NCSR 2008 - Urban Diversity and Religious Traditions
13-15 August 2008, Åbo Akademi University

Gender and agency in Neocharismatic Christianity

Tuija Hovi

The Neocharismatic Movement operates mostly in urban settings as independent small congregations. It represents Christian fundamentalism emphasizing the literally interpreted Bible as the basis for the way of life but, simultaneously, it has certain liberal dimensions that have offered possibilities of spiritual subjectivity for every believer equally. This tendency of Charismatic Christianity works through its experiential emphasis with the idea of charismata, i.e. the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Charismatic Christianity appears to attract as many women as men, despite the fact that the leaders are nearly always men. In my paper, I study gender and the idea of an agent in the Neocharismatic Movement. I use the concept of an agent for illuminating the idea of being a tool of God. Agency, as it was presented by the social-psychologist Stanley Milgram, deals with a person working as a mediator for a higher authority without any control of his or her own. Milgram’s basic idea can be applied also to a more symbolic relationship like the relationship between religious believers and what they regard as a supernatural power above them. In many cases, the role of a mediator-subject seems to ignore the Pauline principles for gender roles.