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Walking on the Pages of the Word of God : Self, Land, and Text Among Evangelical Volunteers in Jerusalem

ENGBERG, ARON LU (2016)
Abstract
During the last thirty years, the Evangelical relationship with the State of Israel has drawn much academic and popular attention, particularly from historical, theological, and political perspectives. This dissertation engages with this literature but also complements it with an ethnographic account of the discursive practices of Evangelical Zionists through which, it is suggested, much of the religious significance of the contemporary state is being produced. The study is based on ethnographic fieldwork among Evangelical volunteer workers in Jerusalem, focusing on their stories about themselves, the land, and the biblical text. The volunteers are located at three Christian ministries in Jerusalem – the International Christian Embassy... (More)
During the last thirty years, the Evangelical relationship with the State of Israel has drawn much academic and popular attention, particularly from historical, theological, and political perspectives. This dissertation engages with this literature but also complements it with an ethnographic account of the discursive practices of Evangelical Zionists through which, it is suggested, much of the religious significance of the contemporary state is being produced. The study is based on ethnographic fieldwork among Evangelical volunteer workers in Jerusalem, focusing on their stories about themselves, the land, and the biblical text. The volunteers are located at three Christian ministries in Jerusalem – the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ), the
Bridges for Peace (BFP), and the Christian Friends of Israel (CFI) – all of which consider their work in Israel a natural consequence of biblical promises to Israel and their responsibility as Christians to “bless the Jewish people”. After introducing the theoretical and socio-cultural context in which this study is located, Chapter Three analyses the volunteers’ “coming-to-Israel” stories and the ways in which agency and selftransformation are understood therein. The analysis suggests that the ritual-like performance of these narratives situates the encounter with Israel as a religious conversion process and Israel as a religious symbol. Chapter Four discusses the volunteers’ narrative production of Israel as a sacred space that has a unique ability to mediate divine presence. It also shows how Israel’s special status is being negotiated both in relation to the encounter with material realities and with ideas about religious fetishism. The final analytical chapter focuses on “biblical literalism” as a textual ideology and on how this ideology becomes manifest in discourses about Bible prophecy and the “Hebraic roots of Christian faith”. It is suggested that these two discursive domains are deeply embedded in contestations about the authenticity of Evangelical religious forms: while the former often serves as empirical evidence for the truth of the biblical scripture, the latter constructs a historical narrative within which Evangelical Zionism is positioned as a rediscovery of authentic biblical faith. Ultimately, this study suggests that the beliefs and practices of Evangelical Christians engaged with Israel not only represent a recalibration of the relationship between Christianity and Judaism and between faith and politics
themselves, but also a more fundamental reordering of the ways in which God is understood to relate to the world. While deeply embedded in Evangelical narrative traditions, the ideational and physical encounter with Israel also requires a renegotiation of Evangelical religion. This process involves questions of biblical reading practices and the meanings of signs and their social functions, and it invites Evangelical Zionists to negotiate the proper location of human and divine agency as well as the relationship between materiality and divine presence. For the volunteers the “realization of Israel’s spiritual significance” is a highly transformative experience, but rather than being a definite rupture from the past it is part of a broader process of increasing
religious commitment. (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
supervisor
opponent
  • Professor Simon Coleman, University of Toronto, Canada
organization
publishing date
type
Thesis
publication status
published
subject
keywords
Agency, Anthropology of Christianity, Christian ZIonism, Evangelicalism, Identity, Israel, Language Ideology, Literalism, Materiality, Mediation, Narrative, Sacred Space, Volunteering
edition
1st
pages
219 pages
defense location
Sal C126, LUX, Helgonavägen 3, Lund
defense date
2016-11-01 14:00
ISBN
978-91-88473-11-0
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
8135541c-f1a5-41e8-a597-07f1d5461ee3
date added to LUP
2016-09-30 09:43:19
date last changed
2016-11-02 14:54:16
@misc{8135541c-f1a5-41e8-a597-07f1d5461ee3,
  abstract     = {During the last thirty years, the Evangelical relationship with the State of Israel has drawn much academic and popular attention, particularly from historical, theological, and political perspectives. This dissertation engages with this literature but also complements it with an ethnographic account of the discursive practices of Evangelical Zionists through which, it is suggested, much of the religious significance of the contemporary state is being produced. The study is based on ethnographic fieldwork among Evangelical volunteer workers in Jerusalem, focusing on their stories about themselves, the land, and the biblical text. The volunteers are located at three Christian ministries in Jerusalem – the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ), the<br/>Bridges for Peace (BFP), and the Christian Friends of Israel (CFI) – all of which consider their work in Israel a natural consequence of biblical promises to Israel and their responsibility as Christians to “bless the Jewish people”. After introducing the theoretical and socio-cultural context in which this study is located, Chapter Three analyses the volunteers’ “coming-to-Israel” stories and the ways in which agency and selftransformation are understood therein. The analysis suggests that the ritual-like performance of these narratives situates the encounter with Israel as a religious conversion process and Israel as a religious symbol. Chapter Four discusses the volunteers’ narrative production of Israel as a sacred space that has a unique ability to mediate divine presence. It also shows how Israel’s special status is being negotiated both in relation to the encounter with material realities and with ideas about religious fetishism. The final analytical chapter focuses on “biblical literalism” as a textual ideology and on how this ideology becomes manifest in discourses about Bible prophecy and the “Hebraic roots of Christian faith”. It is suggested that these two discursive domains are deeply embedded in contestations about the authenticity of Evangelical religious forms: while the former often serves as empirical evidence for the truth of the biblical scripture, the latter constructs a historical narrative within which Evangelical Zionism is positioned as a rediscovery of authentic biblical faith. Ultimately, this study suggests that the beliefs and practices of Evangelical Christians engaged with Israel not only represent a recalibration of the relationship between Christianity and Judaism and between faith and politics<br/>themselves, but also a more fundamental reordering of the ways in which God is understood to relate to the world. While deeply embedded in Evangelical narrative traditions, the ideational and physical encounter with Israel also requires a renegotiation of Evangelical religion. This process involves questions of biblical reading practices and the meanings of signs and their social functions, and it invites Evangelical Zionists to negotiate the proper location of human and divine agency as well as the relationship between materiality and divine presence. For the volunteers the “realization of Israel’s spiritual significance” is a highly transformative experience, but rather than being a definite rupture from the past it is part of a broader process of increasing<br/>religious commitment.},
  author       = {ENGBERG, ARON},
  isbn         = {978-91-88473-11-0},
  keyword      = {Agency,Anthropology of Christianity,Christian ZIonism,Evangelicalism,Identity,Israel,Language Ideology,Literalism,Materiality,Mediation,Narrative,Sacred Space,Volunteering},
  language     = {eng},
  month        = {09},
  pages        = {219},
  title        = {Walking on the Pages of the Word of God : Self, Land, and Text Among Evangelical Volunteers in Jerusalem},
  year         = {2016},
}