• Inner peace and global harmony: Individual wellbeing and global solutions in the art of living

      Jacobs, Stephen (Liköping University, 2014-09-30)
      This paper explores the discourse in the Art of Living (AOL), a Hindu derived transnational meditation movement, which suggests that solutions to global problems are best addressed at the individual level. Ethnographic fieldwork, qualitative interviews and an analysis of published material suggest that the primary concern of the AOL is the reduction of stress and anxiety for the individual practitioner. This reduction of stress not only means that the individual practitioner develops ‘inner peace’, but also contributes to global harmony. AOL is an exemplar of ‘therapeutic solutions’, which are characterized by disillusionment with established institutions and a quest for inner meaning. AOL articulates this therapeutic solution, not only in terms of narcissistic needs, but links this quest for inner meaning to wider social and global concerns
    • Risk-Aversion or Ethical Responsibility? Towards a New Research Ethics Paradigm

      Jacobs, Stephen; Apperley, Alan; University of Wolverhampton; University of Wolverhampton (Equinox, 2018-03-13)
      Ethics seems to be of increasing concern for researchers in Higher Education Institutes and funding bodies demand ever more transparent and robust ethics procedures. While we agree that an ethical approach to fieldwork in religion is critical, we take issue with the approach that ethics committees and reviews adopt in assessing the ethicality of proposed research projects. We identify that the approach to research ethics is informed by consequentialism – the consequences of actions, and Kantianism – the idea of duty. These two ethical paradigms are amenable to the prevailing audit culture of HE. We argue that these ethical paradigms, while might be apposite for bio-medical research, are not appropriate for fieldwork in religion. However, because ethics should be a crucial consideration for all research, it is necessary to identify a different approach to ethical issues arising in ethnographic research. We suggest that a virtue ethics approach – concerned with character – is much more consistent with the situated, relational and ongoing nature of ethnographic research.
    • Simulating the apocalypse: Theology and structure of the left behind games

      Jacobs, Stephen (University of Heidelberg, 2015)
      This article is a structural analysis of Left Behind, a real-time strategy computer game that is loosely based on the best selling series of novels written by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. Both the books and the game are popular cultural expressions of a Christian theology that posits an apocalyptic future in which humanity will be finally judged. Drawing on both narratology and ludology, the paper suggests that the Left Behind Game is neither truly a narrative nor a game. Instead a maze like structure can be identified. This structure allows the player a number of choices within the game play, but only one pathway allows the player to successfully navigate the game. Furthermore, there is only a single successful resolution. The paper concludes that this game structure is homologous to the theological structure of the apocalyptic belief system.