PentecoStudies: An Interdisciplinary Journal for Research on the Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements, Vol 16, No 1 (2017)

Pentecostalism and the Encounter with Traditional Religion in Tanzania: Combat, Congruence and Confusion

Martin Lindhardt

Abstract


This research article explores how expressions of Pentecostal/Charismatic Christianity in Tanzania have taken shape through a complex entanglement with African traditional religion and traditional healing. On the one hand, Tanzanian Pentecostals/Charismatics conceive of figures associated with the world of tradition (witches, traditional healers, different kinds of spirits) as the main adversaries in the spiritual warfare they understand themselves to be engaged in. At the same time I show how many of the beliefs that we might lump under the category of “tradition” constitute something of a common cultural ground that cuts across ethnic and religious divides. While Pentecostal/Charismatic Christianity does in some ways represent a particular religious culture, I argue that we are also well served by considering Pentecostals/Charismatics as participants in a common and highly vibrant religious/spiritual/medical field where different kinds of interchanges, overlaps and mutual inspirations occur. For instance, I show how a concern with healing inspires multifaceted practices of positioning as Pentecostals/Charismatics both demonize traditional healers, and simultaneously take pains to highlight similarities between the power of God and the powers of traditional healing. Finally, I argue that processes of adaptation and the highlighting of similarities also imply a risk of confusion, as it sometimes becomes difficult to distinguish the power of God from the powers of healers and witchcraft.

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DOI: 10.1558/ptcs.32092

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