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Marketing a new African God: Pentecostalism and material salvation in Ghana

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Abstract

  • Pentecostalism is an American creation that has been exported to various parts of the world. Its message of hope is produced and promoted by churches that are led by religious entrepreneurial salespeople who create value for customers through the use of marketing techniques that facilitate the blending of the local and the global; the sacred and the profane. Its success in Africa has been attributed to the African penchant for connecting every human experience to the religious. Using the marketing strategic framework of target market and four Ps as an organization tool, we draw on a year-long ethnography in Kumasi, Ghana, to suggest that Pentecostalism in Ghana is marketed as an effective route to material success without risk to postmortem salvation. While the effective blend of the sacred and the profane allows for open public discourse, it fails to deliver on its promise of economic salvation for the poor. In fact, it causes the condition of the poor to deteriorate even further through application of its fundamental requirement: give and God will bless you according to the extent of your giving. We conclude that the new African Pentecostalism and its open embrace of contemporary consumption and materialism have arrested local religiosity and imposed an “economic imperialism” that impregnates every human experience with a commercial character.

Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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