Religious and National Identity in Trans-National New Religious Movements

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 10:30
Oral Presentation
Eileen BARKER, London School of Economics, United Kingdom
New Religious Movements (NRMs) often tend by their very nature to be considerably more important in their members’ lives than their religion is for members of older, more established religions. They also tend to have a dichotomous world view which makes clear distinctions between good and bad; Godly and satanic; and, significantly for this paper, ‘them’ and ‘us’. You are either a member or you are not a member, and if you are a member then your membership is the primary identifying characteristic. One’s religious identity is, thus, more important than one’s national identity. For a number of reasons, this can become particularly significant when members move to different nations. For example, the NRM usually has a lingua franca that the members need to share. Frequently this is English (though it could be French or Japanese or some other language, if, like the Raelians, the movement is predominantly in Francophone countries). Tensions can arise, however, when the second-generation comes along and cannot speak the language of their parent’s nation. One problem is that grandparents can be very upset when they find difficulty in communicating with their grandchildren. This paper examines some of the tensions that can arise between an individual’s religious and his or her national identity in a number of situations, not least when official claims (for, say, pensions or medical insurance) require not just a subjective identity but also an official citizenship.