Emotion, Ritual, and the Individual: The Production of Community in Evangelicalism

in Journal of Religion in Europe
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This paper asks about the production of religious community in modern society: How can the success of a strict Evangelical community in a secularized environment be explained? To find an answer to this question, an approach to emotion based on Randall Collins’ interaction ritual chain theory is applied to data from participant observation in an Evangelical church in Switzerland. The weekly service as a highly orchestrated event characterized by a mutual focus and rhythmic entrainment imbues the communal symbols with emotions and plausibility. Through ritual interaction, three potentially disruptive communal tensions are transformed into solidarity: (1) highly transcendent theological concepts are translated into a simplified form which can be ritualized and gain immanence in the ritual actions of the participants; (2) the Evangelical emphasis on the individual and its religious decision on the semantic side are structurally transformed into the confirmation and reproduction of the community; (3) through the collectively shared emotions the potentially disruptive individual tendency towards immediate emotional gratification becomes aligned with the norms of the community.

Emotion, Ritual, and the Individual: The Production of Community in Evangelicalism

in Journal of Religion in Europe

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  • 1)

     See Randall CollinsInteraction Ritual Chains (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton University Press2004).

  • 2)

    Ole Riis & Linda WoodheadA Sociology of Religious Emotion (Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press2010) 69.

  • 3)

     See Emile DurkheimLes formes élémentaires de la vie religieuse: Le système totémique en Australie (Paris: Quadrige/PresseUlrich Beck & Peter Sopps Universitaires de France1990).

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  • 5)

    Charles TillySociology Meets History (New York & London: Academic Press1981).

  • 6)

    Mustafa Emirbayer“Useful Durkheim,” Sociological Theory 14.2 (1996) 109–130.

  • 7)

    TillySociology107.

  • 11)

     See Riis & WoodheadSociology208.

  • 13)

    Jack M. BarbaletEmotion Social Theory and Social Structure: A Macrosociological Approach (Cambridge: University of Cambridge1998) 80.

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  • 15)

    BarbaletEmotion62. See also Embirbayer “Useful” 120.

  • 19)

     See DurkheimFormes293.

  • 21)

     See Collins“Stratification” 28; Collins “Micro-sociology” 2.

  • 22)

     See CollinsInteraction66.

  • 27)

     See also BarbaletEmotion80.

  • 28)

     See Collins“Micro-sociology” 2.

  • 29)

    CollinsInteraction105.

  • 32)

     See CollinsInteraction107.

  • 33)

    Collins“Stratification” 34.

  • 34)

     See Riis & WoodheadSociology220.

  • 35)

    Anthony GiddensThe Constitution of Society: Outline of the Theory of Structuration (Cambridge & Malden: Polity Press1986) 284.

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    GiddensConstitution4.

  • 37)

     See Talal AsadGenealogies of Religion: Discipline and Reasons of Power in Christianity and Islam (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press1993).

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  • 39)

     See Mark A. Shibley“Contemporary Evangelicals: Born-Again and World Affirming,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 558 (1998) 67–87here 69.

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  • 41)

     See Max WeberWirtschaft und Gesellschaft: Grundriss der verstehenden Soziologie (Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr1972).

  • 46)

     See Erving GoffmanEncounters: Two Studies in the Sociology of Interaction (Indianapolis & New York: The Bobbs-Merrill Company1961).

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  • 47)

    Riis & WoodheadSociology153.

  • 49)

     See CollinsInteraction134.

  • 51)

     See Mary DouglasNatural Symbols: Explorations in Cosmology (New York: Vintage Books1973) 103–104.

  • 55)

    BarbaletEmotion87.

  • 58)

    CollinsInteraction33; Collins “Micro-sociology” 2. Confidence is further made possible through the fact that negative emotions are not being fostered. By and large fear and guilt seem to be absent. Fear (as for example from damnation) would impair self-confidence.

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  • 59)

    DurkheimFormes294.

  • 61)

     See GiddensConstitution141.

  • 62)

    Riis & WoodheadSociology77.

  • 63)

     See DouglasNatural59; Durkheim Formes 294.

  • 67)

     See Riis & WoodheadSociology69; Clifford Geertz “Religion as a Cultural System” in: Clifford Geertz The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays (New York: Basic Books 1973) 87–125 90.

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  • 68)

     See Niklas LuhmannDie Religion der Gesellschaft (stw 1581) (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp2002). For the purposes of this analysis there’s no need postulating such transcendence as a universal defining property of religion it suffices to say that it is found in many traditions among them the one analyzed here.

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  • 69)

     See WeberWirtschaft329 332.

  • 71)

     See Talcott Parsons“Religion in Postindustrial America: The Problem of Secularization,” Social Research 41.2 (1974) 193–225 here 211.

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  • 74)

    DouglasNatural49.

  • 77)

     See DurkheimFormes596.

  • 78)

     See ibid.; see also Geertz“Religion” 118.

  • 79)

     See LuhmannReligion63.

  • 85)

     See BarbaletEmotion23.

  • 86)

     See Pierre BourdieuLe sens pratique (Paris: Les Editions de Minuit1980).

  • 87)

     See also BarbaletEmotion23.

  • 89)

     See DurkheimFormes295.

  • 91)

     See Parsons & Shils“Values” 80. Parsons and Shils even consider this tension to be “the most elementary dilemma of systems of action.” Parsons & Shils “Values” 84.

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  • 94)

    DouglasNatural87.

  • 95)

    Emirbayer“Useful” 120.

  • 98)

    BarbaletEmotion86.

  • 99)

     See Steve BruceGod is Dead: Secularization in the West (Religion in the Modern World) (Malden: Blackwell Publishers2002).

  • 105)

    Hervieu-LégerReligion100.

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