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Prosperity Gospel and Spiritual Warfare in African Christianity and Diaspora: Some Ethical Implications Mika Vähäkangas, Lund University.

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Presentation on theme: "Prosperity Gospel and Spiritual Warfare in African Christianity and Diaspora: Some Ethical Implications Mika Vähäkangas, Lund University."— Presentation transcript:

1 Prosperity Gospel and Spiritual Warfare in African Christianity and Diaspora: Some Ethical Implications Mika Vähäkangas, Lund University

2 The Setting of the Question Paul Gifford (2009) paints a bleak picture of Kenyan Christianity: Paul Gifford (2009) paints a bleak picture of Kenyan Christianity: Worship of success binds the corrupt state elite and religious elite clientelistically together, corrupting also the latter Worship of success binds the corrupt state elite and religious elite clientelistically together, corrupting also the latter Many charismatic churches have become private businesses à la prosperity Gospel Many charismatic churches have become private businesses à la prosperity Gospel Spiritualized (re-enchanted) world-view allows for explaining away obvious political and financial mismanagement. Spiritualized (re-enchanted) world-view allows for explaining away obvious political and financial mismanagement.

3 Systemic level - Africa Prophetic voice is missing; eclectic use of the Bible: Job skipped, cross replaced by immediate victory → the means of reaching success seldom asked of public leadership. Prophetic voice is missing; eclectic use of the Bible: Job skipped, cross replaced by immediate victory → the means of reaching success seldom asked of public leadership. Obedience valued: church discipline Obedience valued: church discipline Directed to the poor Directed to the poor The rich and the clergy are in a mutual dependence: the clergy needs income, the rich need legitimization → no church-discipline applies The rich and the clergy are in a mutual dependence: the clergy needs income, the rich need legitimization → no church-discipline applies Official purity vs. hidden corruption Official purity vs. hidden corruption In a clientelist state, success seldom possible without corruption. Corruption needs, however, to be hidden under the cloak of respectability, even piety. In a clientelist state, success seldom possible without corruption. Corruption needs, however, to be hidden under the cloak of respectability, even piety.

4 Systemic level - Africa In public, all oppose corruption. In public, all oppose corruption. The churches do not, however, pressurize politicians to efficient action – their income is indirectly dependent on corruption. The churches do not, however, pressurize politicians to efficient action – their income is indirectly dependent on corruption. At times, church officials benefit from lucrative tasks within the government. At times, church officials benefit from lucrative tasks within the government.

5 Systemic level - diaspora In European diaspora, the moral dilemma between purity and success is more rare: In European diaspora, the moral dilemma between purity and success is more rare: Many immigrants’ success depends on job market where honesty is a virtue. Many immigrants’ success depends on job market where honesty is a virtue. Paperless immigrants are losers of the system, and breaking the rules does not make them rulers. Paperless immigrants are losers of the system, and breaking the rules does not make them rulers. Enterpreneurs may meet ethical challenges (e.g. tax evasion) but the correlation between success and illegal action is small. Enterpreneurs may meet ethical challenges (e.g. tax evasion) but the correlation between success and illegal action is small. Here, people usually can afford to live according to the principles of fair play (in the limited, national, sense). Here, people usually can afford to live according to the principles of fair play (in the limited, national, sense).

6 Individual level Päivi Hasu has pointed out that: Päivi Hasu has pointed out that: Prosperity Gospel popular among the upwards mobile (helps to postpone gratification, work hard, give hope etc.?) but not among the destitute (it only condemns them as sinful losers). Prosperity Gospel popular among the upwards mobile (helps to postpone gratification, work hard, give hope etc.?) but not among the destitute (it only condemns them as sinful losers). Spiritual warfare popular especially among the poor (helps with coping, giving meaning to failures?) Spiritual warfare popular especially among the poor (helps with coping, giving meaning to failures?) PG useful when one can influence one’s faith, spiritual warfare helps to spiritualize such problems that cannot be changed. PG useful when one can influence one’s faith, spiritual warfare helps to spiritualize such problems that cannot be changed. In PG, the weak are sinners, in spiritual warfare they are victims. In PG, the weak are sinners, in spiritual warfare they are victims. In PG, God is on the side of the successful, in spiritual warfare on the side of the unlucky. In PG, God is on the side of the successful, in spiritual warfare on the side of the unlucky. Often both elements available in churches – different selections and mixtures – suit to more people → popularity. Often both elements available in churches – different selections and mixtures – suit to more people → popularity.

7 Individual level - Africa PG can contribute to corruption & hypocrisy: PG can contribute to corruption & hypocrisy: Example of the successful Example of the successful Pressure to prove to be saved Pressure to prove to be saved PG contributes also to perseverance in work and business, and to success (see also above!). PG contributes also to perseverance in work and business, and to success (see also above!). Spiritual warfare can contribute to apathy or impractical solutions: Spiritual warfare can contribute to apathy or impractical solutions: Lack of means of problem-solving (realism?) Lack of means of problem-solving (realism?) Spiritualizing explanations hide social causality – prayer instead of political action (realism?) Spiritualizing explanations hide social causality – prayer instead of political action (realism?) Spiritual warfare as a coping mechanism: Spiritual warfare as a coping mechanism: Externalization of the evil Externalization of the evil Rationalization of the processes unintelligible Rationalization of the processes unintelligible Helps to believe in a just cosmos – evil irregular, not systemic. Helps to believe in a just cosmos – evil irregular, not systemic.

8 Individual level - Europe PG as a key to success: PG as a key to success: Provides self-esteem. Provides self-esteem. Techniques of success: self-suggestion (name it and claim it), planning (prayers), self-inspection Techniques of success: self-suggestion (name it and claim it), planning (prayers), self-inspection Spiritual warfare as a means to meet obstacles: Spiritual warfare as a means to meet obstacles: Helps with explaining the unexplainable (e.g. outcomes of bureaucracy) without losing trust to people & administration. Helps with explaining the unexplainable (e.g. outcomes of bureaucracy) without losing trust to people & administration. Helps to explain new communal tensions. Helps to explain new communal tensions. Helps to avoid labeling oneself a loser. Helps to avoid labeling oneself a loser.

9 Conclusion PG is a popular method of self-suggestion and self-disciplining, a spiritualized version of psychological self-help. It seems to enhance actions that lead to success in a specific context in spite of the potential moral dilemmas involved. PG is a popular method of self-suggestion and self-disciplining, a spiritualized version of psychological self-help. It seems to enhance actions that lead to success in a specific context in spite of the potential moral dilemmas involved. Spiritual warfare helps to rationalize failures, externalize evil and to preserve faith in a basically just cosmos. It is needed all the more there are factors in life in which one has no control of. Spiritual warfare helps to rationalize failures, externalize evil and to preserve faith in a basically just cosmos. It is needed all the more there are factors in life in which one has no control of.


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