Supplementary Material

Proximations of Public Religion: Worship, Spiritual Warfare, and the Ritualization of Christian Dance

ABSTRACT This essay is about a group of neo-Pentecostal evangelists who decided to represent their church in the New York Dance Parade, which they regarded as an opportunity to promote worship as the true purpose of art and engage in spiritual warfare. Their participation was predicated on a distinction between “performance” and “ministry,” privileging the latter. I argue that upholding this distinction in the immersive context of a secular festival required a process of intensive ritualization, involving physical and spiritual preparations and symbolic boundary maintenance. I further argue that anthropological perspectives on such instances of public religion should seek to account for how ritual forms produce and are shaped by the effects of what I call proximation, a condition of “closeness” between categories of activity otherwise regarded as separate and autonomous (e.g., religion and the arts). The concept is a means to explore how religious ministries are influenced by ostensibly external factors and the need to manage them, and by the various opportunities, tensions, and moral associations that arise when ritual strategies evoke comparisons with secular genres and domains. The proximations of religion highlight the ethnographic significance of ideal-typical categories and spheres, including their potential to intersect, which is a by-product of how they have been differentiated.

The following are photographs of members of Iglesia Redentor, a Latino neo-Pentecostal church, as they participated in the New York Dance Parade. (Photographs by author)

1) “I recognized a cluster of flags and streams in the distance.”

2) “Gathered in a close huddle, they jumped and chanted the name of Jesus.”

3) “Redentor dancers explicitly rejected the word ‘perform’ to describe what they do, or what happens to them when they dance.”

4. Mantle dancers.

5) Ministering with tambourines.

6) The freestyle/hip-hop team.


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