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New book on Evangelical and Neo-pentecostal organisations

07. Okt. 2014

A new book on Evangelical and Neo-pentecostal organisations in the US has been published by Katja Rakow and Sebastian Emling. Dr. Katja Rakow is leader of the Cluster’s Junior Research Group B21 “Transcultural Dynamics of Pentecostalism”.

The book titled „Moderne religiöse Erlebniswelten in den USA“ deals with the reasons behind dynamic innovations in the field of evangelical and charismatic organisations in the contemporary US. The authors apply the sociological concept of "experience worlds" ("Erlebniswelten" Christoph Köck 1990, 2005; Gerhard Schulze 1992) to late modern religious organisations such as Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, and the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, as a way to focus on aspects of production, marketing, consumption, materiality, mediation, and experience in the study of contemporary religion. Lakewood Church and the Creation Museum are currently one of the biggest and most influential evangelical organisations in the United States. The authors show that the broad appeal of such religious organisations is not solely and primarily accounted for by the persuasiveness of their religious teachings and doctrines. Their persuasiveness rather lies in their ability to cater to all the senses of the believer in creating religious experiences and emotional responses.

Lakewood Church is currently the biggest neo-pentecostal megachurch in the US with more than 40,000 weekly attendees. In 2005, the church moved into the former Basketball stadium of the Houston Rockets; today the venue features 16,000 seats for the more than four multi-sensory worship services per week. The Creation Museum, which has drawn more than five million visitors since its opening in 2007, offers an experience of biblical accounts on 70,000 square feet. Both organisations use the latest audiovisual and technological equipment to create multi-sensorial worship services and an encounter with biblical history. In their analysis, the authors apply two different perspectives. First, in terms of the commodification of religious organisations, the authors describe and analyse how both organisations and their products are branded and marketed. Second, in terms of the mediation of religion, the authors study how both organisations apply multimedia and multisensory forms to bring their message across and to create intense emotional and religious experiences. Both case studies show that entertainment, fun, and joy are not exterior to religious practice, but an imminent part of religious life in contemporary America.

Dr. Katja Rakow is leader of the Cluster’s Junior Research Group B21 “Transcultural Dynamics of Pentecostalism.” Currently, she is conducting a fieldwork based case study of televangelists and megachurch pastors in the USA and Singapore as cultural mediators between different local and global spheres. The research project “Making the Global Network Tangible” focuses on the global distribution of media products, such as books and TV programmes, and the network of religious actors and key figures.

The book “Moderne religiöse Erlebniswelten in den USA” has been published in September 2014 as the first volume of the series “Transformierte Religionen, Medien - Ästhetiken – Praxis” of Reimer Mann publishers in Berlin.


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  • Sebastian Emling and Katja Rakow: „Moderne religiöse Erlebniswelten in den USA“