Promises in the Present Tense. Ritual Work on the Bible in Pentecostal Spiritual Warfare

Silvia Cristofori

Abstract


This article is based on field work carried out in a branch of the Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries (MFM) Pentecostal church in Rome. The MFM church was founded in Lagos in 1989 and propagates a message of salvation centred around the practice of spiritual warfare. In particular, the article is an analysis of an Hour of Solution, a religious service aimed at achieving radical change in churchgoers’ lives by using prayer to fight a war against the powers of Satan. The analysis demonstrates that the service involves a ritual working on the Bible that transforms its verses into prayers, or rather, into lethal weapons in the spiritual struggle to obtain the prosperity that the Scripture promises as destiny. The article therefore looks specifically at the ritual sequences that alternate declamation of the Bible with prayer, illustrating the ways in which this ritual process seeks to contextualise the Word of God within the lives of the faithful to render the promise contained within extant and effective. It is demonstrated, therefore, that this contextualisation of the Word of God creates a tension between promise and present time that, while deeply evoking Pauline messianism, is also divergent as it traces its own unique relation between salvation and worldly destiny. Finally, it is shown that this Bible practice is also a working on the self that transforms the believer into the subject of spiritual warfare who, in the fight against Satan’s powers to realise the Word of God, verifies its promise and experiences its truth.


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