What is happening within Christianity today? This is a question that is exciting to study, but which has received little attention among anthropologists, says Norwegian anthropologist Edle Lerang Nes.
For hundreds of years, Christianity has been the most important religion in Europe and some other places on this planet. But while everybody is studying Islam, Christianity seems to be ignored.
As Edle Lerang Nes tells in an interview with me, parts of Christian culture actually is “endangered culture” and therefore a field for “urgent anthropology".
Nes studied “chapel culture” - part of Revival Christianity - which broke out in Norway at the end of the 18th century. It was a layman’s movement in opposition to church authorities. A personal relationship to God was important, combined with a sober and hardworking lifestyle without dance, merriment, music, or card-playing ( >> overview Christianity in Norway). How is Christian life developping on this island? Nes conducted fieldwork on the small island if Finnøy, in Southwestern Norway where there are no pubs or restaurants, but the approximately 1,700 inhabitants can choose between five different chapels and a church.
Her research also reminds us of how important religion is for many people in rural areas that are often ignored by researchers and the mainstream press.
>> read the interview (website of the research project Culcom, University of Oslo)
There is not much material on anthropology and christianity online, but Ingie Hovland (from Anthropology Matters) has a large section of posts on her blog about the anthropology of christianity - part of her two book projects - where she also reviews several books and papers.
I found an interesting blog post about being Christian and anthropologist. Being a Christian anthropologist raises difficult questions, Katherine Cooper writes, among others because of the tenet of cultural relativism:
All practices and beliefs, whether shocking to a Westerner or not, are said to ‘make sense’ within the society that they are located. Such views cause problems for Christians. Christianity is an ultimate truth claim with an absolute framework for morality located in the character and commands of a personal God. How do we square our belief in such a claim with studying a subject that inherently denies the validity of such claims?
She also links to the paper by Dean E. Arnold Why Are There So Few Christian Anthropologists? Reflections on the Tensions between Christianity and Anthropology
Last year, anthropologist Gabriele Marranci wrote an interesting blog post called Terrorism in the name of Jesus? Everybody ignore. The Italian Christian anti-Islamic terrorist movement called Fronte Combattente Cristiano or ‘Fighting Christian Front’ has been responsible for several bomb attacks against Islamic centres and mosques:
I thought that news about the first Christian anti-Muslim terrorist group would have attracted international attention and fostered new debates. (…) But the news about a self-defined Christian terrorist and a Christian (mainly Catholic) terrorist organization has attracted virtually no attention.