One of the key features of Pentecostal/charismatic churches is their sensational appeal. Taking as a point of departure the experience of the Holy Spirit as a “portable,” embodied power source, this essay seeks to contribute to developing alternative concepts that expand our view of Pentecostalism as it emerges through a “Protestant lens.” First, I critically discuss the severance of aesthetics and Protestantism, and the concomitant dismissal of “form” in the work of Max Weber. I argue for the need to recapture an understanding of religion as aesthetics, albeit taken in the broad sense of aisthesis, advocated by Aristotle. Calling for the reappreciation of form as absolutely essential to religious experience, I then introduce the notion of the sensational form, which allows us to grasp how the Holy Spirit operates according to Pentecostal understanding and experience. Presenting the term aesthetics of persuasion, I address the question of how aesthetics is relevant to broader modalities of binding and politics of belonging—paying attention to Jacques Rancière's “distribution of the sensible.” Taking Pentecostalism as a prominent representative of global Christianity, I seek not only to enhance our understanding of its particular sensational religiosity but also to outline new directions in the broader study of Protestantism and Christianity in general.
Birgit Meyer; Aesthetics of Persuasion: Global Christianity and Pentecostalism's Sensational Forms. South Atlantic Quarterly 1 October 2010; 109 (4): 741–763. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00382876-2010-015
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