Munavarbhai is a 42-year-old watch-guard (chokidar) of a middle-class Muslim housing society in a suburb of Ahmedabad, the Indian state of Gujarat’s largest city. His wife Haneiferben does domestic work, but also intermittently works as a house cleaner for Hindu and Muslim middle-class families. Munavarbhai and Haneiferben belong to the informal sector of Ahmedabad’s highly stratified economy. Their nuclear family consists of four heads and has to make do with approximately RS 5,000 a month (roughly US $80). They live in an area of Juhapura called Fatehvadi, in proximity with various rishtedar (relatives) including members of their respective kutumbvala (members of the patriline) interspersed with houses of migrant laborers from outside the state (mostly from Uttar Pradesh) and various other Muslim communities. They hold close social connections with their respective home villages, in which they are officially registered, and to which they regularly return for marriages, festivals, and political elections.
“Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17, KJV).
In African Pentecostal circles, a lively and contentious debate about the meaning and ramifications of this passage persists. While there is general consensus on the spiritual renovation that a new member of the body of Christ is expected to undergo, understandings of and attitudes toward the ‘old’ traditions and ways of life vary. How should a ‘born-again’ dress, for instance? What kinds of places, or even food and drinks, must she avoid? What should be the attitude of the Christian towards non-Christians? Finally, how should a born-again Christian negotiate the ‘old’ cultural regimen to which Christianity is supposed to stand in normative opposition? In reality, the Nigerian Christian (and this is particularly true of the Yoruba Christian) is in continual negotiation with the two worlds, creatively balancing the desiderata of Christianity with the strictures of oro ile, or ‘traditional’ ritual.