Although much has been written on the Afro-Catholic syncretic religions of Vodou, Candomble, and Santeria, the Spiritual Baptists-an Afro-Caribbean religion based on Protestant Christianity-have received little attention. This fieldwork-based study offers the first detailed examination of the Spiritual Baptists or "Converted". The most distinguishing characteristic of their religion is the emphasis on spiritual travel on a regular basis for all believers. On these travels, all are required to do spiritual work by ecstatic means on behalf of the community. This makes Converted religion a possibly unique form of shamanism. Their cosmology is a distinct expression of Vincentian culture, neither African nor European, Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress is a sacred text for them, serving as a guidebook to the spritual realm in which they travel. They also travel in the spirit to the Biblical lands, and to the British colonial lands of Africa, India, and China. In their dream states, the Converted learn practical skills such as cooking, sewing, and reading - a phenomenon occasionally seen elsewhere among individuals but unheard of as an enculturated trait.
Yet despite all of this their beliefs are strictly based on a fundamentalist Christianity in which every action is justified by the Bible. Based on 18 months among the Converted on the island of St. Vincent (where the religion arose) and among Vincentian immigrants in Brooklyn, Zane's spellbinding account of his experiences and his lucid analysis of the Converted religion, its origins, and development make this book an outstanding contribution to the literature on African-American and African Diaspora religion, and the anthropology of religion more generally.
"Zane offers an outstanding account of Baptist ritual as well as valuable information concerning the religion's origins and development....this book contains some of the best descriptions of Spiritual Baptist ritual ever published and constitutes an important contribution to the study of African American religion."--Choice