Religion

In the Hands of God: How Evangelical Belonging Transforms Migrant Experience in the United States

How evangelical churches in the United States convert migrant distress into positive religious devotion

ebook

ISBN:
Published:
May 24, 2022
2022
Illus:
2 b/w illus. 8 tables. 2 maps.
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Why do migrants become more deeply evangelical in the United States and how does this religious identity alter their self-understanding? In the Hands of God examines this question through a unique lens, foregrounding the ways that churches transform what migrants feel. Drawing from her extensive fieldwork among Brazilian migrants in the Washington, DC, area, Johanna Bard Richlin shows that affective experience is key to comprehending migrants’ turn toward intense religiosity, and their resulting evangelical commitment.

The conditions of migrant life—family separation, geographic isolation, legal precariousness, workplace vulnerability, and deep uncertainty about the future—shape specific affective maladies, including loneliness, despair, and feeling stuck. These feelings in turn trigger novel religious yearnings. Evangelical churches deliberately and deftly articulate, manage, and reinterpret migrant distress through affective therapeutics, the strategic “healing” of migrants’ psychological pain. Richlin offers insights into the affective dimensions of migration, the strategies pursued by evangelical churches to attract migrants, and the ways in which evangelical belonging enables migrants to feel better, emboldening them to improve their lives.

Looking at the ways evangelical churches help migrants navigate negative emotions, In the Hands of God sheds light on the versatility and durability of evangelical Christianity.