Robbins Chapter 12 Religion and antisystemic protests



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Robbins Chapter 12

Religion and antisystemic protests


Overview 1

  • The previous rebellions targeted the excesses of the culture of capitalism and sought to reform the excesses of capitalism. They did not desire to create radical cultural alternative.

  • Even communism was more about parceling out equally rather than a complete change.

  • They largely sought to change the nation state to give the workers greater influence over production, distribution and consumption.

  • Communists wanted to replace private capitalism with state capitalism.

  • So the peasant, labor, feminist, indigenous, and environmental protests and rebellions did not seek to change the basic tenets of the culture of capitalism.

  • There are those movements that DO seek to overthrow and replace the capitalism; these movements tend to be religious.

  • Through some spiritual agency the group seeks either the removal or destruction of what they believe is an immoral culture,

  • A withdraw from it or the forceful or voluntary adaption of a new way of life is seen as the solution.

  • Religion has always had a revolutionary element.

  • Many beginning as a rebellion against one or another established order.

  • Think about the aspect of Christianity that was a political protest against Roman rule.

  • Even so, religion has also played a part in giving legitimacy to the culture of capitalism. The role of religion in anti-systemic protests does not negate the role of religion in the colonization of other cultures.

  • Missionaries accompanied the military and the explorers, seeking to pacify and convert the populations they found.

  • They transformed the populations into laborers; they introduced Western concepts of time, space and the person as they are embedded in capitalism.


Overview 2

  • Max Weber, in his The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, wrote that the Protestant Reformation provided the ideology for capitalism and the motivation for making a profit by equating material success with a sign of God’s blessing.

  • In the 19th century, religion provided the type of restraints that had come from the family and the community that had been destroyed by the explosive growth of cities and of the mobility of labor.

  • Paul E. Johnson traces the religious revival in the 1830s and 1840s to the need for moral guidelines and social constraints that had been provided by rural communities.

  • By the 1900s, the religious groups had shifted from an ideology of self-denial to one of self-fulfillment, which accommodated the culture of capitalism.

  • Questions to address:

  1. To what extent have religious movements been expressions of antisystemic sentiments?

  2. How has religion served as a means of protest against the expansion, both in the core and the periphery, of the culture of capitalism?

  3. Why do religious protests sometimes manifest themselves in spectacular violence?


Indigenous Religious Movements 1

  • Overview

  • The concept of the revitalization movements was introduced by F. C. Wallace.

  • He suggested that religious beliefs and practices start from social and cultural stress as a ‘conscious, organized effort by members of a society to construct a more satisfying culture”.

  • He said all religion originated as a revitalization movement. However, this concept has one weakness:

  • Over the last 200 years, his idea has failed to look at the fact that all such movements have been reactions to a single phenomenon -- the development and expansion of the culture of capitalism.

  • These indigenous religious movements have been as much antisystemic protests as they have been revitalization.

  • Revitalization movements are "...any conscious, organized effort by members of a society to construct a more satisfying culture" (Wallace, 1966).

  • Revitalization is often in response to Western colonial expansion.

  • Promises return to good life and so attracts converts.

  • Many revitalization movements stimulate significant changes and then they become institutionalized into a new steady state.

  • Common stages of revitalization movements:

  1. Steady state is the time when culture change is relatively slow and non-disruptive.

  2. Period of increased individual stress.

  3. Period of cultural distortion where things begin to fall apart.

  4. Period of revitalization when the new religious movement arises.


Indigenous Religious Movements 2

  • Overview (continued)

  • Wallace suggests that there are several types (they can be a mixture of these types):

      1. Messianic movements have a leader who is designated as a savior.

      2. Millenarian movements are when a new era is anticipated in which poor and disadvantaged are restored.

      3. Nativistic movements focus on the rejection of foreign customs and values.

      4. Vitalistic movements embrace the foreign ways, including their material wealth.

      5. Revivalistic movements are intended to return to the ways of one’s ancestors (at least as interpreted by the present generation).

  • We will look at three movements in the periphery: the Ghost Dance (United States), the cargo cults (Melanesia) and the Zionism movement (South Africa).

  • The Ghost Dance

  • A Paiute Indian named Wovoka, was educated in the missionary schools.

  • In 1889, he had a vision in which he met God and saw the Indians who were living their traditional lives.

  • He was instructed to organize a ritual dance that would return Indians to their traditional ways.

  • Converts carried his words across the Unites States and into Canada.

  • One reason for the appeal of the movement was the belief that their dead would return and that the Whites would live.


Indigenous Religious Movements 3

  • The Ghost Dance

  • One component of the movement was the wearing of Ghost Dance shirts, thought to make the wearer safe from White’s guns.

  • Another was the ritual dance became known as the Ghost Dance and appealed to people whose lives had been disrupted by the culture of capitalism.

  • This message was particularly appealing to the Lakota of western South Dakota, Wyoming, etc.

  • They had been decimated by the entry of Westerners onto their lands and the creation of reservations.

  • Many Indians were moving on and off the reservations to attend the Dance.

  • An Indian agent became concerned that the dance would lead to rebellion and called in the 7th Calvary (Custer’s old command that had been defeated at the Battle of the Little Big Horn).

  • This army unit caught up to the Lakota at Wounded Knee.

  • Surrender was arranged.

  • But, the army instead shot nearly everyone, killing hundreds of men, women and children.

  • FYI: The army participants were given medals of honor by the United States.

  • In many ways, the Ghost Dance is the prototype of a form of religious resistance.

  • It parallels the weapons of the weak.

  • These are religious movements that intend to protest economic, social or political oppression.

  • If violence breaks out, it is usually on the part of the nation-state.

  • The violence targets whole groups or their leaders.


Indigenous Religious Movements 4

  • The cargo cults

  • Melanesia is a region in the Pacific that includes the island countries of Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and New Caledonia. New Guinea is a both Papua New Guinea on the east and on the west is the Indonesian colony of West Papua (which they call Irian Jaya).

  • During the 18th century, Western economic colonialism was rampant and few controls were put in place to protect Melanesian indigenes.

  • In Fiji, for instance, the sandalwood market draw many merchants who then proceeded to strip this valuable wood from the landscape.

  • By the 1860s, native Fijians were the backbone of the coconut plantations and when labor was limited then black-birding was a common practice.

  • There remains an underclass whose male ancestors were stolen from the Solomon Islands and brought to Fiji.

  • In 2007 some of the descendants won the right to remain on the land they had occupied for 70 years.

  • Missionaries also contributed to colonialism.

  • Across Melanesia geographic regions were divided up between Western church groups. I saw the modern day consequences of this history in the strive that remains.

  • Melanesian indigenes embraced the Western religions.

  • The magical power associated with cargo cults was thought to originate with Western religion


Indigenous Religious Movements 5

  • The cargo cults (continued)

  • Two interpretations for why cargo cults appear in Melanesia

  1. Peter Worsley, in The trumpets shall sound, discusses these movements cargo cults are a response to the excesses of colonial exploitation.

  2. Lamont Lindstrom’s comments in his book, Cargo cult, add another layer. He suggests that cargo cults are the standard way Melanesians think about the acquisition of material goods.

  • Whether cargo cults are a response to colonialism or a contemporary expression of Melanesian worldview, one common thread of cargo cults is that material goods will magically appear.

  • Most cargo cults are initiated by a charismatic leader who would save his fellow villagers (messianic movement).

  • Some groups prepared themselves by building jetties, storehouses, runways. Sometimes they destroyed or abandoned gardens and killed livestock.

  • Others built objects that mimicked the material goods of the Westerners such as those who were part of the “John Frum Movement: found in Vanuatu.

  • The leader at my field site, Moro, also invoked a cargo cult, and had a vision where he talked with the paramount god of Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands.


Indigenous Religious Movements 6

  • The cargo cults (continued)

  • All this is a paradoxical response to capitalism.

  • They have a passionate desire for the Western goods (vitalistic movement) so that they, the Melanesians, would now be wealthy (millenarian movement).

  • At the same time they want to reject the influence of Westerners (nativistic movement).

  • The belief was that when then happened they would be able to return to their ancestral ways (revitalistic movement).

  • Vailala madness” ((head he-go-round)

  • This is the earliest documented case of a cargo cult; it appeared in Papua New Guinea (PNG) in 1919.

  • Its leader was Evara, who during a trance, was given a message by a sorcerer that their ancestors were reappear and cargo would come.

  • According to the government anthropologist. F. E. Williams, natives would fall into trace-like states, sway back and forth, eyes would roll upward in sockets, drool, and speak in strange sentences.

  • There were several different expected results among cargo cult adherents: 1) Western cargo, 2) departure of German and Australian colonizers, 3) the Europeans and indigenes were switch skin colors and their roles would be reversed also.

  • The Vailala madness Movement spread for 12 years, then slowed and faded away; even so, by the 1930s many Melanesians thought of the movement as a success given that presence of more both goods and signs of their dead returning.


Indigenous Religious Movements 7

  • Zionism in South Africa

  • Both the Ghost Dance and the cargo cults were influenced by missionary work.

  • The messages in the New Testament of equality would strike a cord.

  • They might expect to be sanctioned by the political authorities as missionary work was.

  • Of course, when it did not contribute to maintaining the culture of capitalism it was squashed.

  • One of the most repressive of the nation-states has been South Africa.

  • The military might of the conquerors made rebellion a non-option.

  • Religious protest was often the only avenue open to the indigenes.

  • One of the religious movements was the Full Witness Apostolic Church in Zion.

  • It was described by Jean Comaroff in her book about the Tshidi of South Africa called Body of power, spirit of resistance.

  • The Tshidi lived by a combination of farming and herding.

  • Introduction of apartheid.

  • The British pushed them into workers in the diamond mines, gold fields, factories and white farms.

  • By 1970, ¾ men were working away from home at least 9 months a year.

  • The passage of blacks between towns and cities was regulated by the apartheid government.

  • The apartheid government used violence to keep people in line so resistance had to be symbolic.

  • The Tshidi used as their vehicle a religious movement imported from the core: the Full Witness Apostolic Church in Zion.

  • This protest was expressed by dress, in ritual, and in ideology.

  • This is how the Tshidi expressed their marginality.


Indigenous Religious Movements 8

  • Zionism in South Africa (continued)

  • History

  • The Christian Catholic Apostolic Church of Zion (CCACZ) was founded by a Scotsman, Alexander Dowie, in 1847.

  • He migrated to the US and started Zion City, which became a boom town.

  • The residents sought refuge from the sinful environments and were themselves mostly the marginalized, poor and working class.

  • The uncoupling of man from God was at the heart of their troubles.

  • They replace damnation and salvation with metaphors of sickness and health.

  • The first representative of the CCACZ cam to South Africa in 1904.

  • Most of the Tshidi had converted to Methodism, but many shifted to the CCACZ as Tshidi returned from town.

  • By 1970, the CCACZ had made inroads into the numbers of members.

  • In 1956, the Full Witness Apostolic Church of Zion was founded by Bishop N, a Zulu contract worker.

  • There church is a 240 square foot mud brick structure.

  • Follower dress in a distinctive manner.

  • Women are seized by the spirit and give testimony to their oppression.

  • When goods must be purchased they are brought to be cleansed of the culture of capitalism.

  • Anthropologists refer to the Full Witness Apostolic Church of Zion as a cult of affliction, a community of sufferers, a band of wounded healers.

The Global Challenge 1



  • Overview

  • Religious movements that are populated with thousands cannot hope to change the domination of global capitalism.

  • These movements represent withdraw from the system.

  • Large-scale religious protests are represented by fundamentalist movements.

  • These are offshoots of the world’s major religions and contain millions of peoples.

  • They may have serious demands on the nation-states.

  • These movements are difficult to characterize.

  • The media, governments and many religious scholars have labeled them, and this label is often meant to be derogatory.

  • To what extend do large-scale religious protests represent antisystemic movements? They do share some features:

  1. Most are recent movements.

  2. Each is historically oriented, interprets global events, and perceives a lack of prominence .of its country in global affairs or a loss/lack of faith in religious principles.

  3. Each has designs on state power.

  4. Even as they convert others, keeping separate is a goal.

  5. Appeal to the youth.

  6. Each had tried to reach goals by socially approved methods, each has a militant segment

  7. Most stress the importance of family in social life.

  8. They tend to critique the corporate libertarianism of capitalism.


The Global Challenge 2

  • Islamic fundamentalism

  • Islamic fundamentalism gained international prominence with the Iranian revolution.

  • The West reacted negatively to this event.

  • In the West, there has been attention given to Islamic terrorist groups, to the point of bigoted views being often stated.

  • In the West there is a tendency to assume the goals and methods of Islamic fundamentalists are the same.

  • The general thrust is that Muslims have strayed from the moral life dictated by the Qur’an.

  • This loss of religious piety is the result of Western influences.

  • Modernization needs to be based on Muslim ideals, not Western ones.

  • There are differences between Islamic fundamentalist groups:

  • In Egypt the focus is on compensating for the loss of the family structure.

  • In Malaysia, dakwah movement is the dominant feature.

  • It is commune based.

  • Young educated members.

  • Discontented with modern, urban, pluralistic, and secular world.

  • Primarily focused on Malays, and not Chinese and Indians.

  • Islamic fundamentalism in Iran

  • Characteristics of an antisystemic movement:

  • Iran was controlled by core countries for a century – US, Russia and Great Britain.

  • Secular government under the control of the CIA as they implemented a coup in 1953.

  • Iran was rapidly industrializing.

  • Read the historical background on pp. 339-340.


The Global Challenge 3

  • Islamic fundamentalism in Iran (continued)

  • The revolution of 1979 overthrew the shah and brought back the Ayatollah Khomeini to power.

  • The ulama (religious leaders), the merchants, and the intellectuals joined together.

  • This set-up the return of the Khomeini on February 1, 1979.

  • The interplay was between the Westerners who interfered in the politics of Iran and Islamic leaders.

  • Today some Iranians are pushing back against the theocracy formed by the overthrow of the shah.

  • In 2009, the death of one young Iranian woman, Nedā Āghā-Soltān, went viral when she was murdered during a protest.

  • She was actually returning to her car when she was attacked by a government-sanctioned thug.

  • The site of her death became a focus for messages of grief and of political challenges. Each time the government deconstructed the site, it reappears.

  • Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iranian president from 2005-2013, was seen as anti-Western. During his second bid for election to the presidency provoked accusations of corruption.

  • In 2013, Hassan Rouhani, replaced him as president. He is seen as less combative to re-establishing political relations with the West.


The Global Challenge 4

  • Protestant fundamentalism in North America

  • Protestant fundamentalism has gained almost as high a profile in the US as has Islamic fundamentalism.

  • Protestant fundamentalism has gained a strong voice in US politics.

  • Foundations of Protestant fundamentalism

  • The number is difficult to estimate, but some shared beliefs exist: 1) In the US, 72% say the Bible is the word of God; 2) 39% say it is the literal truth; two-thirds say Jesus arose from the dead, and 4) 44% are creationists who say God created the world in its present form within the last 10,000 years.

  • Three basic tenets of Protestant fundamentalists:

  1. They are evangelical, they considered themselves saved.

  2. They believe in the inerrancy of the Bible.

  3. They believe in premillenialism -- the doctrine of rapture.

  • There are some variations in Protestant fundamentalist practices and beliefs but the essentials are consistent.

  • What was the stimulus for the rise of Protestant fundamentalism and how can we account for its resent resurgence?

  • Emergence of fundamentalism in North America

  • It began in the mid-19th century, largely in reaction to the modernization and secularization of Protestant churches and as a response to the challenge to religion of 19th century technology, science and culture.

  • Darwin’s theory of evolution was one of the most threatening scientific development, but there were others.

  • Sigmund Freud’s ideas about sexuality, Émile Durkheim’s discussion of the power of social forces.

  • Franz Boas’ attacks on ethnocentrism and absolutism also were seen as threatening.

  • American culture was changing too, with new attitudes and values.

  • New inventions such the telegraph, electricity, and telephones transformed the rural areas.


The Global Challenge 5

  • Emergence of fundamentalism in North America

  • Many joined movements.

  • Some joined the Social Gospel movement, which sought to alleviate ills caused by urban crowding and poverty.

  • Others became Adventists or Jehovah’s Witnesses.

  • Others became possessed by the Holy Spirit and joined Pentecostal movements.

  • Inerrancy of the Bible became the centerpiece of the fundamentalist movements.

  • Early 20th century fundamentalists focused their early protests against schools teaching Darwin’s theory of evolution.

  • Protestant fundamentalists became convinced that American culture had come under the sway of secular humanism and many groups broke off from their churches.

  • They turned to saving individual souls as they could not transform the society.

  • New organizations such as the American Council of Christian Churches were founded.

  • Missionary work expanded.

  • Bible schools increased in number.

  • Publishing, radio and television became more popular.


The Global Challenge 6

  • Emergence of fundamentalism in North America (continued)

  • There was a growth in political radicalism.

  • Some attacked the Jews, other the communists.

  • It was the counterculture movement of the 1960s that galvanized the fundamentalist movements.

  • A pro-military stance continued.

  • The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) and Roe v. Wade were seen as extensions of the civil rights movement to gays.

  • Scientific creationism was a response to the scientific challenge to the inerrancy of the Bible.

  • With these agendas and the active participation of Protestant fundamentalism in politics, there has been a resurgence of fundamentalism in American life.

  • Great growth in church schools and home schooling.

  • Greater increase in evangelical colleges too.

  • Variations in doctrine

  • New variations in Protestant fundamentalism are most marked by the Christian reconstructionists, the most clearly antisystemic group.

  • They want to replace the modern bureaucratic state with a Christian state model, based on the Puritans of Massachusetts.

  • They say people must submit to the rule of God and to a doctrine of theology.

  • There has been a tendency to assume fundamentalists are supporters of the free market economy.

  • There is little about economics in the writings of fundamentalists and many Christian colleges do not even have an economics department.

  • It is the reconstructionists that have pushed the conservative economic agenda.

  • There is an evangelical left that promotes a redistribution of wealth. For instance, in the writings of Jim Wallis (Agenda for Biblical People).


“Terror in the mind of God” 1

  • Overview

  • Religion has always had a revolutionary dimension.

  • Most religious movements began at a moment of dissatisfaction.

  • Virtually all the major religions of the world contain texts detailing violent batters between the forces of good and evil.

  • Given this background, it should not be surprising that religion is used as a justification for violence.

  • The juxtaposition of violence with religion has become more common since 9/11

  • Many underestimate the deep of the beliefs of those involved.

  • Others dismiss them as cultic, irrational, or alienated.

  • When they act, it is in response to some social, political or economic grievance,

  • How do people explain their use of religion as a justification for violent acts, and how do we explain the conditions under which such justification occurs?

  • Some examples of religious violence

  • The militants of Protestant Fundamentalism

  • Anti-abortion protesters, according to Faye Ginsburg, use this issue as a means to return America to ‘traditional Christian values’.

  • The rights to life movements goes back to the 1973 Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade.

  • There have been 4,120 violent incidents.

  • Seven murders.

  • Forty-one bombings.

  • And 169 cases of arson, 82 cases of attempted bombing or arson.

  • Finally, 33,830 arrests.


“Terror in the mind of God” 2

  • Operation Rescue was started by Randall Terry in 1988.

  • They target clinics and the homes of clinic physicians.

  • They send threatening letters and phone calls.

  • They estimate that 35,000 have been arrested and 16,0000 risked arrest.

  • Terry’s agenda is to refashion a godless society into one based on Christian fundamentalism

  • A more militant Christian fundamentalist group is the Army of God.

  • The Reverend Michael Bray is thought to have written their manual, Army of God.

  • Bray was convicted of setting fire to 7 abortion clinics.

  • In his A Time to Kill, he justifies his actions.

  • Bray thinks Americans live in a hidden warfare and people will need to take up arms against the government.

  • Abortions create an environment where there is justifiable homicide, say the members.

  • Terror in the Holy Land

  • Violence over contested space is shown between the Palestinians and the peoples of Israel.

  • In particular, there is the Qubbat as-Sakhra, which houses the al-Aqsa Malik mosque.

  • Built in 691 C.E, it is the one of the most holy places in Islam.

  • It is also the site for the Beit Uahweh (Temple of Jerusalem) destroyed by the Romans in 70 C.E.


“Terror in the mind of God” 3

  • Terror in the Holy Land (continued)

  • History

  • In the 19th century the virulent anti-Semitism of Europe pushed many Jews out of Europe and on a search for a Jewish homeland.

  • The Zionist movement was the result, the funding of Jews back to Palestine.

  • By 1914, there were 90,000 Jews in Palestine (80,000 added to the 10,000 non-Zionist Jews) as compared to the 500,000 Arab Palestinians.

  • After WWI, this region came under British control.

  • In 1917, Arthur James Lord Balfour wrote to Lord Rothschild making known the intent of the establishment of a Jewish homeland.

  • This became known as the Balfour Declaration and the source of dispute for 40 years

  • Violence escalated on both sides:

  • After WWI, there was violence by the Arabs against the Jews, even as Jewish immigration increased in the 1920s and 1930s.

  • The Jews responded by forming militant groups such as the Haganah and the Irgun (Irgun Tsvai-Leumi or Jewish defense league).


“Terror in the mind of God” 4

  • Terror in the Holy Land continued)

  • History (continued)

  • In 1937, the Peel Commission was written by the British, suggesting a partitioning of the Palestinian Protectorate

  • By the start of WWII, neither side recognized the legitimacy of the British rule

  • During the war, the Jewish people aligned with the British and the Arabs with the Germans

  • The British insisted on implementing the Peel Commission and violence resulted

  • By 1948, Israel declared its independence

  • Beginning in 1948 there have been several wars, Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and many other points of disagreement that laid to conflict

  • In fact, as I type this, Palestine and Israel are bombing each other (December 27, 2008).

  • Religion clearly plays a major role in the conflict.

  • In 1990, a Jewish messianic group known as the Temple Mount Faithful, announced they would lay a cornerstone at the site of the Beit Uahweh.

  • This group justifies assignations and other violence as ‘[t]he land is a sacred thing’.

  • Jews commit violence in the name of reestablishing the Jewish ancestral homeland, but Palestinians commit violence in the name of Islam and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.


“Terror in the mind of God” 5

  • Armageddon in a Tokyo Subway

  • On March 20, 1995, five members of the Aum Shinrikyo movement spread saran gas in the subway.

  • Twelve died and 5,500 were injured.

  • This movement was formed by Shoko Asahara in the belief that a world catastrophe would occur when the forces of evil and good will clash.

  • They drew their justification from Buddhist tradition of conquest and empire.

  • Understanding religious violence

  • Under what conditions do people seek to justify violence through religious means?

  • In all the above cases, there were specific grievances that the violence was intended to address.

  • When you position a struggle on a cosmic scale elevates its importance past local concerns, invokes legendary battles between good and evil.

  • In the US this idea is seen with the axis of evil term.

  • When does violence call for religious justification, why do real world struggles involve religion?

  • Mark Juergenmeyer suggests there are 3 reasons:

  1. When the struggle is seen as a defense of basic identity and dignity

  2. Political confrontations adopt religious justifications when losing the struggle would be unthinkable

  3. If the struggle is blocked and cannot be won in real time, a shift to the sacred plane can result.


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