Cristina Rocha, "Cool Christianity: Hillsong and the Fashioning of Cosmopolitan Identities" (Oxford UP, 2024)


When did Christianity become cool? How did an Australian church conquer the world and expand into Brazil, a country with its own crop of powerful megachurches? 

In her exciting new book, Cool Christianity: Hillsong and the Fashioning of Cosmopolitan Identities (Oxford UP, 2023), anthropologist Cristina Rocha analyses the creation of a transnational Pentecostal field between Brazil and Australia, two countries that have been peripheral in the history of Pentecostalism but which more recently have been at the forefront of new forms of global Pentecostalism. She shows how new and reconfigured forms Christianity in both the Global North and South are increasingly digitally mediated, engaged with youth and popular cultures, and involve new forms of consumption, branding and identity. 

The Australian megachurch Hillsong has expanded globally through a Cool Christianity style which embraces pop music, digital media, spectacle, branding, and celebrity culture. Rocha follows young Brazilians from their budding Hillsong fandom, to their journey to Australia to join the church and study at its College, and on their return to Brazil. She argues that Brazilian middle-class youth join Hillsong to become cosmopolitan and to distinguish themselves from the Pentecostalism of the Brazilian poor. Notwithstanding Hillsong's recent scandals, the megachurch offers them an alternative geography of belonging, where pastors speak English and Christianity is about love, ethics, rationality, autonomy, and more equal relations between congregants and pastors. Rocha makes a strong argument for the importance of the local in globalization studies, and the key roles of class, affect and aesthetics for an understanding of the formation of religious subjectivities and communities.

Jeff Adler is an ex-linguist and occasional contributor to New Books Network!

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