From Contempt to Encounter: Pentecostal Political Theology and Democratic Life

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Coleman, Creighton, Religious Studies - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Mathewes, Charles, AS-Religious Studies (RELI), University of Virginia

This dissertation considers the theological conditions that make Pentecostal contempt possible and whether that contempt is a necessary outgrowth of Pentecostal commitments. From Contempt to Encounter argues that Pentecostal understandings of “Spirit empowerment,” coupled with the affective and rupture-oriented nature of Pentecostal spirituality, can cultivate a strong sense of contempt toward religious and moral “others.” Contempt, however, is not a necessary result of Pentecostal spirituality; Pentecostalism offers resources to relate to difference otherwise. Part 1 takes a critical posture and identifies contempt as it manifests in two different contexts. After defining contempt and reviewing literature (ch. 1), chapter 2 turns to Nigerian Pentecostalism and draws on firsthand interviews and ethnographic data to locate contempt in Nigerian Pentecostal responses to “African traditional religions.” Chapter 3 uses archival data to identify contempt in 1960’s white Pentecostalism, where contempt formed in anti-black perceptions of cities and in militaristic language around “Urban Missions.” Part Two thinks within a Pentecostal frame to articulate a Pentecostal politics of encounter, which seeks to move beyond contempt. Chapter four articulates an account of encounter that is plausible to Pentecostals by appealing to operative concepts in Pentecostal studies of missions. Chapters five and six, then, explore the potentials and limitations for democratic life to serve the theological ends articulated in chapter four.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Pentecostalism, Pneumatology, Holy Spirit, Nigerian Pentecostalism, Whiteness, Religion and Democracy, Political Theology
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