The faith movement, known for promoting prosperity teachings, is growing rapidly around the world, and although the movement may have started in the U.S., it is finding its own expressions, particularly in the Third World.
In the Journal of Contemporary Religion (October) Stephen Hunt writes that while the faith movement was once a strand of the Pentecostal movement, today the movement has become a global carrier of Pentecostalism itself, as it promises material and health benefits to participants. Hunt finds the Faith movement growing in places from Sweden to Seoul, Korea, although there are differences in style and types of followers they attract. In Europe, for instance, the faith movement attracts the lower classes rather than the middle class as it does in the U.S.
The movement is stronger in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, “where the symbols of the worldly prosperity of the Faith ministries, the promise of physical healing, together with the food parcels which are freely distributed, have won many over to the Christian evangelical cause.” In the Pacific Rim and in other parts of the Third World, Faith teachings take on a greater diversity.
In Korea, health and wealth teachings blend in with the shamanism of the culture, while in Africa, the Faith message is revolutionary, acting as a “form of motivation for rising out of the dire conditions experienced by some of the poorest people on earth.” The often individualistic Faith teachings found in the U.S. take a more communal approach in Africa, where prosperity is sought for one’s community and congregation.
Hunt argues that it is misleading to view the spread of the Faith movement around the world as an example of U.S. religious imperialism; these teachings are adapted by indigenous churches to meet local needs.
(Journal of Contemporary Religion, Centre for New Religions, Kings College, University of London, Strand, London WC2R 2LS, UK)