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Holy Hustlers, Schism, and Prophecy

Holy Hustlers, Schism, and Prophecy: Apostolic Reformation in Botswana

Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: 1
Pages: 268
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  • Book Info
    Holy Hustlers, Schism, and Prophecy
    Book Description:

    This book examines the charismatic Christian reformation presently underway in Botswana's time of AIDS and the moral crisis that divides the church between the elders and the young, apostolic faith healers. Richard Werbner focuses on Eloyi, an Apostolic faith-healing church in Botswana's capital. Werbner shows how charismatic "prophets"-holy hustlers-diagnose, hustle, and shock patients during violent and destructive exorcisms. He also shows how these healers enter into prayer and meditation and take on their patients' pain and how their ecstatic devotions create an aesthetic in which beauty beckons God. Werbner challenges theoretical assumptions about mimesis and empathy, the power of the word, and personhood. With its accompanying DVD,Holy Hustlers, Schism, and Prophecyintegrates textual and filmed ethnography and provides a fresh perspective on ritual performance and the cinematic.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94946-1
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)

    Around the world, the quest for well-being and personal security brings new Christian churches vast numbers of followers. Many come to the inspired—the charismatics¹ felt to have extraordinary spiritual gifts. A relative few become charismatics themselves. The most successful enjoy popular reputations for faith healing, for providing spiritual protection, for visions or the interpretation of dreams, or for especially insightful counseling or moral guidance in everyday life.

    It is widely recognized in the literature on charismatic Christianity, and indeed on charismatic Islam also, that to be a charismatic and to fulfill one’s inspired mission creatively within an institution, such...


    • 1. Holy Hustling
      (pp. 21-42)

      The urban young men who are the charismatics in the city branch of their Apostolic church, Eloyi or Conollius, undergo moments of religious passion. As faith healers, they are seen to have vicarious experiences of the Holy Spirit burning fiercely within them. What they endure is not their own but their patient’s suffering. It is overpowering and involuntary; it is visceral. The suffering is mirrored on their own bodies and dramatized by their gestures of pain. They turn their own gaze inward, while becoming a living and moving image in the gaze of others. In sacred mimesis, they feel a...

    • 2. Between the Prophetic and the Pastoral
      (pp. 43-62)

      In the Eloyi Christian Church becoming and being a prophet, gifted with the Word of God by the Holy Spirit, positions the charismatic outside the church hierarchy. Inside it are pastors,baruti’(“the teachers”), who hold the ministerial offices of the church, from archbishop, bishop, assistant bishop, pastor-general, deacon, evangelist, to preacher, supported by the Executive Committee of Overseers,baokamedi, including an elected chairman, vice-chairman, vice-secretary, publicity secretary, and treasurer. Their official duties are detailed in a formal constitution registered at the Registry of Societies in Botswana’s Ministry of Home Affairs (Registry of Societies 1994).

      For example, heading the hierarchy,...

    • 3. The Lives of Prophets and Bishops
      (pp. 63-81)

      For their own lives, in reflection with me, prophets tell the story of inspired vocation and faith, sometimes from childhood but more commonly from their teens. It is a story in which they come to understand the troubles of others, gain the power of the Word, and eventually learn to protect themselves against the evil and the envious.

      The prophets themselves are diverse. But all come originally from villages and most from northern homes near the archbishop or in his subdistrict. Their origins are as follows:

      North: a) relatively near archbishop’s headquarters, Lerala 1,

      Mmadinare 5, Pikwe 1;

      b) elsewhere...

    • 4. Escalating Crisis: Faith and Trust “under Destruction”
      (pp. 82-101)

      Witchfinding and demon exorcism have made Eloyi famous, popular, and, of course, very controversial. The reputation gained by this Apostolic church in the media is sensational. This has been an important factor for the growth of the church on a vast scale, especially in the 1990s and most recently during the church boom at the height of the current AIDS pandemic. It is, however, not Eloyi’s village-based archbishop but his city-based son, Bishop Boitsephelo, who has led the growth. Bishop Boitsephelo traveled tirelessly across the country in organizational campaigns, and still does. He introduced innovations in the church and won...

    • 5. Schism, Innovation, and Continuity
      (pp. 102-116)

      If much welcomed by the young prophets, Boitshepelo’s innovations while still in Eloyi brought him into head on opposition with his father, the archbishop. Boitshepelo himself argues that he has had to innovate to suit city conditions, conditions not faced by his father in the countryside. He tells his church at a founding service:

      First, you will have to fill a form and write your feelings and then sign. You will bring a passport size photo that will be attached to the application form, marked with the church stamp, and filed. Every member will have their own file.

      This innovation,...


    • [PART II Introduction]
      (pp. 117-120)

      Prophets intercede with the Word on behalf of suffering and needy Apostolics through prayer,thapelo, diagnosis,tlhatoba, and prescription,tshebetso. In this second part of the book, I discuss their intercession primarily during church ser vices and in private consultations at home. My analysis brings into relief distinct semantic fields—one in their rhetoric of prayer, another in diagnosis—and certain common yet variable forms of prayer and prescription. I also consider the movement in performance from one ritual mode or linguistic register to another.

      The moving image is significant for prophets. Their visionary experience is cinematic. In this second...

    • 6. Personal Nearness and Sincerity in Prayer
      (pp. 121-131)

      Prophet Matthew and a patient get into an argument when they come to the ruin of Eloyi’s church to fill a prescription. It is the day after the gale brought the building down. Rubble is everywhere. Even a Bible lies in tatters. The destruction itself is awesome, I feel. The patient wants fresh water, blessed by prayer and with holy ash. Against that, the prophet insists that the church water in an open drum is still holy; that any water is still ordinary water until it is blessed, for it is the Word, evoked in the prophet’s voice, which attacks...

    • 7. Diagnosis, Reconnaissance, and Fabrication
      (pp. 132-164)

      Diagnosis drives the movement in prayer onward. At a major service, prophets start to diagnose only after the congregation has warmed up, clapping and singing with great enthusiasm—their work throughout the diagnosis is to bring the angels nearer through the attractive, joyful vibrance of congregational music. For example, during a diagnosis, and obviously struggling to find his way, Prophet Joshua calls out for congregational support in song and dance, when he remarks, “Angels are far, we need to draw near.” Some of the singing is antiphonal, with call and response, the intent being to bring everyone together and, as...

    • 8. Prescribing Christian Cosmetics: Moving Bodies and Intercorporeality
      (pp. 165-178)

      A good number of Apostolic usages, beliefs, and practices support my argument that prophetic prescription aims at redress through Christian cosmetics. Most striking in such Apostolic counteraction is the colorful visibility of their cosmetics on and for the body, primarily the triad of green, white, and red, according to the desired good. Earlier, in Chapter 5, I spell out the color coding as a matter of consensus among the Apostolics even after their schism. Here my interest is in the analysis of cosmetic counterfabrication as a distinctively Christian preoccupation in prescription. Accordingly, I want to stress this immediate point on...

    • 9. Old and New in Christian Reformation
      (pp. 179-207)

      “New Wine in Old Wineskins” is a controversial chapter in Bengt Sundkler’sBantu Prophets in South Africa, the foundational text in the study of Zionist, Apostolic, and other Christian churches in southern Africa (first published in 1948 and revised in 1961). Named after a saying by Jesus, the chapter puts forward arguments at the heart of an enduring debate, including theological disputation, about the bringing together of the new and the old in religious change from generation to generation.

      To keep Apostolic prophecy in view while considering its place in that debate, I want to comment first on a vision...

  8. Conclusion: From Film to Book—Dianoia and Noesis
    (pp. 208-220)

    Much of this book engages with the counterbearing of the invisible on the visible, and the inaudible or ineffable on the audible. Many paradoxes ofthe presence that is somehow an absence prevail in prayer, diagnosis, prescription, and exorcism. Prophecy realizes that counterbearing through very different moments. Some come in the mastery of the materiality of witchcraft, others in the patients’ subjection and submission, and still othersin revelation and the embodiment of the Word in the devotional subject. Perhaps most paradoxical and yet most highly valued by the Apostolics themselves are the moments that represent the redress of theafflicted body in...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 221-232)
  10. References
    (pp. 233-246)
  11. Index
    (pp. 247-268)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 269-269)