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Guest Lecture on Spiritual Warfare

Apr 27, 2015

A Protestant movement that prescribes "spiritual warfare", i.e. the fighting of demons, was the topic of a guest lecture by Prof. Sean McCloud (University of North Carolina). The event took place on Tuesday, April 28. It was organised by Junior Research Group B21 "Pentecostalism", which is coordinated by Dr. Katja Rakow.

The lecture was titled "Spiritual Warfare and American Religion in an Era of Possessions". The Spiritual Warfare Protestants that Prof. McCloud talked about are a loose-knit collection of evangelicals that are part of a thirty-plus year-old movement whose founders named it the Third Wave. Their theologies are filled with images of demons, idioms of warfare, and assurances of an imminent end-time. Therefore, they seem far removed from what many religion scholars view as the "American mainline" of religious practice. However, according to Prof. McCloud, the movement registers some of the most prescient themes in contemporary American religion. In his lecture, he argued that Third Wave spiritual warfare both complements and contests contemporary discourses concerning agency, structure, history, and conceptions of the individual - specifically these ideas as they are conceived within the historical conglomeration of economic, political, and cultural activities and ideologies grouped under the term "neoliberalism". Third Wave writers support free market economics and tout concepts of freely-willed individuals divorced from the social and material world, but the movement has a much more ambivalent relationship to these concepts than it might initially seem. Prof. McCloud argued that spiritual warfare’s battles with demons, played out in the symbolic (and very material) field of the Third Wave evangelicalism, suggest a haunting attraction and repulsion toward the very same late modern social formations from whence it emerged and helps sustain.

Sean McCloud is Professor of Religious Studies and American Studies and Communication Studies Faculty Affiliate at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He teaches, publishes, and researches in the fields of American religions, social theory, and religion and culture. In his latest book, "American Possessions: Fighting Demons in the Contemporary United States" (2015), he examines Third Wave Evangelicalism and its relation to current trends in American culture.

The lecture "Spiritual Warfare and American Religion in an Era of Possessions" took place on April 28, at 6 pm. The event venue was room 212 of the Karl Jaspers Centre, Voßstraße 2. The event was organised by Junior Research Group B21 "Transcultural Dynamics of Pentecostalism", which is coordinated by Dr. Katja Rakow.


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