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Journal for the Study of Religion

On-line version ISSN 2413-3027
Print version ISSN 1011-7601


CHITANDO, Ezra; TARINGA, Nisbert Taisekwa  and  MAPURANGA, Tapiwa Praise. On top of which mountain does one stand to judge religion? Debates from a Zimbabwean context. J. Study Relig. [online]. 2014, vol.27, n.2, pp.115-136. ISSN 2413-3027.

One of the most prominent characteristics of the phenomenology of religion is that the scholar of religion must desist from judging the phenomena under study. The scholar of religion is encouraged to refrain from passing judgement on the truth or ethical status of the phenomena under investigation. Instead, the scholar must concern her/himself with accurate descriptions. While for phenomenology of religion such a stance represents victory against reductionism of various types, it has come under fierce criticism. Critics charge that there are some situations that clearly call for judging religious phenomena. In response, phenomenologists of religion raise the fundamental question: on top of which mountain does one stand to judge religion? This article interacts with this fundamental question in a Zimbabwean context. In the first section, it outlines the phenomenological preoccupation with descriptive accuracy and adopting a non-judgemental approach to the study of religion. In the second section it highlights criticisms that have been levelled against such a stance. In the third section it describes contentious religious phenomena in the African Apostolic Church of Johane Marange in Zimbabwe. In the fourth section it identifies and critiques the different 'mountains' that scholars may climb as they seek to judge controversial religious phenomena in Zimbabwe. The article breaks new ground by testing the possibility of going beyond phenomenology with reference to contentious religious practices in Zimbabwe.

Keywords : phenomenology; independency; judging; human rights; gender; Zimbabwe.

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