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An African Christian Scholar’s Religious Critique of Western European Attitudes toward Religion and Development in Africa

in Religion and Theology
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Despite the considerable volume of material produced by scholars in recent times on the political and social relevance of Africa’s religious revival, policy makers and development workers continue to pay only scanty attention to religion in their work. In cases, where some attention is paid to religion, the focus has been on institutions and public-spirited religious personalities. Most policy makers and development workers seem more comfortable to deal with these than the core religious elements such as rituals. Based on discussion of data drawn from a study of the Corinthian Church of South Africa (CCSA), this paper argues that aspects of religion such as beliefs and rituals, which are often ignored in development work constitute an important “spiritual capital” that can enrich social capital; and that if these are taken account of in social policy crafting, they will provide a new vista to some of the developmental challenges of Africa.

Religion and Theology

A Journal of Contemporary Religious Discourse




Julia Berger, “Religious Nongovernmental Organizations: An Exploratory Analysis,” Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations 14, no. 1 (2003): 15–39, here 3.


Ricoeur, “The Non-Religious Interpretation,” 156–157.


Christopher Candland, “Faith as Social Capital: Religion and Community Development in Southern Asia,” in Social Capital as a Social Policy Resource, eds. John D. Montgomery and Alex Inkeles (Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2001), 130.


Harvey J. Sindima, Africa’s Agenda: The Legacy of Liberalism and Colonialism in the Crisis of African Values (London: Greenwood Press, 1995), 32.


Charles Taylor, A Secular Age, 38. His idea of “enchanted” and “disenchanted” echoes Max Weber’s ideas. See also p. 446.


See Helena Selby, “Prayer Camps and Mental Illness,” Ghanaian Chronicle, 11 May 2011.


James S. Coleman, “Social Capital in the Creation of Human Capital,” American Journal of Sociology 94 (1988): 95–120; Partha Dasgupta and Ismail Serageld, eds., Social Capital: A Multifaceted Perspective (Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 1999); Robert D. Putnam, “The Prosperous Community: Social Capital and Public Life,” American Prospect 13 (1993): 35–42.


Pierre Bourdieu, “Forms of Capital,” in Handbook of Theory and Research for the Sociology of Education, ed. J.G. Richardson (New York, NY: Greenwood Press, 1983), 241–258.


Laurence R. Iannaccone, “Religious Practice: A Human Capital Approach,” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 29, no. 3 (1990): 297–314, here 299.


Iannaccone, “Religious Practice: A Human Capital Approach,” 299.


Stephen Ellis and Gerrie ter Haar, Worlds of Power: Religious Thought and Political Practice in Africa (London: Hurst &Company, 2004), 14.


Ellis and Ter Haar, Worlds of Power, 390.


Pierre Bourdieu, “Genesis and Structure of the Religious Field,” Comparative Social Research 13 (1991): 1–44, here 22.


Keeley, Human Capital, 103.


Stephen Ellis, “Young Soldiers and the Significance of Initiation: Some Notes from Liberia,” (paper presented at the Africa Studies Centre, University of Leiden, 24 March 2003), online: (accessed on 15 June 2014); see also Lydia Polgreen, “A Master Plan Drawn in Blood,” The New York Times, 2 April 2006.


Nandy Ashis, The Return of the Sacred: The Language of Religion and the Fear of Democracy in a Post-Secular World (Patan Dhoka, Lalitpur: Himal Books, 2007), 5.


Matthews A. Ojo, “The Contextual Significance of the Charismatic Movements in Independent Nigeria,” Africa: Journal of the International African Institute 58, no. 2 (1988): 175–192.


Deji Ayegboyin and F.K. Asonzeh Ukah, “Taxonomy of Churches in Africa: The Case of Nigeria,” Ogbomoso Journal of Theology 13, no. 1 (2008): 2–21.


Bourdieu, “Genesis and Structure,” 23.


Girish Daswani, “Transformation and Migration among Members of a Pentecostal Church in Ghana and London,” Journal of Religion in Africa 40, no. 4 (2010): 442–474.


Atiemo, “Mmusuyi and Deliverance,” 67.


Ellis and Ter Haar, Worlds of Power, 184.


Abamfo O. Atiemo, The Rise of the Charismatic Movement in the Mainline Churches in Ghana (Accra: Asempa Publishers, 1993), 42.


For example, see Terence Ranger, “Scotland Yard in the Bush: Medicine Murders, Child Witches and the Construction of the Occult: A Literature Review,” Africa 77, no. 2 (2007): 271–283.


Atiemo, The Rise of the Charismatic Movement, 40.


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