In sub-Saharan Africa over the last two decades there has been an explosion of Christianity. This book sets out to identify its particular character, focusing on a particular place: Greater Accra, the capital of Ghana. Paul Gifford examines a wide range of Accra's new churches, giving priority to mega-churches. Every dimension -- discourse, theological vision, worship, rituals, music, media involvement, use of the Bible, conventions, finances, clientele -- is analysed. Gifford argues that this Christianity is not otherworldly: its emphasis is on success, achievement, wealth here and now. Yet within this general orientation there is diversity. At one end of the spectrum are churches that, building on the traditional religious imagination, see demonic forces everywhere blocking personal success. In the churches the key factor is the special 'man of God' who is understood to have the 'anointing' to conquer these forces, to 'reverse the curse' that is holding the believer back. At the other end is a strain of this new Christianity that discounts spiritual forces and sees victory resulting from the believer's own education and skills, and from transforming culture.
The book also joins the debate over the role of this Christianity in modernizing economic and political structures. It sets the scene by describing Ghana's political and economic situation in the decades when these churches were proliferating, and outlines the current debate on the reasons for Africa's economic plight. It is argued that although focusing on success and wealth can provide motivation in circumstances where it is so easy to despair, the pervasive emphasis on miracles militates against any natural fostering of a new work ethic. As for their political role, some churches are easily co-opted; others challenge the government, but for 'spiritual' reasons that provide little incentive to grapple with issues of governance; by contrast, Gifford finds one important church encouraging change of the entire political culture. No other book has set forth the complex nature of Africa's new Christianity with such clarity, or offered such a searching analysis of its power to tackle Africa's predicament.