Book: The Complexity of Conversion
Chapter: What Is So Complex About "Conversion"?
Conversion is a contested religious, political, and personal phenomenon. There is more at stake than simply a private question concerning which god, or gods, one wants to recognize and serve. Furthermore, the meaning of conversion changes across time and place. Conversion requires embodiment of new social and religious practices, but also a total change of orientation, a change of worldview, a change in lifeworld. Yet many people are, and were, not in control of their own lives. They find, and found, themselves in a position where they do not have the agency to control their loyalty to a certain religious system. What does conversion mean for them?
This book addresses the complexity of conversion and uses a range of cases, primary sources, and theories, to do so. It also initiates a dialogue between ancient sources and current concepts or practices. The essays in this volume are interested in interdisciplinary, cross-cultural, and cross-historical perspectives. Early Christian and Jewish texts play a central role in this volume, but the volume also discusses how sacred texts and their reception influence the way we think, more broadly, about conversion as religious change.