with God, but to go on with God in what independence means. Freedom is not the freedom to do anything you want.
Elrod 21 ng. If you have freedom and do the wrong things liberated believers from the bondage of desire. Initially, t his formula struck me as paradoxical because spiritual freedom involved closing off certain possibilities for believers: sexual exploration, alcohol and drugs, immodest clothes, and explicit media were ethical codes. At the same time, I indulgent lifestyle seriously if involvement in Pentecostal practice really meant that there could be no free entailed a commitment to a completely discontinuous lifestyle, reformed in large part Synchronic Repetitions ead off a list of names of ill or suffering people in need of prayer. The congregation started mumbling prayers to themselves as the pastor found his way back to his seat. After another minute or so, the crowd settled back down and an elderly brother on th e platform stepped up to the pulpit. A man I had not previously noticed rushed up from the back of the room and presented the older man with a microphone. He spoke for a while about fond Fourth of July picnics when his parents would buy him ice cream and s oda, about his proud patriotism, about joining not remember ever meeting this man before or after that encounter, he addressed me by name in his testimony and expr essed that he was happy I had finally arrived. Other speakers of varying oratorical skill took turns at the pulpit. Their testimonies wavered between elaborations on the themes of freedom and patriotism on one hand and
Elrod 22 n the other. In hindsight, all of their testimonies struck experiences. A bab y faced man in his mid 30s named Brother Mark told a particularly moving story from his spot in the pew, tears streaming down his face, about a life shattering struggle with crystal meth that was overcome when the Lord told him to come back to church. Beyo nd its use of imagery and emotionally evocative details, 5 I found addition, the the number of significant ways throughout the remainder of the service. unique personal significance in the speaker immediately after he gave his testimony. Incorporating the song as a direct reference to the service actively responded to the existential and emotional requirements of particular audience members embedded in the particular performative context of their interaction. involving not only s peaker and pastor (or band director), but every participant who followed along by virtue of assembling there, singing the lyrics projected behind the pulpit, crying and speaking in tongues. After the song ended, other audience members echoed narrative in their own testimonies: When I got out of the military I had a hunger in my heart to come back to the through all that as a young man also. You know, a lot of people have this part of 5 Intimate, sensitive, or identifying personal details have been omitted from this text.
Elrod 23 wears off you feel worse than when you even started. You wear off, does it? ... Brother Mark, as you gave your testimony, you are not alone. Many of us here have us. God did redeem us. And he made a way possi ble through his son that we could Mark, when you were talking I remembered back, a long time ago, that I had a similar situation. I was in bondage. Brother Don, you know what I went though. And t myself. But it took a nail scarred hand to reach down and redeem me. Each of these testimonies were spoken at different points by different members of to redem pos riences with the others in attendance; he was not alone as he gave his testimony in the presence of the speech community which both elicited and validated his life narrative. Synchronic repetitions within the speech event of the church service were a major strategy for personal narrative into a familiar religious allegory. Seven people spoke in addition to Brother Fox, commenting on a wide array of significant personal and theological topics. I will examine some of their testimonies in Chapter Two, which attempts to trace a more diachronic view of the major narrative themes
Elrod 24 service now quite familiar to me, lasted for about two hours and progressed through overlapping stages of song, prayer, sermon, and testimony. I attended 17 separate services during my month with Gospel Assembly churches in Greene, Ohio and Louisville, Kentucky, all of which conformed closely to the performative sequence, conversational form, and rhetorical involvement strategies outlined by the Mansfield service. So far, the purpose of this chapter has been threefold: to introduce readers to my own process by na rrating my first significant field encounter, to evoke the ways the Mansfield service was a co constituted ritual performance, and to suggest that synchronic repetitions familiarized participants with elements of a common religious orientation. These point s are inseparable because they delineate a unit of ethnographic analysis the sermon performance which served as a major site for the reproduction, transformation, and distribution of religious discourse. As an ethnographer, becoming involved meant articula ting the myriad strategies employed by both pastor and congregation to give the scene a sense of collaboration or synchrony. Of course, by identifying these practices as dif ferent ways. While ethnographically invaluable, whatever perspective I could gain from participating in the rote movements of ritual practice was only a pale glimmer of the life world called up in emic narratives. Irony at the Border Between Worlds Some time after the Mansfield service I got hold of a massive, self published collection of Sunday school lectures written by Brother Fox, The Bible: History and Defense of the Holy Scriptures Originally delivered to an adult Sunday school class in Greene betw een 2002 2003, these lectures commented on an encyclopedic set of hermeneutic problems ranging from the historical authority of Biblical events to the long evolution of ection
Elrod 25 interlocking epistemological and ethical ambiguities at the heart of our entire inter cultural encounter: The questions that higher criticism encourages are not Christ ian questions. Christianity is a religion established on absolute faith in the word of God. Faith, at its purest source is without the evidences of human logic and reasoning. The questions and debates of higher critics do little more than introduce doubt t o those whose faith is weak. They do not strengthen the church or the Christian faith! They are like termites gnawing away at the structure and foundation of faith! (239) Was I a termite, undermining the very faith I came to study by asking questions whic h point True, I came to study Baptism of the Holy Spirit as a certain embodied phenomenon, not the Bible as a text. Yet by entering into a domain of religious faith armed only with ethno methodological heuristic tools at my disposal my own project shared a similar concern for critically re evaluating sources of religious authority. I do not presu me that my presence in the field or my reflections on those experiences could ever cause my informants anything close to a crisis of faith. The people I spoke with were far too invested in the power of the Holy Spirit, too certain of their own personal rel ationship to the Godhead, often too habituated to a lifetime of miraculous experiences to be shaken by the likes of me. That is not to say that I ever aimed to rattle any cages. If nothing else, I hope this ethnography attests to the power of the Holy Spir it to experience. In many ways, the Holy Spirit was more real than anything I come across in my own world.
Elrod 26 Still, I do not believe that this ethnography will ever fully satisfy my informants g kingdom. Even as I recognized the manifest psychological and existential rewards of Pentecostal ritual life for my informants, I did not shy away from critical interpretations of political rhetoric and social relations that I found problematic in the fie ld. As a writer and a field worker I struggled with this ironic position inalienably fixed halfway between advocacy and deconstruction from the first day I set foot in Ohio right up to the last sentence conceived in my analysis. Two particular instances i n the field foregrounded the ethical and epistemological boundaries of my research. Both experiences involved an uncomfortable level of compliance with ritual procedures, my sense of familial obligation to members of the Greene Assembly, and the experiment al ethos of phenomenological anthropology. In both church services during which members of the congregation, eager to receive spiritual gifts, prayed with a minist er before the pulpit. In contrast to my superficial involvement as a penetration into the phenomenology of Pentecostal ritual performance. I first tarried for the Holy Spirit o n July 10th, one week into my field stay in Greene. I do not know how I knew perhaps it was something my uncle said before the service that day but I was somehow aware that the experience was looming on my horizon. Sitting in a pew before the service, I wr ote in my field journal: Should I go up in the prayer line? I feel that if BHS comes from a trance like state of mind, I might actually reach a place similar to those who speak in tongues. This would certainly alter my position in the community, but even u pon reaching such a received the Spirit when she was baptized at age seven she has since attributed the experience to psycho social factors, but Nana still believes it marks he for kingdom.) People would ask about my own experience my progress in the Spirit
Elrod 27 and that would undoubtedly alter the way people receive me when I am forced to reveal all the doctrinal issues I disagree with. I would stand to gain a great phenomenologic al experience if I tried to receive, yet there are dangers to the type of access I can have. endangered by a methodological ambiguity? Was I in danger of falsifying my socia l position in the community? Or was I ultimately alluding to an anxiety about putting my own beliefs on the line? While I certainly gained valuable ethnographic insight by enacting the ritual process, tarrying for the Holy Spirit disoriented me in ways tha t I will never fully understand. I tried to parse out how my emotional response was variously personal that is, embedded in the narrative development of my own life experiences and simultaneously constructed in response to the embodied parameters of the ri tual process. The synergy of personal and contextual factors defied such simple classification. Brother Bennett was a patriarch with considerable religious authority in the Greene Assembly. He was tall and heavy set, towering over most members of the cong regation. A skilled speaker and religious expert, Brother Bennett often gave passionate and insightful sermons when Brother Less was out of town. As I mentioned earlier, he was also my uncle. We spent long evenings discussing any number of personal and the ological topics and I was quite fond of the time we shared. When the scene was set by a small crowd of tarrying believers all crying, speaking in tongues, and praying with one another before the pulpit, I I do not remember what he said, or if I said anything in response. My field journal vanished. In the disjunctive synthesis of memory it seems as if I arrived in front of the pulpit the instant I was invited. How could I refuse? Brother Bennet placed one palm firmly on my chest and another against my back. I was fixed in place by his powerful grip. He leaned in close to my ear and issued a loud stream of sentences. He told me to open my heart to the
Elrod 28 Lord. He prayed for God to fill me with understanding. He spo ke in tongues. Soon, other men were pressing their hands against me and praying. (Even during ritual ecstasy, women occupied a strictly segregated space.) They all spoke at the same time, making it impossible for me to hear any single sentence. I heard my name again and again through the jumble of glossolalia. Pastor Less held my hand and spoke in my other ear. I closed my eyes to see if I could disappear. The web of bodies pushed against me from every side and I began to feel unstable. My uncle held me in place as my knees got weak and my body began to sway. I felt like the planchette of a Ouija board. I mumbled something to Jesus as the dramatic irony of my situation sank in. Not surprisingly, I did not receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. However, my body was moved by the matrix of men attempting to pray me through in such a way as to mimic features of charismatic spiritual gifts I had seen displayed before. Confused and startled by all the men touching and addressing me at once central, I imagined, to the entire I closed my eyes to try and dissociate myself from the scene. By praying there for everyone to see, I became compliant with the role I thought I was expected to perform in the ritual context of the service. I could almost sense my immediate surroundings fade away. I could not stand on my own. All of these aspects of the embodied display contributed, I think, to the performative effect that charismatic rituals like tarrying have for both audience and participant. Even if I did not receive a spiritual gift, my personal disorientation was clearly on display for everyone to interpret. My second and final experience tarrying for the Spirit occurred five days later at a Gospel Assembly youth convention in Louisville, Kentucky. This tim e, my uncle invited me to participate in a massive prayer line with about 200 inspirited brethren from all over the country. Everything was bigger: the sanctuary hall, the assembly of parishioners, the cacophony of simultaneous praying, singing, and glosso lalia. It was Saturday night and I was
Elrod 29 pulpit. After 30 minutes of music, I was the only person left singing on stage. The music began to thin as each band member ste pped down to join one of the several gender segregated prayer lines now forming all around the room. From the vantage point of the stage, I was overwhelmed to see so many people moving about at once, touching one another, crying, bellowing, even screaming long high pitched streams of divine language. Although I had already seen plenty of people receive spiritual gifts in the Greene Assembly, perspective, their screaming, crying limp and trembling bodies seemed more tormented than ecstatic. Brother Bennett enlisted another minister (who I will call Brother Regus) to help pray me through. This time, I retained the presence of mind to tuck my digital recorder into my shirt pocket. Twenty or thirty men and teenage boys formed a similar tactile web around the minister, Brother Bennett, and me. Having gone through this routine before, I tried to keep my balance firm against the force of so many bodies leaning at once. I kept my senses about me by internalizing snippets of the instructions I could glean through all their voices. I closed my eyes once again, lifted my open palms to the ceiling and listened: Bro. Bennet: gran dson. When he came...[words muffled by background noise]. looking f Bro. Regus: Me: Jake. Bro. Regus: So Fred Young was your great grandfather? Me:
Elrod 30 Bro. Regus: I knew him well. I knew your grandmother I know Sister Helen Jake, and now I know yo u. Me: Yep. Glad to meet you. Bro. Regus: I want to introduce you to somebody I have known almost all my life. 58 years. His name is Jesus. To know him to know him from the depths of your heart to have your life focused on him, Jake, is all in this world that matters. Nothing else in this world matters from heaven, first thing you do is go to the man who can help you to tou ch you. Oh God, look upon Jake this night. Heavenly Father talk to his heart. God, we look to you and your son Jesus, Hallelujah! [Speaking in tongues] In you lord Jesus we find everything we need. God, touch Jake tonight. Lord and Jesus Christ be alive in his heart! Open up the way. Only you Jesus! Only you Jesus! Touch him Lord! Lord see my friend Jake. Please, touch him lord we pray. [Brother Regus and my uncle both continue speaking in tongues for a while] He is real! He is real! Bro. Bennett: He sees you, he knows you Jake. Bro. Regus: something more! I need you to guide my life. I need you, Lord. Bro. Bennett: Jesus, Jes us, Jesus, Jesus! Bro. Regus: Yes! Go on, Jake. Go with the Lord. ...The Bible says that Jesus gave his life for us. He hung on the cross. He bled, he died, he took a anything wrong! He d id it for things we have done wrong. Jesus Christ gave his precious blood on Calvary, hallelujah, that we Bro. Bennett: Go on, Jake! Touch him, Lord! B ro. Regus: I believe Jesus! Bro. Bennett: Ghost speak loud and clear. Bro. Regus: I need you, Jesus! Bro. Bennett: Let it go, Jake. Go on. Speak to him, Jake. Talk to him, Jake. I love y
Elrod 31 know that. Your grandfather stored up wonderful blessings to be poured out on somebody. Will you receive? Will you accept it? Then sp eak the God of heaven. Bro. Regus: Bless the Lord! Bro. Bennett: on. Go deeper. Go with Jesus, Jake. Bro. Regus: I believe in the Lord! Bro. Bennett: that veil! Open up your heart to him. All your hurt and pain. All the your life. [Crying now] All the about feeling strange. Just go with it. Worship the Lord. You and Jesus. One on one. Feel him healing your hurting. Bro. Regus: Go on, Jake! Bro. Bennett: Go on, Jake! Bro. Regus: Lose yourself in that power of the Holy Spirit, son! Talk to the Lord. C ommit yourself to him. Make commitments to him, Lord. I believe in you, Lord! Bro. Bennett: You cannot control the words that will come out of your mouth. Bro. Regus: Bro. Bennett: Pray to him Jake, really pray to him. Really pour out your heart to him. Go on, Jake. Lay him on his altar. Yes. Go on Jake, break through son. Feel that experience for yourself. Know the God of your great grandfather! Know the God of your gr eat grandmother! stored up. Will you receive them? Touch him oh God! Talk to him, control! Go on, Jake. Let that tongue take over. The tongue is the most unruly member of the body, the Bible says. If God can control it, you can speak a language pure a holy language something through the veil. Go deeper. Investigate with y our heart, Jake. With your feelings. Oh sha la shan da shi ca la li! Go on, Jake. Talk to
Elrod 32 Him. He always loves it when you praise Him. I praise you Lord. I thank you for everything you have given me in my life. How many times, Jake, could you have been dea d through different things that you have done? How many times did you know that something intervened? How many times do you that nana was praying for you. Look: God loves you, son. He knows your name, Jacob Elrod. what you need. Say, you. He loves you. I want you to get to know God of your great grandfather who served all the days of his l ife and was a minister in this body. He is a great God! He is merciful! His mercy is renewed daily! Bro. Regus: Bro. Bennett: Reach up to him, go on. Let the Lord touch you, son Let him in. Just reach up to God. Lock it out of your mind. He died for you, son. Jesus died so that you may have a l ife. He died that you could receive the Holy Spirit. Bro. Regus: praise the Lord. Bro. Bennett: Less is working with him. In his investigation, he is starting to find out that...[the noise of the what he told Bro. Regus]. Bro. Regus: son. Praise the Lord. Touch him, Lord. Fill him with the Holy Ghost. Come on, Jake. from the dead. He did come out of that grave. He really is in heaven with God right now. And you know w hat else, Jake? He really is here tonight. He knows what you need. And not only does he know t to you. All you have to do is surrender everything! I surrender my life to you, Lord. Bless your
Elrod 33 According to my tape recorder, my tarrying sessi on lasted for almost exactly 20 minutes. As Brother Bennett and Brother Regus were talking to me, I winced through a stream of inaudible utterances under my breath until I could no longer think of anything else to say. I was sweating profusely in the July heat, in my oversized suit, enclosed by gasping, grasping bodies. My own body felt numb. One of the ministers wandered away when someone else fell to the floor and began to cry. Slowly the web of men found their way to the other young parishioner and I was free to go. Exhausted, I slinked back to my seat I reproduced the transcript above because I believe that this rich speech event confounds any simple summary. Both patriarchs employed such a wide variety of communicative involvement strategies that I can hardly account for them all. Like the sermon I attended two weeks earlier in Mansfield, I became caught up in a cycle of repetitive utterances, rhythmic background noises, and the formal expectations implied by my involvement in the r itual process. Like my experience tarrying in the Greene Assembly, I was compliant with the role expected of me by family members in the congregation. With help from my field recording this time, it became apparent that Brother Bennett and Brother Regus em ployed certain verbal strategies in an attempt to facilitate my spiritual experience. Both patriarchs mentioned my familial lineage in the church. Brother Bennett even seemed to imply that it was my duty to receive the blessings stored up by my great grand played in my life. Brother Regus was particularly adept at modeling the speech I should use in prayer, directing me to repeat particular phrases to Jesus. They instructed me to lose sight of the scene around me. Perhaps most importantly, both men seemed to be goading
Elrod 34 give up control of my Of course I could n ot just ignore the composite social and physical forces that fixed me in that precarious position. I could neither transcend nor dissociate myself from the ritual scene, my Pentecostal pedigree, ethnographic self reflexivity, my own background of epistemic commitments, or the men holding me in place. Indeed, the life world in which I was embedded my total context of habits, beliefs, and involvements precluded direct personal communion with the Holy Spirit. I simply could not perform. I believe my failure to receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit indexes an intersection life experiences were completely inadequate training for the task of directly mediating a spiritual en tity. Except as a central emic category for ethnographic analysis, the existential dimensions of the Holy Spirit were completely unfamiliar to me. With so little initiation into Pentecostal modes of prayer, divine communion, and the reception of charismati c gifts, it is to put me on display belied real confidence in the power of tarrying to bring about its desired experiential effect despite my secular background. Tarrying for the Holy Spirit, I felt that I came up against a boundary of ethnographic involvement. I see these complex events as allegories for the cultural distance that I could never traverse in embodied practice, yet must still attempt to characterize in a manner informants who seemed to be receiving spiritual gifts? Or those who spoke as if the Holy Spirit was an active presence in their daily lives? How should I rep resent theoglossic
Elrod 35 communication? To what extent can I claim to have encountered the Holy Spirit? Like praying to a foreign deity, my rhetorical strategy for representing this cultural distance relies on the constructive use of verbal and dramatic irony. I Relativism is got by the fragmentation of either drama or dialectic. That is, if you isolate any one agent in a drama, or any one advocate in a dialogue, and see the whole in terms of his p osition alone, you have the purely relativistic. And in relativism there is no irony.... Irony arises when one tries, by the interaction of terms upon one another, to produce a development which uses all the terms. Hence, from the standpoint of this total wrong. They are all voices, or personalities, or positions, integrally affecting one another. (1941: 432) Following Burk e, I cannot stress enough that an ironic mode of interpretation is neither sarcastic, glib, or disrespectful toward my informants and their beliefs. By privileging neither emic or etic perspectives about the ontology of the Holy Spirit, I hope to produce a meaning in accordance with the context of their iteration. Relativist ethnographic strategies eality of Tuhami: Portrait of a Moroccan former rests on the presumption of a correspondence between a text, or structure of words, and a body of human actions; the latter resides within the text itself without regard to any methodological solipsism that enables ethnographers to maintain epistemic distance while seriously. Like Tuhami interpret
Elrod 36 (Crapanzano 1980: 75). But this very distinction between an ontological reality and an s to the phenomena of experience that is never available to cross cultural representation. For the parishioners at Gospel Assembly church, the Holy Spirit was a vital entity capable of acting in and through the world. The sheer fact that I only encountered has no bearing on the ontology of that entity. In anthropological parlance, the Holy Spirit always manifested in interpretive and symbolic contexts during my fieldwork. But just b ecause the work of the Holy Spirit was always being interpreted by my informants and me just because it can be read as a symbolic condensation of Pentecostal theology in practice does not mean that it was not simultaneously interacting with my informants i n all the integral ways they reported. I propose that ethnographic irony is preferable to cultural relativism in anthropological representation because it traffics in ambiguity, ellipsis, and uncertainty rather than conceptual order, strict delineation amo ng terms, and unmediated access to the real. In any text which claims to represent some Other, uncertainties should be foregrounded rather than covered over by the rhetoric of empirical realism. Thus, I welcome readers to embrace the ambiguous ontology of the Holy Spirit by writing as if it was indeed an autonomous entity capable of interacting with my informants. If the Holy representative form with attention to how it w as characterized anthropomorphically in dialogue and practice. arrying were also personal encounters with the Holy Spirit. Even
Elrod 37 pas regarding ethnographic norms of representation, it is because the emic/etic tension between the Holy Spirit as a personal entity and a symbolic idiom cannot be resolve d strategies (represented through my own discursive strategies) might actually be the Holy ce allows readers to develop their own ontological positions by presenting an open ended narrative development of interactive perspectives. Conclusion: Synchrony in Practice My experiences in Mansfield and Louisville represent two poles of ethnographic involvement. In Mansfield, I first entered into the ritual procedures of the sermon by assembling with my informants and following along with the interactive development of the service as ialogue, and imagery to involve his audience in an interactive performance. I also saw how the Holy Spirit worked through the sermon, audience testimonies, and speaking in tongues to synchronize believers in accordance with Pentecostal practice. While my s ynchronic discourse analysis of the Mansfield service indexed a relatively superficial level of invested personal relationships with the Holy Spirit at the foundati on of Pentecostal ritual space, confirmed personal narratives through verbal exchange, and collectively attested to
Elrod 38 In Louisv ille, my involvement took a more complex form. By tarrying for the Holy Spirit, I moved from the periphery to the center of ritual practice and found that I could not exp I concluded that the Holy Spirit and I were simply not well ve of emic discourse, I demonstrated none of the spiritual merit nor intense existential urgency embodied and discursive orienting devices found in sermons, testimon ies, and the interactive structure of church services, my informants became synchronized with the Spirit and with one another through a narrative development which often involved many failed attempts to receive BHS over years of practice. Given my short st ay in the field, I could not adequately familiarize myself with the life world of religious phenomena and Pentecostal theology that oriented my informants in unique alignment with the Holy Spirit. An orientation towards the Spirit required more than momen tary synchrony in ritual. Everyone I spoke with in Gospel Assembly churches who had received the Holy Spirit also recognized an intense pre existing desire to do so. Insofar as this ethnography only accounts for one month in the field, it necessarily fails to account for the power of the Holy Spirit to shape the trajectory of entire lives. Emic narratives in the form of testimonies and sermons had the performative power to reach through time and connect disparate elements of the Pentecostal life world from a variety of interlocutors. Reproduced time and again through collaborative participation in church services, the Holy Spirit populated the believers back to the Holy Spirit. Synthesizing speech events from the 17 church services I attended (and a handful of supplementary interviews), Chapter Two will attempt to sketch a
Elrod 39 narratives.
Elrod 40 Chapter Two The Spirit and the Body: a Narrative Relationship Now there are diversities of gifts but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations but it is the same God whi ch worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom, to another the word of knowledge by the same spirit. To another, faith by the same Spirit; to another, the gift of healing by the same Spirit. To another, the working of miracles; to another, prophecy; to another, discerning of spirits; to another, diverse kinds of tongues; to another, the interpretation of tongues. But all these worketh that one and the selfs ame Spirit dividing to every man severally as he will. For as the Body is one and hath many members, and all the members of that one body being many are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free, and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12: 4 13 6 This chapter is about stories that reach through time and space to unite people from diverse cultural contexts with the master narrative provi Pentecostal theology. early Christian church in the Mediterranean diaspora sometime in the first century of the fieldwork, to refer to the specific affiliation of Gospel and Christian Assembly Churches that derived his revival ministry. At the Louisville youth convention, a flyer for a showcase of Gospel Assembly archival materials (old photos from various churches around the country, framed pictures of each minister in the mo interpolated multiple temporalities into a complex nonlinear cultural history that made up the backdrop 6 My informants always cited the King James Version of the Bible.
Elrod 41 discourse and discourse about the Body arranged the categories that were more or less familiar for my informants from a wide variety of ancient and contemporary sources int o an orientation toward the Holy Spirit. 7 For my informants, contemporary outpourings of the Spirit in Gospel Assembly churches carried The diasporic church over which Paul presided, envisioned through his various letters to Christian communities in Corinth, Ephesus, Rome, etc, was a template for proper religious practice: both the Pauline and contemporary churches displayed charismatic gifts, were concerned with the guiding power of the Holy Spirit, and refused to organize themselves within a formal ecumenical hierarchy. Like Paul, ministers in the Body of Christ synthesized material from throu ghout the rich religious canon that was available to them to construct a unique theological tradition. A Pentecostal historian presenting at the Louisville convention named Brother Hollendorf summarized his thoughts about the biblical foundations of the Body of Christ with references uniting several temporalities into a single coherent narrative. He began with a question posed in Isaiah (an Old Testament text), e Gospels (New Testament material) to validate a point about faith in the spiritual realm, then brought this point to bear on an issue with immanent significance for his audience of Pentecostal youth: receiving Baptism of the Holy Spirit. his work by gathering those disciples, a whole brand new nation was born. This was 7 See Zecharaiah 10: 1 2. Also page 57 in Chapter Three.
Elrod 42 the nation of spirit creatures. It was it was their soul was recreated, you could all know Our a future generation out there which was gonna be born from Heaven. Do you realize that when you receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, you know that that soul is just as much alive in you as it was in Jesus when he was born here?... Do you know that he was starting a brand new nation there? And he was born from Heaven by two things. And if you notice the scripture that follows that, when she that these things should have come that she was believing that that was going to happen. She believed the angel, and it he who comes to God must believe that he is, and that he will diligently reward them that seek him. And the night that we receive the Holy Spirit is because our faith reached out and actually laid hold of that great creature up there we touched the hem of his garment up there, so to speak and when we did we made contact with God. And if you notice many times Ghost will come and then it seems like it leaves. Then i t comes again and it seems like it leaves. Then all of a sudden all of the saints start to shout and dance, and somebody is born again! religious life: the lexicon of f amiliar stories and theological references commonly exchanged rhetorical macrocosm for every individual seeking the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. For those who already shared a faith in Biblical inerrancy, references to Isaiah, Mary, Jesus, Paul, the story of Pentecost, and each element in a rich intertext of Pentecostal history validated Throughout my fieldwork, I was constantly puzzled by a seemingly circular logic whereby Biblical inerrancy and the charismata of the Holy Spirit were often understood by my informants to be the primary epistemological grounds for certifying the existence of the
Elrod 43 other. Without some familiarity with a Pentecostal life world of Biblical theology, how could someone know how to identify the work of the Holy Spirit in his or her life? Conversely, what made a B iblical theology uniquely believable prior to the validation of a charismatic experience? I believe that Brother Hollendorf introduced an active personal element to BHS ature up Spirit seemed solely responsible for initiating contact), Brother Hollendorf posited an actively mediating faith on the part of each individual believer that he b elieved played an important role in the phenomenology of BHS. I think this active mediation on the part of each individual informant may explain how my believers entered in to what initially seemed to be a closed system of internally validated faith commit ments. As the stories in this chapter make clear, no two encounters with the Spirit were exactly alike. However, many of my informants offered narrative phenomenologies of BHS that involved elements of passivity most apparently, the passivity required to r eceive the with individually situated intentions that conditioned my informants to seek out the gifts of the Holy Spirit. With these concerns ad categories: narratives of movement received the Holy Spirit after prolonged exposure to Pentecostal theology and practice, and narratives of deliverance in which inf ormants encountered the Holy Spirit outside the ritual contexts of the church. Narratives of Embeddedness My great aunt, Sister Beth, knew how to spin a yarn. The 76 year old matriarch was visiting from Lansing, Michigan, when I collected her testimony. In Lansing, where a Gospel Assembly church had recently closed, Sister Beth held a prayer circle for remaining
Elrod 44 parishioners in the Lansing Body. As sideways remarks from certain informants seemed to r a uniquely authoritative (and therefore subversive) woman. She was also one of the few outspoken Democrats I encountered during my fieldwork. Although we were in the middle of a dinner party at including sever al elder Pentecostal men fell silent when Sister Beth began her story. dealt with me very, very heavy. And I went to the Church of God; me and Ma was the only ones tha miss it. I walked how far would it be from that church? Maybe a couple of miles. always walked to get home. We lived on 9th street and I would go, but I walked I could feel the Spirit, so strong. And it would just overshadow me. And I would look up and I would say your hand on my life, I want to ever knew. Pentecost, I was seeking for the Holy Spirit, the Holy Ghost, and I never got it in that church, I got it in this body. When I this body, two years later I had it. And I said, You know I want your Holy Spirit in While Sister Beth began in the Church of God (the Pentecostal denomination from which Gospel Assembly churches eventually split) and only later received walked on that long dirt road to church as a young girl, Sister Beth felt the Spirit. She would not receive BHS for two more years, but already she encountered something a presence with which she was prompted to communicate. If the Church of God was all 12 year old Beth knew, this cultural immersion must have provided the source of her desire to serve the Lord at such a young age. After two years of p ractice speaking to the Lord in private and in
Elrod 45 church, Sister Beth finally broke through. Her life world was already populated by the Holy Spirit: it was up to her to make contact through effort and prayer. ayer. Very prayerful. And open accept it. But we want to know how it is. The scripture read it witnesses of it. Sister Beth seemed to believe that a ttaining divine truth, like BHS, required an intense hunger on the part of each individual believer. This hunger, predicated in part on faith in the existence of the Holy Spirit (and other Pentecostal theological categories), did not arise in a vacuum. Sis modeled by authoritative figures and people with religious merit in the churches she attended. Several times throughout her narrative, Sister Beth modeled the conversational tone appropriate for e her constant refrain, indexed a performative foundation for faith established prior to BHS through familiarity with Pentecostal discursive practices. A boy in his early teens named Broth er Corey provided another BHS narrative situated in learned practice. I was present at the Louisville youth convention when he was first overcome by the Spirit. I remember seeing him fall to his knees a few feet away in the middle of the boys choir, screa ming at the top of his lungs with tears streaming down his cheeks. I was amazed to see such a young person in the throes of religious ecstasy. At a Sunday evening service back in the Greene Assembly, Brother Corey stepped up to the pulpit and delivered a testimony that reflected on that experience: This meeting was special because I got the Holy Spirit this youth meeting. It felt at the date and she opened the Bible. She got it the same day so many years ago! [Praise God! some members of the audience chimed in] And uh, I guess there were
Elrod 46 174 youth down there. So it was good to see some new faces and a lot of the old faces. circumscribed his encounter with the Holy Spirit. He received BHS during his third youth meeting after prolonged exposure to displays of charismata amo ng his peer group. Many people who were raised in the Body received BHS at a much younger age than Brother Corey; my cousin, for instance, first spoke in tongues when she was only four. Although ortunate coincidence for validating the deliberate work of the Holy Spirit in his narrative, sharing a formative experience with his mother was not so surprising. Quoting from Psalms 16:6, Brother Less e in pleasant places; yea I have a positioned informants to be exposed to Pentecostal doctrine. As I found out in my own awkward tarrying experiences, these lines also imposed certain normative pressures to conform to Pentecostal practice. Steeped in familial expectations, my own mother received BHS and spoke in tongues at age seven. Leaving the church when she was still a child, my mother later attributed the event to p urely social factors. As a sign of a personal relationship with God and the corresponding religious merit that relationship entailed familiar social expectations. This i s not to say that he fabricated his performance in any way; his genuine mediating faith was conditioned over time by the circulation of theological discourse within close social circles.
Elrod 47 After an elder in the Body gave his testimony to the Louisville conv ention, his wife, Sister Preston, delivered an illustrative story from the pulpit: 8 prob ably the story that many of you have. And that many of your parents have. And that your grandparents have. I was born into a family that had already met the Body of Christ. ... lifelong friends. These friends I still have today. And a lot of these friends are in church with me today. They had their children. They became friends with our Then in 1 960 when I was 13 years old, Sister Marie Bryant took a car load of us girls remember what we did in that Bible school. But I do remember that Thursday night service. The y had all of us on the platform and we were singing and the Holy Spirit filled the place. And I just raised my hands and the Lord gave me the most wonderful tarried for the H powerful coming to the lord. Because you have a wonderful, wonderful test imony. tarrying for the Holy Spirit into a seamless narra tive. The logic of her testimony was clearly formulated in her closing words: there would be no place, no context, for testimonies of deliverance without embedded narratives that disclosed the possibilities of Pentecostal doctrine in practice. Narratives of Deliverance narrator was not exposed to the Body of Christ prior to having an embodied spiritual 8 As I understand it, Sister Preston and other adult women were allowed to speak from the pulpit at the Louisville convention because they were delivering testimonies directed at the youth; these testi monies were understood to be informative anecdotes rather than theological teachings.
Elrod 48 experience. Born and raised outside the movement, this unique event in Brot life initiated a radical shift in orientation away from self destructive habits and interactions: im and his wife, and we were there drinking. I had an opportunity to get off to myself, and I said [crying I heard that voice. l tell you helped me. Sa lvation is turning around, and that turning around means leaving your friends of the world and making friends of the church. Brother Preston was clearly unhappy with his alcoholic lifestyle. He heard a mysterious voice while under the influence and took i t as a message from God. This divine intervention came at just the right moment: Brother Preston was disoriented by self destructive habits way into a Gospel Assembl y church. Once he did, however, Brother Preston began a process of ritual synchronization with transformative effects on his bodily and discursive routines. For instance, the narrator could only retrospectively distinguish between the audible voice he hea rd and an encounter with the Holy Ghost (as evidenced by speaking in tongues) after some level of exposure to Gospel Assembly theology; his memory was codified by newly acquired idioms and categories. He referenced a video testimony that was circulated thr ough various Gospel Assembly churches during my time in the field in which a woman reported hearing a voice from God. Decades after the event, he equated the voice he heard and
Elrod 49 possibilities the church, the Holy Spirit, bodily health, moral propriety by disrupting the repetitions that mired him in self destructive routines. Many stories fell b etween the two extremes exemplified by Brother and Sister educated about Pentecostal/charismatic practices as their interests in other (usually less ecstatic) religious affiliations waned. There were also many informants (such as the man who testified about overcoming an addiction to crystal meth in Chapter One) who returned to the church after a period of apostasy. Estranged from the church for a time, Brother Bennett re ceived the Holy Spirit while riding a lawnmower. As diverse as these narratives were, they each arose within a performative context that modeled possible forms of charismatic experience within the Body of Christ. Put another way, they were accounts that de scribed how the Body was reproduced and subtly transformed with every new narrative Conclusions My informants were oriented within a discursive context that amalgamated a wide range of people, times, places, and experienc es into a unifying master narrative: the Holy Christ. Each performed testimony supplied believers in attendance with examples of how the Holy Spirit encountered indivi dual bodies in time and space. Every testimony bore witness to an active Spirit that only reached out to those who were willing to take up an equally active role as embodied mediators between Spirit and Body. I have suggested that this mediating role was s upplied in every case by culturally embedded allegiances to people and routines. For Brother Preston and other informants with deliverance narratives, disorientation within old procedures initiated a radical rejection of the familiar. Phenomenologies calle d
Elrod 50 up in narratives from informants with little or no exposure to Pentecostal theology prior to receiving charismatic gifts became intelligible within a set of circulated, retained, and reproduced performative conventions already established within embedded narratives. Untangling from undesired spaces, practices, and motivations required deliverance from one regime of bodily/discursive imperatives to another. Contact with the Holy Spirit was never simply chosen autonomously nor determined by forces alien to my informants. In every instance, inherited forms of life conditioned a possible range of charismatic narratives
Elrod 51 Chapter Three Territorializing the World with the Word Of the myriad Gospel Assembly doctrines and practices which idealized a radical separation from mainstream social values, something my grandmother (and key informant) Sister Simmons sa id still strikes me as an especially revealing entry point into a broader cross cultural dilemma. One evening while waiting for service to begin she turned to me wide this gospel anymore. We believe that he could be put in jail, maybe in the next seven... maybe fifteen years. There are evil forces at work in this world that want to destroy this Lacking any material or historical evidence of religious intolerance agai nst the could an inconspicuous local church enjoying the legal protection of the First Amendment become blatantly victimized by secular authorities as Sister Simmons sug gested? I tried in vain to imagine police marching down the aisles and arresting the unassuming old pastor making his way to the pulpit. Perhaps my grandmother and similarly oriented members of her Body perceived something I was missing in the state of Ame rican religious freedom. Or might this imagined oppression have purely theological foundations? My attempts to interpret this phenomenon were complicated at every turn by mutually exclusive Pentecostal and secularist epistemologies. If my grandmother seeme d to be a religious radical to members of some secular mainstream (myself included?), then this very perception imposed some urgency to her radical orientation. On the other hand, secularist authority of the Holy
Elrod 52 and biblical interpretations. Theologically posed against the world at large, the Body of Christ seemed to inhabit a small and under represented social margin in the United States. But who ultimately marginalizes social groups that self consciously distin guish themselves from the mainstream? In Religious Outsiders and the Making of Americans social radicalism can be extracted from most prophetic traditions that expect Christ to return in physical form within a short time, destr oy the political nations on earth, and establish his spiritual kingdom. Radical here simply means holding a vision of a vastly is both reactionary against a conte mporary secular mainstream and constitutive for it. The dichotomy between spirituality and carnality as competing orientations towards the world defines an other against which the Body of Christ defined itself. At the same time, the need to define oneself which prescribed certain limits to acceptable bodily expression that effectively othered BHS from public practice. The personal autonomy at the foundation of secular democracy in the Unit ed States expressed as a constant relationship to reasoned action was the same humanistic ideal that my informants found prideful and idolatrous. Gospel Assembly in Greene, Ohio I was also incredibly lucky to attend the four day national youth conference in Louisville, Kentucky, where ministers from throughout the country gave sermons and classes to 256 young brothers and sisters in the Body. Lessons delivered from the pulpit by a rotating cast of ministers on topics such as spirituality and friendship performatively territorialized the contemporary social landscape by emphasizing the
Elrod 53 indignatio that constituted a rigid dichotomy between the spiritual authority of the Holy Spirit over the one pastor require some sort of catastrophic prophecy in order to galvanize religious sentiments and action. From this perspec tive, the belief that secular authorities will shut down the daily operations of the church might be interpreted as somehow necessary for lending existential urgency to the congregation's active preparation for the second coming of Christ. Yet I find this functionalist account unsatisfactory for explaining why individuals within the Body actually believed that the government had a stake in silencing their practices. Sister Simmons, for instance, had little to gain from the rest of the congregation believing that the Body and the carnal world were at odds, although I suspect she had something to lose. I slept in her basement during my fieldwork, where boxes upon boxes of canned goods, bottled water, and propane tanks were hoarded in preparation for a vague bu t violent future. The money used to amass these supplies, it seemed to me, served little more than the secular economy which she feared. Moreover, end times preparations appeared fanatical to uninitiated Christians and secularists (like some members of Sis own family). Even if the prophetic notion of governmental aggression against the church did help members of the Body understand the urgency of their work in this era, I do not believe that Pastor Less or any other church authority actively co nstructed the idea nor calculated its effects on the congregation. I imagine such seemingly nervous rhetoric would slow the conversion rate of newcomers and moderate Christians still at least partially invested in the secular arena and the justice of the l egal infrastructure.
Elrod 5 4 Sister Simmons was not necessarily typical of her congregation; I suspect no member is. I interviewed people with a surprising variety of political leanings (at least three Democrats!), and my grandmother definitely tended toward the c onservative end of the narratives. I never found any rations in other informants basements, but Sister Simmons shared at least one thing with everyone else I encountered in the field: an orientation toward the social world and the future with explicit foundations in Pentecostal theology and practice. Pentecostal doctrines and practices constructed an oppositional social landscape ultimately divided by perceptions of time, space, and personal authority. However, the belief that the government could or would violently contravene expressions of Pentecostal religion was not a calculated rhetorical device for reinvigorating spiritual practice and actively othering secular socie ty. It was an an effect of the world in which Sister Simmons found herself, awash with the activity of supernatural forces, progressing upon the path of a divinely pre determined historical trajectory, always teetering at the precipice of epochal social an d spiritual change. Baptism in the Holy Spirit initiated my informants into a life ovided living validation for the moral, historical, and theological doctrines disseminated within the Body. I will attempt to construct a picture of the life interactions with the Holy Spirit and the historical horizo ns implicated in the theological rhetoric that circumscribed these events at church services. My concern here is with how a unique temporal and experiential life world called up in sermons and testimonies seemed to condemn affiliation with civic institutio ns, secular authority, and secularized religion. A Pentecostal Future
Elrod 55 The Pentecostal community who worshipped at Gospel Assembly during my eferred to in Ephesians 4:11) will be restored as it was in the early church under the leadership of the apostle Paul. In a detailed interview, Pastor Less of the Greene Assembly explained that after the full restoration of the church, Christ will summon a half year training period in Heaven, Christ and his Bride will return as king and queen to an earth restored under perfect holy governance. The Assembly congregations believe themselves to be working towards this higher calling of the Bride element, foremost among all Christians in their ability to properly discern the teaching s of the Bible, recognize the awesome works of the Holy Spirit in the Body of Christ, and observe the traditional holiness movement practices (restricted dress, sexual modesty) that act as a bulwark against the corruption of carnal nature. f reckoning history, fundamentally discontinuous with the notions of gradual human progress found in secular history texts, is an important key to understanding the emic polarization of spiritual and carnal B/bodies. According to Brother s doctrine of an Early and Latter Rain corresponding with the early biblical church and the contemporary dispensation of the Holy Spirit can be found in Zechariah 10:1 the time of the latter rain. The Lord will make flashing clouds; He will give them showers of passages like this one do little to connect the latter rain concept originating in Hebrew agrarian practice with the contemporary or mythological outpourings of the Holy Spirit, the weather like imagery in Acts 2 describing the day of Pentecost and the first dispensation of
Elrod 56 as of a rushing mighty t to a physical cloud that settles over the congregation.) Connected by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, especially the practice of speaking Christianity as the ultimat e template for personal and ecumenical governance. Catholicism) was largely understood to be an era of human corruption in Pentecostal memory. The complex hermeneutic methodo logy for weaving such seemingly unrelated Biblical passages into a coherent if esoteric trans historical narrative was focused on the or figures from the Old Testament which, when analyzed from the perspective of New Testament theology, were seen to to elucidate their contemporary relevance, thereby imbuing modern practices with the same spiritual import foregrounds the broadly conceived factions at the center of the carnal/spiritual opposition: body o f people. And Ahab is the civil powers of this nation. Jezebel is the religious element of the nations, and the religious elements have made their bed with the civil Jak
Elrod 57 Here was a spectr disob a much larger frame of reference than any historically contingent affiliations with national institutions. were un a document, issued by a sovereign or state, outlining the conditions under which a corporation colony city, or other corporate body is organiz signified submission to the sovereignty of the state in matters uniquely governable by the Spirit. (a rather unfriendly epithet), while the state itself instituted the conditions which the Body protested by remaining un of premillenial theology constituted the parameters of a subversive orientation towards secular authority and religions institutions compliant with that authority. Gaining Territory for Christ space itself became imbued with spiritual significance in two ways. Foremost, Baptism of the Holy Spirit lent an
Elrod 58 aura of credibility to the version of history taught in the very same spaces where members literally encountered God. Second, that version of history involved the promise to become like Bride in the coming kingdom if members of the Body could maintain a properly spiritual orientation throughout life. Maintaining a spiritual orientation, then, required that members of the Body asse ultimately re articulate this theologically fulfilling separation from the carnal world. These spaces were effectively territorialized during my fieldwork by exclusionary theological and moral rhetoric. At t he beginning of the Louisville convention, a pastor Refuge than I Found in the Bod researcher I f elt slightly embarrassed for those young parishioners who had not yet received the spiritual gift. This performative utterance designated the ideal members of the congregation, implicitly distinguishing the anointed from the uninitiated. Again, after listi ng twelve materialistic practices 9 given during a class on spirituality, Bro. Less told the youth Church ceremonies and the spaces wher e they were held were territories for the Spirit where involvement required submission to Pentecostal doctrines and practices. Even I had to go through the very public motions of tarrying for the Holy Spirit at both Greene 9 These were: religion without morality, pleasure without conscience, leisure without discipline, power without accountability, affection without boundaries, sin without consequence, money without labor, wickedness without penalty, goodness without reward, judgment without equity, law without purpose, and gain without thankfulness.
Elrod 59 and Louisville assemblies. Confin ed to the space of a church service, this evangelism was not about disseminating the doctrines of Pentecostalism to the world at large. In fact, I found little organized concern for public outreach during my time at the Greene assembly. The rhetoric that distinguished insiders from outsiders was largely channeled towards creating a refuge away from the world where the Spirit could do its work. Churches were spaces for the Body to exist apart from those public zones (school, work, and government) that syste They were spaces where I could literally see the Spirit come over people in profoundly moving sometimes frightening displays of glossolalia and charismata that would cert territory they inhabit. Even to practice their uniquely embodied religion, the Body was forced to sequester themselves in appropriate zones beyond the normative gaze of the public sphere on an almost daily basis. In these spiritual spaces, members of the Body encountered a unique apocalyptic mythology alongside powerful embodied moments of religious ecstasy. It is easy to see how the existential validation of Baptism of the H oly Spirit, concept of history delivered at sermons coalesced to confirm one another in practice. As st comes, the whole world personal spiritual orientation that does not stop at the sanctuary door. When members of the Body received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, they entered into union with the s ame entity that anointed Bro. William Sowders and the apostle Paul before him. In doing so, members of the Body became territory by taking on a unique set of spatial historical spiritual perspectives only accessible to those who have entered into this life changing communion. For many of my informants, millenialism rested on a religious experience
Elrod 60 that necessarily separated those who have encountered the Spirit from those who could not. It follows that neither Pentecostal pre millenials nor mainstream secularists choose to cordon members of Body away from the rest of the world. The Holy Spirit enacts the differentiation of spiritual and carnal orientations by inhabiting particular bodies and imbuing the m with a previously inaccessible perspective. early convention. The difficult task in the face of intellectual times, at least for this Body, was not an evangelistic campaign to convert the world. That narrative only emerged peripherally general salvation in future dispensations. 10 class even in the fac e of contemporary moral and social degeneration. with the normative, even legislated marriage between reason and secul arism in popular discourse. historical narrative negated the enduring Enlightenment become a socially responsible and autonomous citizen. Without a hegemonic orthodoxy to 10 From the early tent revivals of the 20th century to rapidly growing international ministri es, Pentecostalism has been no stranger to evangelical campaigns. My informants boasted of loosely affiliated churches in Europe, Africa, Central and South America, and the Caribbean. It seems that these affiliations were established in some previous era o f evangelistic fervor.
Elrod 61 reason could regulate the public domain along a unilateral trajectory of intellectual and cultural progress. If there is an etic anal this prevalent discursive paradigm relating reason, secularism, and cultural progress at the foundation of the contemporary liberal humanist moral establishment. kobsen and Ann Pellegrini remind readers aspects of religion. ...Nonetheless, this secularism posed against religion and for reason has imperatives other than s imply those of freedom from dogmatism. Modern secularism, in States is historic ally bound to Protestant understandings of religious practice as a form of personal morality, essentially private, existentially distant from a God who has already argue structures having shifted tremendously in the last century), but merely to highligh t that contemporary secularism in the United States arose from a historically embedded ideological tradition based on a paradoxical mix of Protestant and Enlightenment ideals. 11 It is neither universal nor undifferentiated, as Jakobsen and Pellegrini argue convincingly, yet it is most certainly an element of the popular moral establishment: normative, legislated, 11 I find it both ironic and revealing that secularism and Pentecostalism in the United States were both reactionary against Protestantism even as they carried on some of its basic assumptions. In my opinion, the same existential dis tance from God that characterized the Calvinist influence on the Protestant ethic (and Protestant flavored secularism) probably lead early American Pentecostals such as Charles Parham and William Seymour to search for gifts of the Holy Spirit in order to r einvigorate Christian practice in the 20th century.
Elrod 62 ideological. Secularism is not merely an absence of religion in the public sphere; it is the presence of a dominant political discourse with its ow n lexicon of implicit assumptions. Secularist ideology relies on a presupposition about personal autonomy that is both metaphysical and political. It is metaphysical because it posits that individuals can be self sufficient progenitors of their own moral a ctions if they stand in proper relation to reason. It is political because access to reason, like access to the Holy Spirit, is unevenly distributed. modernity also imply a secular and the religious that makes for secular equality and non violence creates another set of qualities between those who are religious and those who are secular. The assertion of uni versal equality that solves the problem of religious difference institutes a problem of clear when one realizes that only a dominant secularist discourse (and, of cours e, different the traditional secularization narrative, any religion, i f not completely privatized, does become configured as anti The Body of Christ was certainly anti modern in this secularist sense because it idealized an ancient Pauline tradition that prioritized s ubmission to the authoritative Spirit and Word of God. This submission to authority recast from a secularist perspective as submission to a human pastoral authority looks like a blind and dangerous dogmatism precisely because the b/Body relinquishes its au the relationship between charismatic ministers and their lay communities. He argues that charismatic ministers act somewhat akin to saints by providing a model of proper
Elrod 63 represent a state to which all must strive...yet it can only maintain its power as an ideal if some people are s een to achieve more saintliness than others and thus become able to act 2009: 438). In part, these key religious mediators pose a threat to the vision of secular e from every individual, marking their autonomy within the democratic process. Conclusions The great irony underlying this whole dichotomized social landscape is th at secularists and Pentecostals both fear the corrupting effects of dogmatism. Whether in the progress) or the power of the Holy Spirit to direct personal action, paradig ms of acceptable thought and practice are always fundamentally inherited cultural forms. This fact is obscured for secularists by the autonomy of individual will as a kind of metaphysical and political first principle. The secular humanist orientation towa rd reason is primarily a matter of learning; it is as received and culturally circumscribed as any form of understanding and does not ultimately emerge from an autonomous act of personal creation. For the Body of Christ, cultural embeddedness was obscured by an apodictic belief of individual autonomy ever since the Enlightenment: moral priorities, spiritual discernment, access to truth, where to congregate, who to assemble with, how to conduct oneself in public and private, even what is and is not noticed. Paradoxically, the dichotomy between spirituality and carnality enables the Body of Christ to engage in the world at large. Without a whole new orientation toward s the world a spiritual orientation members of the Body of Christ risked falling back into the
Elrod 64 same existential distance from the divine that characterized their lives before receiving the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Assembling at conferences and church se rvices where Pentecostal theology territorialized the social world gave believers the tools to identify and abstain from carnal behaviors. It did not come as a calculated or even necessarily conscious a sense, thrust this new perspective upon members of the Body in the moment when it entered their physical bodies. At the millennial conception of history and the territorialization of the social landscape by marginalizing that peculiar form volatile social discourse which sustains itself through opposition on either side. Secularism cannot be a domin ant social ideology without imposing a dogmatic faith in autonomy and reason that fundamentally subverts its egalitarian mission. Embedded in this secular social context, the Body of Christ transgressed a normative imperative to be autonomous by submitting to the Holy Spirit in speech and bodily practice. Ideally, this rhetorical submission of will freed believers to sustain activity in secular spheres such as work, school, and politics while never orienting them away from the Holy Spirit in daily practice.
Elrod 65 Conclusion The Holy Spirit is real precisely because it can be encountered. I have tried to show that narrative and embodied performances in Gospel Assembly churches populated my ideas that conditioned their encounters with the Holy Spirit. One important consequence of this culturally constructed orientation toward Body of Christ, turning awa life unified my informants into a coherent community. By attempting to explain how the Body of Christ cohered as a distinct culture, I have been able to describe some general features of BHS phenomenologies and their social effects in practice. What dropped out in my investigation, however, was a theoretical account of internal differentiation in Gospel Assembly churches. My informants were embedded in a life world of Pentecostal theology, bu t their orientations also indexed intersections between other commitments, practices, and identities. In hindsight, I would like to have collected more data about gender, class, race, and ability differences in order to understand more about stratificatio ns within the Body. If Pentecostalism can be liberatory for people who are unfulfilled in secular (or other religious) cultural contexts, it is critical to understand how social codes governing interpretations of gender, race, class, and ability confirm or problematize this liberation. For narratives about leaving Gospel Assembly churches after negative experiences in the movement, peruse the testimonies published at gospelassemblyfree.com. ces deserved to be disclosed to a larger audience. As anthropologist Michael Jackson states in Minima Ethnographica
Elrod 66 help us see that plurality is not inimical but necessary to our integrity, so inspiring us to accept and celebrate the manifold contradictory character of existence in the knowledge entation might destabilize secular ontologies and empiricist epistemologies by showing how familiar categories of everyday interaction embodiment, performance, narrative, and orientation align to naturalize the contingencies that regulate discourse and bod ily practice.
Elrod 67 Afterward Toward a Phenomenological Anthropology of Religion This concluding thoughts reflect on a wide ranging synthesis of theoretical and methodological perspectives about religious experience. The ideas proceed from many ethnographic access and representation. I hope to delineate a perspective from which to imagine an anthropology of religion that takes advantage of phenomenological insights, including the centrality of the body, emphasis on perception, and the consequences of orientation in physical and social spaces. I will negotiate these personal int erests with a critical attitude toward theory building in anthropology and a hopeful eye toward hermeneutic phenomenology as a response to an enduring crisis of representation. Applying a phenomenological lens to both the subject of anthropological inquiry and the juxtaposing structure with agency might be easier understood by the hermeneutic categories narrative and reduction This orientation will guide my discuss ion of the possible synergies and conflicts that arise at the intersections of anthropology, phenomenology, and religious studies. Ethics and Epistemology in the Representation of Living Cultures To a body of anthropological theory, I owe a certain kind of empirical attention to the world of subjects, objects, and interactions which validates research and allows it to participate in the general project of the social sciences. To my ethnographic informants, I believe I owe a representation of agency that g ives full credit to the active and unending participation that everyone shares in the co creation of their own lives. In the realm of
Elrod 68 social action, individuals and groups can be understood to be moved upon and set in motion by the interaction of such wide ranging forces as markets, kinship systems, ideologies, normativizing structures, social stigmatization, class dynamics, and other categories which help to explain the causal premises of human action. While decades of anthropologists and social theorists have constructed many convincing models with the aim of interpreting why people do what they do, I believe that they have almost always lost sight of the content of the doing. In the general course of self reflection, I hold as my objects of attention memo ries of embodied events, moments, sensations, and decisions which string together in language to form a life narrative quite separate from the forces which ceaselessly inscribe my actions from every angle. I am only made aware of these forces when I reflec t upon them in subsequent moments of conscious analysis. The mode of this analysis and the conclusions it may generate are ultimately and inevitably products of my enculturation. In their attempts aviors, anthropologists always face a risk of imposing one cultural mode upon the other and exacerbating the imperialism generated by unequal flows of information. The essence of action is not distilled in the terminologies of social scientists, according to the related projects of phenomenology, but ever brewing at the crossroads of perception, reflection, volition, and the immanent world. If so, culture seems to exist not as an object from which to synthesize explanatory systems, but as the assurance tha t human experiences manifest with as much diversity as there are contexts for their occurrence. Within the social scientific community, theorizing is construed to begin in data gathered from the world about the beliefs and behaviors of practitioners. This data is said to exhibit patterns from which scientists can compile generalities about behavior, custom, belief, discourse, and symbolism. Maurice Merleau Phenomenology of Perception (1945), from which I draw much of my interpretation of phenomenolo gy, stresses the
Elrod 69 distinction between empirical models of behavior (such as psychology and anthropology) of which one is only ever made aware after familiarity with a series of representations and perceptions which are immediately apparent to the sentient body as it experiences the and qualities, and it is ridiculous to pretend that nature thus conceived is, even in intention merely, the primary object of our percepti on: it does in fact follow the experience of cultural Ponty 1945: 28). Theoretical abstractions construed in the nature of empirical deduction flatten the experiences from which they originate by elucidating t the sensual and cognitive experience of practice as a subsidiary expression of an essential pr ocess. Empirical social sciences rely heavily on the reduction of experience into terms. (Burke 1941: 424). As terms, these abstracted categories are subject to semantic relationships which invariably conform to some conception of structure. Etic interpret ations of cultural phenomena have historically involved essential reductions. The translation of fieldwork experiences to the language of academic discourse assumes that a certain type of empirically neutral interpretation can grasp the essence of action b etter than the perceiving subjects who act and are acted upon by their own cultural orientations. But if empiricism is, as Merleau how can it be privileged to evaluate the culturally conditioned experiences o f others? The semantic hierarchy implied when an academic relegates human experience to the purview of sociology, psychology, or structural anthropology takes on an ethical dimension because every reduction strips informants of their agency to interpret th eir own to emerge as fully meaningful. Understanding action in terms of motivations at once
Elrod 70 individual and thoroughly constructed by cultural conditioning allows ethnographic informants to retain the essentially agent directed element of their behaviors, differentiating them from the motion of a sociological cog. Anthropologists must recognize this power dynamic, assuring that Western academic empiricism is not arb itrarily imposed upon cultural forms and human experiences which have their own unique representations and interpretive frameworks. Reduction can here be juxtaposed with narrative which takes two primary forms in ethnographic work: the narrative of the et physical and social spaces in the field, and the narratives collected from informants in dialogue. A phenomenological anthropology can avoid the pitfalls of ethnocentric reductionism by attending to these central f orms of ethnographic narrative in the representation of living cultures. Synthesizing Phenomenology The various intellectual projects subsumed within phenomenology have been employed towards a wide range of ends and the general field (to use a phenomenol ogical pun) is far from a static or coherent body of ideas. Historically, phenomenology begins with the philosophy of Edmund Husserl, who believed that attention to the flow of experience prior to the imposition of judgments about the existence, character, or qualities of the objects of perception might be able to provide a universal and unified grounding for the sciences in general. I believe his proposed method of analysis the phenomenological epoche comprises his most important contribution in an anthrop ological context in linking the epistemological critique described above with a mode of engaging with subjects of inquiry. In his Cartesian Meditations ta
Elrod 71 experience. The concrete subjective processes, let us repeat, are indeed the things to which his attentive regard is directed: but the attentiv e Ego, qua philosophizing Ego, practices abstention with respect to what he intuits. Likewise everything meant in such accepting or positing processes of consciousness (the meant judgment, theory, value, end, or whatever it is) is still retained completely (Husserl 1960 : 20). In distinguishing between the ego which judges experience and that which attends to experience, even the earliest articulations of phenomenology provide insight into a basi c presumption of contemporary ethnography. The ethnographer is in the unique position of gaining access to experiences and interpretations of those experiences that they cannot ever fully comprehend, much less upon first exposure. In contemplating the prac tices and beliefs of the other, anthropologists necessarily participate in a certain bracketing of the existence or truth value of cultural facts to which they have never been exposed in order to make inroads towards glimpsing their complexity. Anthropolog ists attend to cultural facts while creating an epistemological space in which the existential force of such objects remains unquestionable. It is important to note t hat the ethnographer, not the informant, should cultivate the phenomenological epoche during fieldwork. The substance of cultural description seems to Anthropologists and phenomenologists must both, at some point, engage in the thoroughly linguistic task of description; in so doing, they necessarily import their cultural heritag e. In speaks only as he responds to language. Language speaks. Its speaking speaks for us in what
Elrod 72 as the medium of phenomenological disclosure, anthropological phenomenology can tend away from problematic philosophical inquiry into the essences of objects themselves and recognize that it is in the telling about experience that features arise in direct relation to the sociocultural orientations of the experiencing informant. Ponty begins to draw phenomenology away from its essentialist roots a nd towards a grounding for social theories of practice in the unit of the which is self evident. To seek the essence of perception is not presumed true, but defined as which it is disclosed. To say that there exists rationality is to say that perspectives blend, Ponty 1945: xxii). This insight, central to the phenomenological endeavour, has clear implications for anthropologists because it allows an explanation of the myriad diversity of human belief and practice without imposing any sort of hierarchy of interpretation s. The idiosyncratic conclusions drawn from any life narrative, inscribed by the cultural blending/confirmation of perspectives, exist on a plane of reference wholly beyond judgments imposed from without. Merleau Ponty also provides fascinating analyses re lating perception to the body, motility, temporality, and spatial schematization: Every external perception is immediately synonymous with a certain perception of my body, just as every perception of my body is made explicit in the language of external per ception. If, then, as we have seen to be the case, the body is not a transparent object, and is not presented to us in virtue of the law of its constitution, as the circle is to the geometer, if it is an expressive unity which we can learn to know only by actively taking it up, this structure will be passed on to the sensible world. The theory of the body schema is, implicitly, a theory of perception. We have
Elrod 73 relearned to feel our body; we have found underneath the objective and detached knowledge of our b ody that other knowledge which we have of it by virtue of it always being with us and of the fact that we are our body. In the same way we shall need to reawaken our experience of the world as it appears to us in so far as we are in the world through our b ody, and in so far as we perceive the world with our body. (1945: 239) applied cross culturally, I take as a basic feature of experience that people perceive the world as embodie d beings, aware of their own corporeality on at least some level. If perception is reality disclosed, then anthropology benefits from attention to different levels Queer Phenomenology (2006) takes up Merleau contributions to phenomenological theory with a hermeneutic ex egesis of what is meant when one speaks of orientation. I choose her from a wide range of social theorists influenced by Merleau Ponty because she shows the flexibility of a phenomenological framework to suit both spatial and culturally conceived perceptua l fields; her emphasis on envisions a framework with which to consider cultural reproduction, structural constraint, and distributions of power as compulsory ad the path as it is before us as, but it is only before us as an effect of being walked upon. A paradox of the footprint emerges. Lines are both created by being followed and are followed by being created. The lines that direct us, as lines of thought as well as lines of motion, are in this way performative: they depend upon the repetition of norms and conventions, of routes Admittedly, these spatial metaphors take me somewhat afield from the anti reductive
Elrod 74 imperative with which I wish to elucidate the particular complexities of the religious experiences I encountered and recorded in the field. I accept her conclusions on the grounds that they are sufficiently general and that they conform to my own cultural experience, though I am still curious as to the scope of her conclusions. Ahmed never this point that even her socially conscientious phenomenology can stand to benefit from some level of anthropological relativism. Anthropology and Phenomenology anthropological representation have characterized the recent history of the discipline: Brown, Mead), and the interpretive/symbolic approach championed most notably by Clifford Geertz (1988: 26 34 ). While interpretive anthropology sheds claims of epistemic privilege about representing emic worldviews by unapologetically subjecting culture to textual hermeneutics, it retains the socially questionable practice of rendering any categorization of behav ior systematic or subjective embodied experience and interpretation. Any work situated as an ethnographic account implies representative authority. An ethnography is always a conscious synthesis of a fieldwork experience. Anthropologists assume the political authority to make convincing statements about whole groups of people. Does their academic training enable them to do s, into an integrated portrait. It is important, though, to notice what has dropped out of sight. The research process is separated from the texts it generates and from the fictive world
Elrod 75 they are made to call up. The actuality of discursive situations and individual interlocutors e discourses comprising an ethnographic process the very perceptual ground from which ethnographers begin their synthesis is filtered out, then what comes to fill the pages of an ethnography? In the ambiguous step from perceived pattern to scholarly genera lization, one must be constantly skeptical of flights of speculative imagination. Likewise, the very selection of a pattern (which cannot recognize itself and is always necessarily selected) serves more reliably to elucidate the cognitive conditioning of a researcher than the structure of an outsider upon first arriving in a Ba linese village: This is, as I say, general in Bali. ...In Balinese villages, at least those away from the tourist circuit, nothing happens at all. People go on pounding, chatting, making offerings, staring into space, carrying baskets about while one drift s around feeling vaguely disembodied. And the same thing is true on the individual level. When you first meet a Balinese, he seems virtually not to relate to you all; he is, in the term in a day, a week, a month (with some people the magic moment never comes) he decides, for reasons I have never quite been able to fathom, that you are real, and then and then he becomes a warm, gay, sensitive, sympathetic, though, being Balinese, always precisely co ntrolled, person. You have crossed, somehow, some moral or metaphysical shadow line. Though you are not exactly taken as Balinese (one has to be born to that), you are at least regarded as a human being rather than a cloud or a gust of wind. (413) For lac king of phenomenological clarity, the epistemological ambiguities implied in this tween insiders and outsiders in Bali. Does Geertz mean to say that every visitor should expect to have such an experience in Bali? How could Geertz verify such a claim, having shared only particular moments with Balinese villagers in particular time period s, with his own particular body and subjectivity? Does he mean to say that this was his general experience,
Elrod 76 slate a new personal experience informant ever actually use such metapho rs? If Geertz generated these tropes, I argue that masquerading, however self deceptively, as an account that identifies as a representation of otherness. He makes general claims about behavior as to suggest something of an emic perspective but there is an enormous difference between getting the sense that one is would require c oncrete ethnographic validation in the form of dialogue. In a fascinating and detailed manner, Geertz writes ethnographies about himself. He tells us something of his own cultural perspective; one that apparently conditions Geertz to feel rather cloud like when ignored. But perhaps the Balinese have something very different to say about outsiders in this liminal stage of recognition merely appear so to a naive newcomer, unaware of internal schemas and response strateg ies. And who knows how the Balinese regard clouds? Interpretive anthropology, like its structuralist cousin, reduces foreign experience to thoroughly subjective Western tropes and anecdotal essences. I recognize this as a necessary impediment to all attemp ts at cross cultural representation, one to which ethnographers should always attend with utmost skepticism. I believe they can do so by returning to the fundamental role of perception as the detailed subject of thick description, and as the subject of eth nographic inquiry in general.
Elrod 77 bounded by the almost super organic collective need to re ify an established cultural (those imposed by economic domination and the generalization of monetary exchanges) brings up the distinction between the technical aspec t and the ritual or symbolic aspect of agricultural activity. ...Everything conspires to conceal the relationship between work and its product. ...Perhaps we should say that the relationship between work and in its product is in reality not unknown, but so cially repressed ; that the productivity of labor is so low that the peasant must refrain from counting his time, in order to preserve the meaningfulness of distinction betwe en work and its product, between practice and capital. He recognizes that Western categories are necessary to see the distinction, but does not stop to consider if they ully, oblivious to the invisible structural subjugation that directs and pervades his inefficient actions. No doubt, a powerful and subtle kind of cultural bias informed by Marxist social theory over on the part of his economic domination is the only meter for recognizing the disparity between practices defined as habitus and genuine Western capitalist efficienc y, yet Bourdieu still suggests that the peasant turns a blind eye to maintain his dignity and reaffirm the socially constructed reality that governs him. Clearly, Bourdieu presumes that whether the Kabyle are oblivious or self deceiving, objective conditio ns of economic and social dominion structure their actions, regardless of whether they become objects of attention. Can the epistemic privilege of identifying false consciousness ever find validation in cross cultural analysis? Where might the anthropologi st turn to ground such propositions when she has already dismissed
Elrod 78 inclined theorists, must rely on his own cultural education to generate the conceptual systems w hich are believed to explain practice. I invoke Bourdieu not only as an influential ethnographer, but as founder of the still conceptualize the articulation susceptible to being transformed by them. They accomplished this by arguing, in different ways, for the dialectical rather than the oppositional relationship between the structural the new term was important of social ac reproduction of culture. While I think that even practice theory may get bogged down in structure (as I have attempted to illustrate with Bourdieu), I admire its concern with practices in themselves and the social importance of questions of power. A phenomenologically or practices, recognizing this literal and figurative positionality as the necessary perspective from which the world unfolds. Viewed in regards to practice theory (and running a risk of red uction), my ethnographic interpretive method seeks to relate emic perceptions and descriptions to the dialectic between practices and structures as the fundamental mode of apprehension and thus the practical basis for theories of change. Phenomenology prov ides the structurally inclined with a terminology for contemplating the affective quality of constraining systems: both the sociocultural conditions which give rise to certain perceptions rather than others, and the practical consequences of the many subje ctive
Elrod 79 histories of interaction between people and place. At the same time, phenomenology reminds the practice theorist that the existence of systems of constraint economic, sociocultural, functionalist, or otherwise often exist not as forces that exert the ir influence upon embodied agents during moments of practice, but as objects of reflection that help explain actions taken in the past. This is not to say that the effects of structural inequality do not systematically limit the practical options and oppor tunities available to subjugated people. Rather, the phenomenological insight for practice theory is that when affected people face social or cultural disenfranchisement, they experience it not as an interaction with a systematic power or series of abstrac t forces, but as negative circumstances perceived and categorized in the flow of attention. These negative circumstances are interpreted according to limitless permutations of culturally ascribed modes of reasoning after the fact. In the definition and exp lanation of subjugation, disenfranchisement, or prejudice, as in the attribution of motives, the emic/etic distinction remains central. My informants never revealed themselves to be the victims of socio structural constraint, even when money and employment were a daily concern: every life circumstance was disclosed to them as necessary step in an intimate walk with God (or, when attributed to demonic forces, became reintegrated as a powerful narrative of overcoming). I have argued that reductionist explanat ory systems of practice orientalize the other by limiting the intentional aspects of decision making and indigenous theories of value. Here one need only recognize the central contribution of practice theory: social structures are ultimately susceptible to being transformed by the practices of social actors on the ground. These practices, I would argue, take shape and are reshaped around local and personal interpretations of events in the practitioner's life experience.
Elrod 80 Interpretive and structural functiona list anthropologies both rely primarily on metaphor and metonymy, tropes which transpose and condense meanings from one frame of reference to another. In structuralist metonymy, all those dialogic experiences that comprise fieldwork are reduced to a set of categorical relations. In the interpretive method, these same experiences become related metaphorically to images which find meaning from researchers must recognize the epi stemological responsibility to admit the extreme limitations of their hermeneutic methods when it comes to glimpsing something of the other, there is an even more pressing ethical imperative to allow informants primary interpretive authority over their own cultural representation. Researchers run the constant risk of limiting the agency of their informants with the rhetoric of reduction. Determinism is built into any causal, explanatory, reductive, system or interpretation of human behavior because it attac hes some type of motivation explicitly in to any given decision after the fact Merleau Ponty but also that of motivatio n. The alleged motive does not burden my decision; on the contrary my decision lends motive its force. ...If it is said that my temperament inclines me particularly toward sadism or masochism, it is still merely a matter of speaking, for my temperament exi sts only for the second order knowledge that I gain about myself when I see myself as others see me, and in so far as I recognize it, confer value upon it, and in that sense, choose it. What misleads us on this, is that we often look for freedom in the vol untary deliberation which examines one motive after another and seems to opt for the weightiest or most convincing. In reality the deliberation follows the decision [emphasis added], and it is my secret decision which brings the motives to light, for it wo uld be difficult to conceive what the force of a motive might be in the absence of a decision which it confirms or to
Elrod 81 intense cultural psychodrama of the Balinese c ockfight exemplifies how an interpretive ethnographer construes causality in this case, symbolic causality and thereby represents a constrained and constructed portrayal of agent identifying with his cock, the Baline se man is identifying not only with his ideal self, or even his penis, but also, and at the same time, with what he fears, hates, and ambivalence being what it is, is fascinated by Geertz assign s informants with psychological motivations and symbolic pressures to explain the ritualization of the cockfight that bear no apparent connection to indigenous determined inferences. It may be that by some miracle of ethnographic divination, concerns about the w hich cites no direct conversations with Balinese individuals concerning these subjective associations. I would like to suggest that a phenomenological approach might yield a kind of anthropology of agency precisely because it refuses to apply motives and p aradigms to experiences which are necessarily subjective. However, by linking agency with perception and narrative, I run the risk of bracketing social conditions away with reduction. Kim our consciousness. This kind of language tends to obscure the social shaping of lived cultural reality and thereby makes a critical stance towards the c onditions that underlie this inequalities in the world are always disclosed to embodied subjects if they are to be
Elrod 82 understood as having an effective quality; as objects of perception they are equally subject to many different types of categorization. I wish to remind that the categories provided by Western social theorists represent particular modes of apprehension with no more (and probably less) epistemological grounds for themselves operate. In the final analysis, it is the informant who does the work of passively maintaining or actively overturning the cultural forms and social structures which anthropologists identify fro m afar. Phenomenology and the Study of Religion Religious scholars came to understand the importance of phenomenology early on, noting its sympathetic stance towards religious faith as the self evident disclosure of religious experience in a field otherw ise dominated by scriptural studies. Drawing from scholars such as Paul Ricoeur and John E. Smith who recognize this synergy, I will focus only on the more contemporary hermeneutic approach to phenomenology of religion in light of my earlier discussion abo ut the centrality of language; antiquated approaches sought after universal religious essences or reductionist experiential typologies which generate too much difference between field experiences and their representation. 1992 ), Paul Ricoeur identifies the experience be one of things, of values, of persons, etc. A phenomenology of confession is therefore a description of meanings and of signified intentions, present in a certain activity of language: the language of confession. Our task, in the framework of such a phenomenology, is to re enact in ourselves the confession of evil, in order to uncover its their ethnographic work, Knibbe and Versteeg describe a appears to our senses, something that anybody can immediately understand because of our
Elrod 83 shared human nature, methods fall prey to the Husserlian myth of the Transcendental Ego, a universal structure of consciousness that operates during the pre predicative experience that foreshadows language. In Gui de to the Phenomenology of Religion (2006), James Cox identifies this of universal rationality that combines passive receptions of the data of the world with an acti search for meanings as part of the hermeneutic paradigm, they presume that they can somehow replicate something about an alien experience by enacting its practice for them normal contexts of occurrence? Pentecostal confessions that Christ is savior mean something quite different from ritualized Catholic confessions to a priest, and have been h istorically linked to very different interpretations of the relationship between guilt, ethics, and religious doctrine. In my field work I also re enacted certain religious experiences, such as the practice of confession, during which I performed cultural scripts I imitated from watching my informants. Even as I experienced altered conscious states during certain imitated practices, it became immediately clear to me that such an activity could never have the same meaning as for someone who experienced it wi th the existential urgency of a life shaping moment. considers the role of appropriate spaces for encountering religious phenomena an important factor I noted in my own field resear ch. Writing in an era before mega churches, inappropriate place for discussing a matter of theological concern or for expressing thoughts most intimately of our being and purpose. The space is too completely open and
Elrod 84 public; it has no arresting power to drive us back to a consideration of what is highest in apparent that Sm not make t he semantic move from personal experience to generalized experience, lest they overlook the cultural repetition that naturalizes their own interpretations of objects of perception. While phenomenology promises anthropology a return to perception as the bas ic cultural lens with which to focus its subject of inquiry to specific local contexts where meaning emerges with unique complexity and force. Conclusions I have a ttempted to apply phenomenological insights to my own ethnographic work by 1) clearly delineating between descriptions of personal perceptual experience in the field and tacit reductions suggested as products of reflection, 2) meticulous attention to the s patial and temporal occurrence of ethnographic events, 3) inquiries into the subjective, of motions within spaces as an oriented approach to practice, and 5) focus on the feedback loop between belief and behavior as conceived of in units of perceptions, measured in units of narrative. By taking up these five initiatives, I hope to show how cultural religious phenomena such as Baptism in the Holy Spirit became naturaliz ed in the flow of experience by appearing to an immediate field of awareness (as in the performative reflex to speak in tongues), occurring to the body with sensory force, finding intersubjective validation in the
Elrod 85 exchange of testimonies, and manifesting a s foretold along normativizing paths laid down by influential forebears. The question of faith becomes a question of experiences within specific cultural contexts. By strictly differentiating between ethnographic narratives and ethnographic reductions, a p henomenological anthropology of religion might be able to bring something of the specific Pentecostal life world with which I became acquainted (in fragments and dialogue) to a wider audience without flattening the fully dimensional perceptions of my infor mants and delimiting their simultaneously active and reflexive participation in the proliferation of cultural forms of experience.
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Elrod 87 Religious Outsiders and the Making of Americans Oxford University Press. Merleau Ponty, Maurice. 1962 . Phenomenology of Perception Routledge and Kegan Paul. Translated by Colin Smith. Anthropology and Social Theory Duke University Press. Experience of the Sacred Edited by Twiss and Conser. University Press of New England. Experience of the Sacred Edited by Twiss and Conser. University Press of New England. Steinbeck, Anthony. 2007. Phenomenology and Mysticism: the Verticality of Religious Experience Indiana University Press. Tannen, Deborah. 2007. Talking Voices: Repetition, Dialogue, and Imagery in Conversational Discourse Second Edition. Cambridge University Press. Wallendar, William H. 2007. Why the Holy Spirit was Poured Out in 1900: an insight for the people of God in the near future Authorhouse Press.