Throughout Africa, charismatic Christianity has been caricatured as an inhibitor of democratization. Its adherents are said either to withdraw from the rough and tumble of politics ('pietism') or to preach a prosperity gospel that encourages believers to pour their resources into their churches in the hope that God will 'bless' them. Both courses of action are said to encourage such people to be politically quietist, with no interest in democratization or other forms of political activity. This is said to thwart democratization. This article utilizes an ethnographic case study of a 'progressive' charismatic congregation in Harare, Zimbabwe, in 2007, to provide evidence that 'pietism' and 'prosperity' are not the only options for charismatic Christianity. Drawing on the concept of 'spiritual capital', it argues that some varieties of charismatic Christianity have the resources to contribute to democratization. For example, this congregation's self-styled 'de-institutionalization' process is opening up new avenues for people to learn democratic skills and develop a worldview that is relationship-centred, participatory, and anti-authoritarian. The article concludes that spiritual capital can be a useful tool for analysing the role of religions in democratizations. It notes, however, that analysts should take care to identify and understand what variety of spiritual capital is generated in particular situations, focusing on the worldviews it produces and the consequences of those worldviews for democratization.
- Charismatic Christianity
- Spiritual capital
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Geography, Planning and Development
- Political Science and International Relations