Date of Graduation

5-2020

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Anthropology (PhD)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Anthropology

Advisor

Kirstin Erickson

Committee Member

JoAnn D'Alisera

Second Committee Member

Ted Swedenburg

Keywords

Belize, Christianity, Performance, Religion, Short-term Mission, Vernacular

Abstract

If you are only at church services on Sunday and do not actively practice your religious faith every day, are you “born again” every day? Reverend Rebecca Lewis of Wesley Methodist Church in a small town in Belize preaches active participation in the church and encourages her congregation to attend all religious events, pray rigorously, and read the Bible actively, but how does the congregation listen to her and react to her sermons? “Born-Again on Sundays” is an ethnographic account that draws on anthropological theories of belief and vernacular religion, performance and narrative, and poverty and reflexivity to explore the faith practices in one Belizean Church community. I examine how the pastors of Wesley Methodist Church instruct their congregants to behave via weekly sermon performances. These sermons provide a rich performative, intertextual genre to study, as pastors very practically delineate exactly what congregants should be doing in order to practice their faith effectively. I juxtapose the ministers’ teachings with the behavior of members of the congregation, exploring how pastors often feel the members fall short in practicing their religion and how the members themselves see their behavior and their beliefs. In addition, I situate the dissertation in Belize, investigating how congregants place themselves and their country in the world; as Belizeans and as Methodists, they struggle with the country’s poverty and their desires to help the greater Aüdüan community. From the pastors’ perspectives, their church members might not always live up to their standards or their perspective of God’s standards, only taking their faith seriously once a week on Sunday morning, but from the parishioners’ perspective, they are doing the best they can, dealing with forces outside religion and developing strong, and deeply private, personal relationships with their God.

Available for download on Saturday, May 08, 2021

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