PentecoStudies: An Interdisciplinary Journal for Research on the Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements, Vol 18, No 1 (2019)

Pentecostal or Born Again? The Relevance of Demarcation Practices for the Study of Nigerian Christianity

Judith Bachmann
Issued Date: 20 Jun 2019


In recent years, the label "Pentecostal" has been applied widely and rather unquestioned to churches in Nigeria. Yet, in the 1990s and 2000s, a proposal was issued to study Nigerian Pentecostals in terms of their most common designation on the ground as the "born again" movement. Building on this approach based on observations from fieldwork in southwestern Nigeria, the article argues that the identification as "born again" was much more common than "Pentecostal", which held almost no significance on its own and did thus not really distinguish groups from each other. The emphasis on the "born again" experience, however, was widespread but also served to demarcate "real" or "committed" Christians from "corrupted" ones. This demarcation was upheld against mission churches, white garment churches and especially traditional healing practices as the source of the supposed "corruption". The article thus contends that even the study of "born again" Christianity, though based on field observations more compelling than that of "Pentecostalism", needs to consider the concrete and contextual boundaries drawn to establish identities such as "born again" and/or "Pentecostal".


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DOI: 10.1558/pent.37224


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