Religious testimonial narratives and social construction of identity: Insights from prophetic ministries in Botswana
Giving a testimony forms a central part of the religious practices among Pentecostal churches including prophetic ministries. Testimony links the understanding of one’s religious experience and the configuration of the divine intervention. Utilizing data collected through ethnographic observation among prophetic ministries in Botswana and digital ethnography of the testimonial narratives circulated online through various new media outlets of these ministries, this paper examines the ways in which religious identity is constructed and understood through the testimonial performance in various religious services. Informed by the premise that narrative is closely related to identity, the paper pays particular attention to the extent to which religious testimonies influence the dynamic relationship between individual, communal and institutional religious identity. The following questions are central to the analysis: In what ways does a religious testimony inform us about the construction and negotiation of religious identity? To what extent does a religious testimony influence the dynamic relationship between individual, communal and institutional religious identity? While suggesting that religious identity constructions and negotiations are embedded within the sharing of religious testimonies, I also argue that the sharing of a religious testimony has an agentive function of extending the social relationship between an individual believer, other believers and the religious community within which the testimony is shared.