Christianity is booming in Africa, due to rise of Pentecostalism on the continent. How is the rapid expansion of Christian religiosity in Africa shaping individuals’ values, beliefs, and behaviors? Is it helping to usher in an era of toleration, prosperity, and democracy on the continent? Is it helping individuals recover from trauma and violent conflict? These questions, closely related to the Big Questions in the Human Sciences Department, have received little attention among researchers or policymakers. We hope to fill this gap by conducting a multiyear field experiment in the D.R. Congo.
We will provide a randomly selected group of adolescents and adults in rural Congo transportation that allows them to attend urban Pentecostal churches every Sunday. Despite high demand for Pentecostal services, the poor quality of roads outside of cities prevents churches from establishing a robust rural footprint. Our project overcomes this obstacle by facilitating and subsidizing randomly selected individuals’ transport to Sunday services. We will measure the evolution of the cultural norms, moral values, beliefs, and behaviors of these individuals over time and compare them to similar “control” individuals who continue to lack access to religious services.
This project would thus provide the first rigorous quantitative evidence concerning the impact of this Christian transformation of Africa on the fundamental human traits of its inhabitants. By publishing academic and non-academic articles, the project will advance knowledge of the social and moral development caused by religious participation. We hope it will lead policymakers and researchers across disciplines to pay closer attention to the role of religion in social change. It will also provide access to religious services to hundreds of individuals in war-torn rural Africa.