A Problem of Presence: Beyond Scripture in an African Church
The Friday Masowe apostolics of Zimbabwe refer to themselves as "the Christians who don’t read the Bible." They claim they do not need the Bible because they receive the Word of God "live and direct" from the Holy Spirit. In this insightful and sensitive historical ethnography, Matthew Engelke documents how this rejection of scripture speaks to longstanding concerns within Christianity over mediation and authority. The Bible, of course, has been a key medium through which Christians have recognized God’s presence. But the apostolics perceive scripture as an unnecessary, even dangerous, mediator. For them, the materiality of the Bible marks a distance from the divine and prohibits the realization of a live and direct faith.
Situating the Masowe case within a broad comparative framework, Engelke shows how their rejection of textual authority poses a problem of presence—which is to say, how the religious subject defines, and claims to construct, a relationship with the spiritual world through the semiotic potentials of language, actions, and objects. Written in a lively and accessible style, A Problem of Presence makes important contributions to the anthropology of Christianity, the history of religions in Africa, semiotics, and material culture studies.
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Humility Humiliation and the Christian Book
2 The Early Days of Johane Masowe
The Friday Message after Johane
4 Mutemo in Three Portraits
Live and Direct Language Part I
Live and Direct Language Part II
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Acholi African ancestors ancient Hebrew argue authority Bible Bretten Bulawayo chapter Chitungwiza Christian church history claim colonial Comaroﬀ congregation Crapanzano culture deﬁned diﬀerence diﬃcult direct faith discussion divine eﬀect eﬀort elders Emmanuel example ﬁeld ﬁeldwork ﬁgures ﬁlled ﬁnd ﬁrst Friday apostolics Friday churches Friday message God’s Goromonzi Gospel Harare healers healing Holy Spirit honey human Hunyani Hwimbo immaterial important inﬂuence Jesus Johane Masowe Johane’s Juraniﬁri Santa Kambarami language live and direct Marcus material mbira mission missionaries Moﬀat Mudyiwa mumiriri mutemo muteuro Mzilikazi n’anga native Nyota Nzira oﬀ track oﬀer one’s Pageneck pebble political preach problem of presence prophets relationship religion religious ritual role Sandros Scripture semiotic ideology sense Setswana Shembe Shimmer Shona Shoniwa signiﬁcance singing Southern Rhodesia speak speciﬁc spirit mediums suﬀering suggest theology things tion told understand vaimbi Venn verses Weegirl witchcraft witches written word Zezuru Zimbabwe Zimbabwe’s Zimbabweans