logistics of the spirit

Kirsch, Thomas G. 2008. Religious Logistics. African Christians, Spirituality and Transportation. In: On the Margins of Religion, edited by Pina-Cabral, João de & Fran-ces Pine. Oxford: Berghahn, 61-80.

“Spreading a religion like Christianity poses logistical problems: it implies traversing space; determining points of departure, crossings and destinations; specifying media, channels and go-betweens; constructing social and technological networks; managing acts of translation; and securing access to means of transport. However, there are different views regarding what ‘spreading Christianity’ actually involves. Some Christian organisations aim to diffuse the Christian message, in other words, ‘religious propositions’, which are then thought to stimu-late the recipients’ faith. … For other Christian organisations, however, such emphasis on propositional content is not sufficient. In these cases, spreading Christianity implies dissemi-nating some spiritual quality going decisively beyond the subject matter of Christian doctrines. These organisations, many of them commonly subsumed under the category of Pente-costalism, consider it their duty to bring people into contact with the Holy Spirit and to make them experience, even embody, its divine power. This objective poses its particular logistical challenges, necessitating what might be called the ‘logistics of the spirit’ … By examining religious logistics, this article will offer a new perspective on the anthropology of religion. In general, this approach is based on the assumption that the metaphysical, experiential and meaning-making dimensions of religious discourses and practices are closely connected to how religious communities are organised … More particularly, it concentrates on the ways in which religious practitioners establish connections with one another in order to initiate or fa-cilitate religious encounters, communication and empowerment. The focus on ‘religious lo-gistics’ accordingly implies taking account of the roles of physical space, infrastructure, means of transport, the movement of people, communication media and religious intermediaries when examining the social construction of communal, yet spatially dispersed religious life.”