Lived Pentecostalism in India : Middle Class Women and Their Everyday Religion

Abstract: In recent decades, the Pentecostal movement in India has not only grown significantly, it has also become increasingly diverse. While the majority of the movement’s adherents still belong to marginalized groups in Indian society, middle-class Pentecostals are growing in number and changing the dynamics and identity of the movement. This dissertation explores middle-class Pentecostal Christianity as a lived religion in India. More precisely, the aim is to better understand how female members of middle-class Pentecostal churches express and experience their religion in the context of their everyday lives. In addition, it examines what it might mean to be a Pentecostal and middle class in contemporary India. The analysis suggests that, for the participants, it was a relational project to live as a Pentecostal. The women were engaged in a common effort together with God to realize shared goals connected to their religious lives, such as, working on the self and living according to God’s plan. While largely dismissing rigid and ritualistic religious behavior codes, the women were nonetheless in agreement on the importance of living a Christ-like life. However, in contrast to many other Indian Pentecostal contexts, this moral imperative did not involve withdrawal from “the world”. Rather, it was closely related to their emotional lives in that they strived to resemble Christ by being loving, humble, and grateful. The study also draws attention to how the women’s religion, to a significant extent, revolved around handling worries and concerns. Despite being in a privileged economic position that provided the women with a relatively comfortable standard of living, they experienced their everyday lives as unstable and insecure. The analysis shows how their religion was a resource that empowered and aided them in tackling these uncertainties while at the same time brought on a sense of vulnerability.  The study is based on six months of fieldwork in the North Indian city of Gurugram. The participants were members of the two middle-class churches, Loving Assemblies of God and Church of All Nations. During the fieldwork, a combination of methods was used, namely, participant observation, semi-structured interviews, and diaries.