Pastoral Power, Clerical State
Pentecostalism, Gender, and Sexuality in Nigeria
222 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in
- Published: September 2022
- ISBN: 9780268203146
- Published: September 2022
- ISBN: 9780268203139
- Published: September 2022
- ISBN: 9780268203122
Ebenezer Obadare examines the overriding impact of Nigerian Pentecostal pastors on their churches, and how they have shaped the dynamics of state-society relations during the Fourth Republic.
Pentecostal pastors enjoy an unprecedented authority in contemporary Nigerian society, exerting significant influence on politics, public policy, popular culture, and the moral imagination. In Pastoral Power, Clerical State, Ebenezer Obadare investigates the social origins of clerical authority in modern-day Nigeria with an eye to parallel developments and patterns within the broader African society.
Obadare focuses on the figure of the pastor as a bearer of political power, thaumaturgical expertise, and sexual attractiveness who wields significant influence on his church members. This study makes an important contribution to the literature on global Pentecostalism. Obadare situates the figure of the pastor within the wider context of national politics and culture and as a beneficiary of the dislocations of the postcolonial society in Africa’s most populous country. Obadare calls our attention to the creative ways in which Nigeria’s Pentecostal pastors utilize religious doctrines, beckon spiritual forces, and manipulate their alliances with national powerbrokers to consolidate their influence and authority.
In contrast to rapidly eroding pastoral authority in the West, pastoral authority is increasing in Nigeria. This engaging book will appeal to those who want to understand the far-reaching political and social implications of religious movements—especially Christian charismatic and evangelical movements—in contemporary African societies. It will be of interest to scholars and students of sociology, religion, political science, and African studies.
Introduction: Apprehending a Ubiquitous Subject
1. The Social Origins of Clerical Power in Nigeria
2. The Pastor as Political Entrepreneur
3. Erotic Pentecostalism: the Pastor as Sexual Object
4. When Women Rebel
5. Conclusion: Rule by Prodigy
“Pastoral Power, Clerical State is an unrelenting display of scholarly excellence, rigorous analysis, and fluid precise prose. It not only advances our understanding of Pentecostal pastoral power and authority but also makes significant contributions to the study of rule and legitimacy in twenty-first-century African societies.” —Nimi Wariboko, author of The Pentecostal Hypothesis
"In this highly stimulating and thought-provoking book, Ebenezer Obadare discusses the rise and all encompassing prominence of the Nigerian Pentecostal pastor. Obadare’s brilliantly written book provides a unique and original contribution to the understanding of the key role of the pastor when explaining the rise and influence of Pentecostalism in contemporary Nigeria and Africa." —Karen Lauterbach, author of Christianity, Wealth, and Spiritual Power in Ghana
“Informed by an authoritative interdisciplinary social science analysis, critical reading of Africanist scholarship, wealth of eclectic primary source materials, and superior knowledge of Nigerian politics and society, Pastoral Power, Clerical State further underscores the crucial place of Nigeria’s Pentecostal movement in African religious and political studies. This exceptional book is intellectually sophisticated, analytically rigorous, and very well written.” —Olufemi Vaughan, author of Religion and the Making of Nigeria
"In his second book focused on the rising popularity of the faith, Obadare argues that Pentecostal preachers have become figures of national authority and prestige, exercising more influence over Nigerian society and politics." —Foreign Affairs
"Pastoral Power, Clerical State advances the ongoing debate on the significance and role of Pentecostalism in Africa. It will appeal to those interested in Pentecostal discourses and how they offer metaphysical interpretations that explain why prevailing socioeconomic and political conditions regarding poverty and underdevelopment exist in Africa." —Reading Religion
"An interesting and important addition to the relatively limited literature on contemporary religion and politics, including democracy, in Africa." —Democratization
I am often asked why anyone would want to pursue pastoring as a career. I think the answer is simple. In a social milieu in which the opportunity for upward social mobility is drastically limited, pastoring, as Karen Lauterbach’s study on Ghana confirms, and as I shall demonstrate, offers the young African agent perhaps the best opportunity of becoming ‘somebody.’ The more interesting question, in my opinion, and as I go on to show, is: Why wouldn’t anyone want to become a pastor, considering, inter alia, the relative ease of becoming one (barriers to entry ranging from low to nonexistent), the social prestige that accrues to the contemporary pastor, and the ethical indulgence granted to him based on the perception of his ‘anointing’? Pastoral Power, Clerical State argues that, given an environment in which anonymity is the equivalent of social death, pastoring is the ultimate repudiation of social invisibility. It is the ultimate prize in that unique social struggle that Adeleke Adeeko describes as the “pursuit of eminence,” the eminent not only receiving attention and certain social advantages but, most important, the ability to bypass the law to the point of practically becoming an exception to it.
That is why, even for many ordinarily successful professionals, it is no longer enough to secure excellence or renown in one’s chosen field. For example: In a growing number of cases, the university professor, and perhaps in his own case tacitly admitting a real degradation in status, still aspires to be a pastor, not just because of the awe that, he rightly calculates, spiritual authority commands, but precisely because of the tremendous social capital that redounds to the pastor. He rightly recognizes the social logic according to which doors otherwise close to other experts, including members of the intelligentsia, are flung open for the pastor, how the pastor, contra other kinds of ‘experts,’ tends to be given the benefit of the doubt, and how, in general, his person is crowned with a kind of spiritual and secular halo. In a status-conscious Nigerian society, being a pastor, it would seem, is the ultimate status- a place, ostensibly, beyond scrutiny or censure. Novelist Elnathan John has it right: “Being a pastor is one of the most rewarding things you can do as a Nigerian.” “Reward” here, as I go on to show, is not just financial, but includes a variety of social allowances and indulgences that technically place the pastor in a state of ecclesiastical exception.
Partly due to the aforementioned social regard accruing to the person of the pastor, and partly due to the opportunities for self-fashioning, not to mention accumulation, that the position licenses, the number of people claiming to be pastors has increased exponentially, leading to interesting public conversations on how to separate ‘genuine’ from ‘fake’ pastors. Other than to place this controversy in the broader Nigerian moral economy in which the ersatz permanently exists in tension—and contention—with the real, I have no interest in whether a pastor is genuine or fake. What interests me is the category—its appeal, its enchantments, and, staying with the theme of enchantment, why it casts such a powerful spell on the popular imagination.