“The Devil is a Deceiver in your Living Room”: Damnation and Salvation in a Fundamentalist Christian Church in Cape Town

Master Thesis

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The growth of independent churches has long been a source for social and religious research in Southern African countries. The swell of such churches is said to be equal to the spread of fire across dry grassland. Lately, Pentecostalism in Africa has reached proportions that inevitably lead to questions about why there is such a need for conservative fundamentalist congregations, where the members tend to identify with subordination to a strong and powerful leader. This study explores the link between submission and supremacy in the “ingroup”versus “out-group” controversy. The study examines how a particular Pentecostal church in Cape Town is creating a space for their members to belong and to relate. My questions pivot around how dynamics play out between the leaders and the members of this group, and how crucial aspects of their identity, personal and collective, are formed within the community and their particular faith. This project shows how African Pentecostals are negotiating a way to resist the modern world and invent a way to live lives where spirituality is the starting point for everything and for everyone. Further, the study demonstrates how the embodiment of servant hood and godliness serves as an important reference point for these people in their attempt to bridge the dissonance between the secular and the sacred. It is argued that the opposition of good and evil is the common ground for negotiating their theology and that all aspects of their lives are centred on this dualistic worldview. The study also examines the importance of ritualised group activity and interaction, as well as demonstrating how the motifs of salvation, as opposed to damnation, are used to unify the group. It further shows how ideology is reproduced through a militant language that pushes people into a battle between dark and light forces in everything that is happening and everything they do in life.
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