By Matthew Engelke
Situating the Masowe case inside of a huge comparative framework, Engelke exhibits how their rejection of textual authority poses an issue of presencewhich is to claim, how the non secular topic defines, and claims to build, a courting with the religious international throughout the semiotic potentials of language, activities, and gadgets. Written in a full of life and available sort, an issue of Presence makes vital contributions to the anthropology of Christianity, the heritage of religions in Africa, semiotics, and fabric tradition studies.
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Extra info for A Problem of Presence: Beyond Scripture in an African Church
Or, at least, they ought to be so. backg round of the s tud y Having ﬁnished the initial consideration of the theoretical currents that shape my analyses of the Masowe apostolics, I want to make some brief remarks on the contexts of my ﬁeldwork. My research was carried out in Zimbabwe over eighteen months during a seven-year period (February– May 1993, June–August 1996, January–December 1999). Most of it was conducted in Harare and Chitungwiza, although it involved a number of lengthy trips to other parts of the country, especially to those areas where the Friday apostolics have had a long presence.
The Maranke apostolics, for example, viewed their Masowe brethren condescendingly, secure in their book knowledge where the Friday apostolics were not. And a highranking oﬃcial in a Pentecostal church told me that the idea of claiming to be Christian and then berating someone who brought a Bible to a church service was unthinkable. “What madness,” he said. However, the Friday apostolics are not the ﬁrst Christians to question the importance and qualities of writing. Their arguments allow us to highlight a long-standing precedent of the spoken word as a privileged channel of communication with God.
In liberal theology the materiality of the Bible became recognition of its historicity, which signals both its human crafting and, in this era of suspicion, the limits of human understanding. For “conservative” theologians, on the other hand, the Bible often became not only a guide but also the destination. The Bible is the unshakable bedrock of faith and something that, as the Word, cannot be separated from God. In the most stringent of these faiths, the materiality of the Bible became presence of the divine—not representation, but presence; not sign, but actuality.
A Problem of Presence: Beyond Scripture in an African Church by Matthew Engelke