Ethnic Church Meets Megachurch

Indian American Christianity in Motion

304 pages

June, 2017

ISBN: 9781479826377



Add to Cart Available: 5/26/2017

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Prema A. Kurien is Professor of Sociology at Syracuse University and author of two award-winning books, Kaleidoscopic Ethnicity: International Migration and the Reconstruction of Community Identities in India, and A Place at the Multicultural Table: The Development of an American Hinduism. She is currently working on her next book, Race, Religion, and Citizenship: the Political Mobilization of Indian Americans. 

All books by Prema A. Kurien

Winner, 2018 Section on Asia and Asian America Book Award presented by the American Sociological Association
Traces the religious adaptation of members of an important Indian Christian church– the Mar Thoma denomination – as they make their way in the United States. 

This book exposes how a new paradigm of ethnicity and religion, and the megachurch phenomenon, is shaping contemporary immigrant religious institutions, specifically Indian American Christianity. Kurien draws on multi-site research in the US and India to provide a global perspective on religion by demonstrating the variety of ways that transnational processes affect religious organizations and the lives of members, both in the place of destination and of origin. 

The widespread prevalence of megachurches and the dominance of American evangelicalism created an environment in which the traditional practices of the ancient South Indian Mar Thoma denomination seemed alien to its American-born generation. Many of the young adults left to attend evangelical megachurches. Kurien examines the pressures church members face to incorporate contemporary American evangelical worship styles into their practice, including an emphasis on an individualistic faith, and praise and worship services, often at the expense of maintaining the ethnic character and support system of their religious community.

Kurien’s sophisticated analysis also demonstrates how the forces of globalization, from the period of colonialism to contemporary out-migration, have brought about tremendous changes among Christian communities in the Global South. Wide in scope, this book is a must read for an audience interested in the study of global religions and cultures.  


  • Like Prema Kurien’s previous books, this one is thoroughly researched, tackling a huge topic with impressive scholarship.  And it poses an unsettling question: Is a one-size-fits-all, take-it-or-leave-it version of Christianity the wave of the future? Or is America big enough to embrace a growing multiplicity of ethno-religious traditions?

    —Robert Wuthnow, Princeton University

  • Many Americans miss the significant presence of Indian Christians who worship in immigrant ethnic faith communities or in predominantly white evangelical ones that often rely on their presence to promote their racially-inclusive vision. Kurien provides a fascinating look into this overlooked community, insightfully revealing the challenges of recreating a religious culture thousands of miles from its origin, adapting to an increasingly global and diasporic community, and retaining among the second-generation an identity with a religious culture that appears backward and insular compared to its bigger, flashier, and more racially integrated counterpart. An absolute must-read. 

    —Jerry Z. Park, Associate Professor of Sociology, Baylor University

  • With careful fieldwork done over decades in two countries, Prema Kurien’s work will serve as a model for how to do sociological and ethnographic work within immigrant communities that remain in robust connection to their countries of origin, even as they try to find their footing in their new home. A must read for all who seek to understand the transformation of American religious life under the pressures of migration and globalization! 

    —John J. Thatamanil, Associate Professor of Theology and World Religions, Union Theological Seminary

  • “Though rooted in analysis of Mar Thoma, Kurien’s work provides a useful theoretical language for thinking about big-picture immigration trends. As such, this book is a must read for those interested in immigration, migration, and transnationalism broadly as well as religion.”