Why can’t a pastor be president of a “Christian Nation"? Pentecostal politics as religious mediation

Naomi Haynes*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Why has Nevers Mumba, one of Zambia’s most famous Pentecostal leaders, been so unsuccessful in his various presidential bids? Previous analyses have blamed Mumba’s political woes on a presumed Pentecostal belief that politics is a lesser vocation than the pastorate. In contrast to these interpretations, I argue that Pentecostals in Zambia are very committed to the notion that, at least ideally, their leaders should be pastors, and more specifically that they should be effective mediators of the divine covenant established when Zambia was declared a “Christian nation.” The problem with Nevers Mumba is therefore not that pastors aren’t supposed to be politicians, but rather that he has failed to convince believers that he is a good mediator. This paper opens up new horizons in the study of Pentecostal politics, suggesting that populism in countries with high Pentecostal populations is increasingly defined by the capacity for religious mediation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)60-74
Number of pages15
JournalPoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review
Issue number1
Early online date17 May 2018
Publication statusPublished - May 2018


  • Pentecostal Christianity
  • political theology
  • populism
  • Zambia
  • electoral politics


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