The Making of Black Evangelical Sociality


Religious Cultures of African and African Diaspora People

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Book Pages: 264 Illustrations: Published: March 2021

Author: Todne Thomas

African American Studies and Black Diaspora, Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Religious Studies

In Kincraft Todne Thomas explores the internal dynamics of community life among black evangelicals, who are often overshadowed by white evangelicals and the common equation of the “Black Church” with an Afro-Protestant mainline. Drawing on fieldwork in an Afro-Caribbean and African American church association in Atlanta, Thomas locates black evangelicals at the center of their own religious story, presenting their determined spiritual relatedness as a form of insurgency. She outlines how church members cocreate themselves as spiritual kin through what she calls kincraft—the construction of one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. Kincraft, which Thomas traces back to the diasporic histories and migration experiences of church members, reflects black evangelicals' understanding of Christian familial connection as transcending racial, ethnic, and denominational boundaries in ways that go beyond the patriarchal nuclear family. Church members also use their spiritual relationships to navigate racial and ethnic discrimination within the majority-white evangelical movement. By charting kincraft's functions and significance, Thomas demonstrates the ways in which black evangelical social life is more varied and multidimensional than standard narratives of evangelicalism would otherwise suggest.


“Challenging taken-for-granted suppositions about the ties between race and religion and the forms of Black Christianity that come to matter in African American and Afro-Caribbean expressions of faith, Todne Thomas powerfully articulates a mode of ‘kincraft’ that redefines everyday and existential notions of familiality, religiosity, spatialization, and political community. To engage with her work is to completely reimagine what the anthropology of religion—and the very anthropological project itself—should be. An incredibly important contribution.” — John L. Jackson Jr., author of Thin Description: Ethnography and the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem

“Todne Thomas tells a big story about the lived experience of navigating multiple identities and creating meaningful purpose within a community, complicating and refuting racialized narratives of evangelicalism and narrow interpretations of black identity politics in the process. She effectively shows what it means to be a black evangelical.” — Andrea C. Abrams, author of God and Blackness: Race, Gender, and Identity in a Middle Class Afrocentric Church


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Todne Thomas is Assistant Professor of African American Religions at Harvard Divinity School, Harvard University and coeditor of New Directions in Spiritual Kinship: Sacred Ties across the Abrahamic Religions.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  ix
Introduction  1
Part One. Contextualizing the Social Dimensions of a Black Evangelical Religious Movement
1. On "Godly Family" and "Family Roots": Creating Kinship Worlds  29
2. Moving against the Grain: The Evangelism of T. Michael Flowers in the Segregated US South  57
3. Black like Me? Or Christian like Me? Black Evangelicals, Ethnicity, and Church Family  83
Part Two. Scenes of Black Evangelical Spiritual Kinship in Practice
4. Bible Study, Fraternalism, and the Making of Interpretive Community  109
5. Churchwomen and the Incorporation of Church and Home  135
6. Black Evangelicals, "the Family," and Confessional Intimacy  167
Conclusion  199
Notes  213
Bibliography  229
Index  247
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-1178-1 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-1065-4