Book Review: McDonaldisation, Masala McGospel and Om Economics

McDonaldisation, Masala McGospel and Om Economics: Televangelism in Contemporary India.
By Jonathan D. James. New Delhi, India: Sage Publications, 2010. Pp. xxvii, 232. Indian Rupees 595.

This book is set in the broad context of “the changing shape and form of Christian ministry” in the Indian Church. The author Jonathan D. James is convinced that in the Indian churches, the pastoral techniques developed during the colonial period are rapidly being replaced by “techniques resembling the American model”. In this context, the book explores, in a new historical, cultural, religious, political and economic setting, the American phenomenon of televangelism, in India.

At the outset itself, the author explains the rather unusual title of the book. McDonaldisation, Masala McGospel and Om Economics are three metaphors he uses to describe the status of televisual faith in contemporary India. He likens global televangelism to ‘McDonaldisation’, because of its standardized, ‘one size fits all’ approach. ‘Glocal’ televangelism – the fusion of the American and Indian evangelism – is referred to as ‘Masala McGospel’. And Hindu televangelism, a consequence of satellite technology and Charismatic televangelism, is characterized as, ‘Om Economics’.

The book contains nine chapters. Chapter 1 consists of an introduction to the key metaphors used in the book and also has an outline of the methodology of this study, the ‘historical-comparative framework’. In the second chapter, the author places Charismatic televangelism in its global context by tracing its roots to Black American Pentecostalism. Chapter 3 examines the data on the history of Indian missions and relevant issues pertaining to the social and cultural aspects of Christianity in India. The next chapter discusses the place that Charismatic televangelism has in contemporary India.

The relationship between Charismatic televangelism and Hindu televangelism is explored in chapter 5 especially in the way the Hindu channels collude with the practices of consumerism and marketing techniques in the same fashion as Charismatic televangelists. Chapters 6 and 7 analyze the data on the influence of both global and ‘glocal’ Charismatic televangelism on the leaders of the Protestant Church and the Hindu community in urban India. In Chapter 8 the author examines the intermediary role that television plays in broadcasting the Christian faith. The concluding chapter contains a summary of the study, as well as an analysis of the findings. Some broad predictions of mediated faith in today’s global world are also postulated here.

As Professor Stewart M. Hoover states in his Foreword, televangelism might once have been thought of as entirely a creature of the United States or the West, or of the mission outposts of American or European evangelicalism. Today there is the need to recognize mediated and commodified spheres of action and cultural practices. “These intersecting realities are what makes a book such as this one so valuable”, he adds. As one of the pioneering studies on the impact and role of televangelism in India, this book is an essential read for all students of religion and culture in pluralist societies.

~ JMA

 

 

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