In some Christian circles in Africa, male headship is a defining notion of masculinity. The central question in this article is how discourses on masculinity that affirm male headship can be understood. A review of recent scholarship on masculinities and religion shows that male headship is often interpreted in terms of male dominance. However, a case study of sermons in a Zambian Pentecostal church shows that discourse on male headship can be far more complex and can even contribute to a transformation of masculinities. The main argument is that a monolithic concept of patriarchy hinders a nuanced analysis of the meaning and function of male headship in local contexts. The suggestion is that in some contexts male headship can be understood in terms of agency.
Building on scholarly debates on Pentecostalism, gender and modernity in Africa, this article engages a postcolonial perspective to explore and discuss the ambivalent, even paradoxical nature of African Pentecostal gender discourse. It analyses the conceptualization of gender equality, in particular the attempt to reconcile the notions of ‘male–female equality’ and ‘male headship’, in a sermon series delivered by a prominent Zambian Pentecostal pastor, and argues that the appropriation and interruption of Western notions of gender equality in these sermons can be interpreted, in the words of Homi Bhabha, as a catachrestic postcolonial translation of modernity. Hence, the article critically discusses the Western ethnocentrism in some scholarly debates on gender and Pentecostalism in Africa, and points to some of the fundamental questions that Pentecostalism and its ambivalent gender discourse pose to gender-critical scholarship in the study of religion.
The born-again discourse is a central characteristic of Pentecostal Christianity in Africa. In the study of African Christianities, this discourse and the way it (re)shapes people’s moral, religious, and social identities has received much attention. However, hardly any attention has been paid to its effects on men as gendered beings. In the study of men and masculinities in Africa, on the other hand, neither religion in general nor born-again Christianity in particular are taken into account as relevant factors in the construction of masculinities. On the basis of a detailed analysis of interviews with men who are members of a Pentecostal church in Lusaka, Zambia, this article investigates how men’s gender identities are reshaped by becoming and being born-again and how born-again conversion produces new forms of masculinity. The observed Pentecostal transformation of masculinity is interpreted in relation to men’s social vulnerability, particularly in the context of the HIV epidemic in Zambia.
This article offers an extended review of some recent publications in the field of African theology and hiv and aids. Hence it critically examines the progress that is made in the engagement with and the reflection on issues related to the hiv epidemic by African theologians. The article notices the emergence of a new strand of Africa theology, a (liberation) theology of hiv and aids, which builds on and employs the classic strands of African liberation, inculturation, reconstruction and women’s theology. Moreover, some challenging issues for the further African theological engagement with hiv and aids are identified.
This article explores the global implications of the statement from African theologians that the body of Christ has AIDS. It will outline how these theologians employ the metaphor of the body of Christ to challenge the western world to enter into solidarity with Africa struck by HIV and AIDS. From the realization that the HIV epidemic is embedded in globalization processes, and from the understanding of contextual theologies as significant to western theology, it is argued that western theologians have to take seriously the critical African questions. Hence the article investigates what it means for the western world to say that the body of Christ has AIDS, and how this metaphor helps to envision global solidarity in light of the HIV epidemic.
This opening article offers an introduction to the theme of this special issue of Exchange: Jesus traditions and masculinities in world Christianity. Highlighting the historical trajectory of feminist theological debates on the maleness of Jesus Christ and its implications for configurations of gender (read: the position of women) in Christian traditions, the article particularly explores two recent developments: first, the critical discussion in academic, theological and ecumenical circles of men and masculinities in contemporary Christian contexts, and second, the growing body of scholarship on the masculinity (or better, masculinities) of Jesus Christ in the New Testament in relation to masculinities in the early Christian era. Building on these debates and this scholarship, the article identifies a new and critical field of inquiry that explores the complex and productive relationships between the ambiguous and unstable masculinity/ies of Jesus Christ and the multiple and changing masculinities that are found today in the local contexts of an increasingly diverse global Christianity.