Friday, October 08, 2010

The Anthropology of Christianity

 An excellent review by Mark Noll, Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame. Noll notes that "Biblicism" is not used disparagingly here, but as a word trying to encompass beliefs about the Bible, strategies of interpreting the Bible, ways of putting biblical words to use, and treatment of Bibles as physical objects.

[This]collection of essays edited by James Bielo, a visiting professor of anthropology at Miami University in Ohio, and gathered under the title The Social Life of Scriptures: Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Biblicism.The premise of the book is well-stated by one of its contributors: Although "the Bible is often said to be the most influential book in history, … how and why the Bible has had such influence is as yet rather poorly understood." The authors realize, of course, that much theological discourse has addressed the question of influence. They, by contrast, are suggesting that "the social and psychological processes affecting the way these texts are perceived, understood, and deployed have not been much investigated."

he also highlights a new movement of which many of the contributors are part of,

Second is the association of several of the book's authors with a relatively new movement called "the anthropology of Christianity." As exemplified best in a book series under that name from the University of California Press, the effort tries to study the world's newer expressions of Christianity with the same empathy and non-judgmental curiosity that anthropologists have historically brought to their examination of primal or indigenous religions. Joel Robbins, who edits the California series, has demonstrated the potential of this approach with his own book on a newer Christian community in Papua New Guinea and defended it in a number of programmatic statements
This is the first I heard of this new movement.

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