CHAPTER THREE POWER AND IDENTITY CONSTRUCTION
The Vice-Bishop of the Hermon Church is a tall dignified older gentleman by the name of Isaac (Bonno) Tsholofelo. He gives the date of his conversion to Christianity as 2 February 1968. At that time he had been troubled in his spirit and sensed God telling him to dispose of his many powerful protective charms (dipheko) and follow Jesus. At first he resisted but then felt God warning him that these objects he had come to depend upon were going to kill him. So that night he took all his charms to a nearby hill and burnt them. When his relatives found out, they were afraid and rebuked him, angrily telling him that he would surely die. But he responded by confidently informing them that God would protect him, and then proceeded to give up alcohol consumption at the same time as joining the church. When he was baptized, he was renamed Isaac, receiving a new spiritual name (leina la semoya).1
In one of his widely disseminated sermons2, Apostle D.D. Monnakgosi boldly proclaims the following promise: “we cannot be defeated once we move in the power of the Spirit”. He goes onto challenge his listeners to “seek the power, don’t rest until you have the power; yield yourself until you have the power. Dedicate yourself until the power comes upon you. Give your soul no rest until you’ve received the power”. Finally he drives home his point by repeating the following line three times: “Power comes as you are baptized and filled with the Holy Ghost”. At the conclusion of his sermon, a huge crowd of people responded to his call and came forward for prayer so that they might receive this promised power.
These two brief illustrations demonstrate the concern for spiritual power evident in both the Hermon Church as well as Goodnews Ministries. In both of these congregations, one finds people who are searching for the necessary power to overcome the challenges they face daily. Calling on the help of the Spirit of God, these churches seek to provide answers in various ways, and in the process, enable their followers to see the world and themselves in a new way. One of the subjects touched on in the introductory chapter was the way NPCs create an imaginaire of power in an attempt to help their followers navigate the modern, globalized world (1.4.1). Corten and Marshall-Fratani (2001:3) use the term to speak of how Pentecostalism offers a new and alternative vision, “involving a radical transformation of the self and a new collective identity”. ASCs may not be quite as preoccupied with the language of power or modernity but they too are hoping to help their followers forge a new identity as the name change undergone by vice-Bishop Tsholofelo clearly indicates.
In this chapter I will begin by examining some of the dynamics surrounding identity construction and how these relate to both types of churches. The use of various images, symbols and technologies is paramount in establishing a certain ethos within a particular church in relation to the ideological forces present in the Botswana context.
This harkens back to the theoretical discussion of power provided in Chapter One (see 1.4). The use of agentive power manifests itself as an attempt to shape and control the world one lives in, and establish an identity. Therefore in the second section of the chapter, I will discuss some of the symbols and technologies appropriated and adapted by these churches in an effort to describe the particular identity created by both of these churches in relation to the Spirit. What emerges from that effort is a picture of two very unique and compelling images of life in the Spirit. This leads into the third and final section of the chapter, an examination of how both these churches envision not only the Spirit of God, but also the other two members of the Trinity, the Father and the Son. The production of a unique vision of God is critical for their particular ideologies. As will become clear in the conclusion, the primary focus of this chapter is to compare and contrast the HC and GM attempts to create a new understanding of their place in the world by means of the powerful Spirit of God.
The Dynamics Of Identity Construction
Identity Construction: A Definition
In the discussion of power dynamics included in Chapter One, it was argued that oppressed or marginalized groups often develop counter-ideologies as a way to demonstrate resistance to dominating power structures. The Comaroffs (1991:24) explicitly link the construction of an ideology with that of forming a particular worldview, an organizing schema that embodies the beliefs, values, styles, symbols, and political views of a particular group. The connection between worldviews and identity construction is made explicit by David Chidester (1989:20-21) who argues that all “religious worldviews are complex, strategic negotiations in which symbolic forms are formulated, appropriated, manipulated, and mobilized to carve out a human identity and a place for that human to stand and to act as a human being”. With regard to ASCs, Chidester suggests they help their members “negotiate a human identity through contact with superhuman powers in a dehumanizing environment” (:20). The critical nature of identity construction for NPCs is just as obvious, as demonstrated by their emphasis on being “born again” and establishing a new sense of self by “making a clean break with the past”.3
By identity construction, I am referring to the process of creating and formulating personal and social self-identities. George Schöpflin (2001:1) of the University of London argues that “[i]dentities are anchored around a set of moral propositions that regulate values and behaviour, so that identity construction necessarily involves ideas of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, desirable/undesirable, unpolluted/polluted, etc.” Even “natural” categories such as race, gender and age imply moral judgments. Every collective regulates itself according to a hierarchy of norms, and these values and ideas (boundary markers) form the basis for acceptance into, or exclusion from, the group. Furthermore, boundary markers do not exist in a vacuum, but are continually in a process of being defined and redefined by the group, in reference to the cultural forces surrounding them (Schöpflin 2001:6; Kiernan 1990:211).4
To understand worldview formation and identity construction fully, one must analyze more than just the “beliefs” of a group because “a worldview is not simply a way of seeing, or a way of thinking, but it is a multidimensional network of strategies for negotiating person and place in a world of discourse, practice and association” (Chidester 1989:16). De Certeau would of course insert the word “tactics” in place of “strategies”, but the idea is still the same. Furthermore, the importance of understanding the cultural context and interactions with other collective identities is also critical. Joanna Rummens (2003:18) argues that “particular attention is given to the social construction of difference through language, symbolic identity markers, and opposition”. Therefore, to study an ideology or worldview fully, it is necessary to examine discourses, symbols, practices and associations, for all help to establish personal and group identity.
Identity Construction and Symbol
The importance of symbol has already been noted in the earlier discussion of power but a few more comments are necessary here. In his discussion, Chidester (1989:21-22) also highlights the importance of symbols in the formation of worldviews and human identity. “Symbols operating within worldviews are not merely patterns of meaning to be interpreted. They are vehicles of power to be appropriated, owned and operated”. It is this process which creates the potential for conflict between groups as they attempt to assert control over contested symbols. In this battlefield of symbols, groups may produce, interpret, control or re-appropriate symbols in an effort to empower themselves, but they may also reject certain symbols in their desire to re-make themselves in another image. As will be demonstrated, both ASCs and NPCs are constantly involved in this process of identity construction in their interactions with both Western and Setswana cultures.
CHAPTER ONE: A COLLISION OF “WORLDS”
1.2 Background To The Thesis
1.3 Hypothesis And Research Methodology
1.4 Literature Review: Relations Of Power
CHAPTER TWO: ORIGINS AND THE SPIRIT
2.2 Theories Of Causation
2.3 Origins Of The Churches In Context
2.4 The Founders And Their Churches
CHAPTER THREE: POWER AND IDENTITY CONSTRUCTION
3.2 The Dynamics Of Identity Construction
3.3 Establishing An Identity Of The Spirit
3.4 Image Of God And Church Identity
CHAPTER FOUR: HERMENEUTICS AND THE SPIRIT
4.2 Theoretical Approach To Hermeneutics
4.3 The Bible In The Hermon Church
4.4 The Bible In Goodnews Ministries
CHAPTER FIVE: HEALING AND DELIVERANCE
5.2 Understanding Ritual, Symbol And Magic
5.3 Setswana View Of Disease And Its Treatment
5.4 Hermon Church And Healing
5.5 Goodnews Ministries And Deliverance
CHAPTER SIX: CULTURE AND COVENANTS
6.2 Ancestors And Covenants
6.3 Hermon Church And Goodnews Ministries Approaches To Setswana
6.4 HC And GM Approaches To Western Influences
CHAPTER SEVEN: “WORLDS OF THE SPIRIT” AND CONTEXTUALIZATION
7.2 Summary Of Findings
7.3 The Missiological Imperative: Contextualization
GET THE COMPLETE PROJECT
“WORLDS OF THE SPIRIT”. EXPLORING AFRICAN SPIRITUAL AND NEW PENTECOSTAL CHURCH RELATIONS IN BOTSWANA